With the new season nearly upon us, we take a look at what some of the best teams have in store for us. We start with the defending Premier League champions, Manchester City...
Now that Roberto Mancini has been with this group of players for some time, he can afford to introduce new formations and it’s enabled Manchester Cityto be a little more flexible from a tactical point of view. The Italian has used a 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1 and even a 3-5-2 formation like we witnessed recently in the Community Shield.
However, even though they set up with two strikers on the pitch, they will most likely employ the 4-2-3-1 system with Carlos Tevez being the striker who peels off into an attacking midfield position. Sergio Aguero has the pace and movement to stretch defenders while Tevez has the creativity and vision to link up with Samir Nasri and David Silva in those areas.Although Nasri and Silva operate on either flank, they regularly drift inside where they can do some real damage while also allowing space for the full-backs to make runs down the outside. Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry will be the two who will sit in midfield although Toure will often bomb forward to support the attack. Gareth Barry has suffered an injury so Nigel De Jong is likely to take his place in midfield for the start of the season. Pablo Zabaleta will probably step in for Micah Richards as well as the Englishman has suffered an injury which is likely to rule him out for a month.
Roberto Mancini played some interesting mind games towards the end of last season when he kept insisting that Manchester United were favourites for the title even when his team had a distinct advantage. Whether it brought on the collapse of Manchester United at the last few hurdles or not is debatable but it certainly seemed to take the pressure off his players. Remarkably, he has opted to now label his side ‘second, third or fourth favourites’ to win this season despite being the defending champions.After failing to make any new signings in the first six to seven weeks in this transfer window, Mancini voiced his frustrations which prompted a reassuring response from Sheikh Mansour. Jack Rodwell was signed almost instantaneously following the Sheikh’s signal to splash the cash which quite emphatically suggests that Mancini undoubtedly has the backing of the owner.
Jack Rodwell is the solitary signing that City have managed to complete so far but probably won’t remain so after the window is shut. The 21-year old midfielder has always been a promising prospect and caught the attention of several other clubs early on, including that of Manchester United. He had a few injury issues at Everton that have stunted his growth and development as a player but if he can put those experiences behind him, he will have a lot to offer his new employers.
Rodwell is admired for his versatility and may be used to slot in at centre back in the absence of Kompany or Lescott on occasion. He is a fair bit quicker than both De Jong and Gareth Barry while also being technically more proficient. The youngster could prove to be the ideal midfield partner for Yaya Toure.
Potential signings for crucial positions:
Take away Kompany and Lescott and the City defence looks nothing like the one that has kept the most clean sheets in the Premier League over the past two seasons. The club have made no secret of their pursuit of Liverpool’s Daniel Agger.Liverpool are reluctant to sell but the price may be too good to refuse and the Dane could be wearing blue before the end of the transfer window. He will provide excellent cover for the two first choice centre backs but may have to be content with a place on the bench while the preferred partnership is injury free. Undoubtedly, his fat pay cheque at the end of every week will go a long way to helping him come to terms with his substitute role.
STRENGTHS & WEAKNESSES
Manchester City are quite accomplished all over the pitch. However, their front four has to be the tip of the sword, so to speak. Samir Nasri and David Silva operate on either flank but drift into central areas between the midfield and forward line regularly where their creativity constantly threatens oppositions. With the movement of the spritely duo of Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero ahead of them, defenders are often found scattered and confused when deciding who to keep track of.
All four players have an eye for goal but more importantly, each of them have the aptitude to link up with the other three. The interchange of passing and swapping of positions makes it impossible for defences to keep a track of them while also contending with the onrushing full-backs down the outside and the bombarding runs of Yaya Toure from midfield.
It’s incredibly difficult to find fault in a squad which has been assembled with superstars. But the one area that does seem a little fragile is their defence. Their first choice back four, with the exception of Gael Clichy who does tend to switch off at times, is quite exemplary, but it’s their lack of cover for those four that could be crucial during a lengthy season. In the centre of defence, Stefan Savic and Kolo Toure are the two players expected to slot in if either Joleon Lescott or Vicent Kompany are out injured.
Neither Savic nor Toure are particularly reliable and we witnessed a bit of a stumble in City’s title charge last season while Kompany was absent through injury. Had City endured the kind of injury-hit season Manchester United did last season, it may have been a completely different story. If they do face a few injuries at the back this season, it’s hard to see them coping without suitable back-up.
|Al Hilal||1-0||Manchester City|
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|Malaysia XI||1-3||Manchester City|
|VfL Wolfsburg||0-2||Manchester City|
|Manchester City||4-0||Limerick F.C.|
PLAYER TO SHINE
It’s impossible to single out one individual to shine for this side although David Silva has been the key figure over the past couple of seasons. However, somewhat surprisingly, we're going to suggest that Carlos Tevez will be on fire for the Blues this season.
The Argentine reportedly shocked the coaching staff at Manchester City when he returned to training this summer having lost several pounds. His fitness is off the charts and his leaner figure has made him quicker, sharper and more agile than he was last season. In a way it’s almost like having two Agueros up front for City now except that Tevez also has the greater share of experience on his side and the ability to come deep and pick out other players.Tevez will definitely have a point to prove this season and he has the physique to give him the best possible chance of doing just that. Furthermore, he is at that point in his career where he has reached the peak of his powers and has the know-how to use them effectively.
Things are different this season because City are the champions now and the team to beat. Teams will always lift their game when they play us and some will come to the Etihad stadium and get 11 men behind the ball and try to block us out with negative tactics. I think we will have to be even better this season to retain the title. The lack of activity in the transfer market is a little troubling because now is the time to establish our dominance and we need cover in certain areas. Jack Rodwell is a great signing and hopefully there will be a couple more.
This season will be tougher for City because some of the other teams have really stregthened themselves with some good signings and Manchester United will be desperate to get the title back. I'm not worried by the lack of signings because we already have a fantastic squad. I'm glad that Mancini has ruled out the possibility of signing Robin Van Persie because I think that would have been a waste of money for an injury-prone 29-year old who may not have even started.
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