Position last season: 1st
Premier League title odds: 5/4
Players in: Jack Rodwell (£12million)
Players out: Wayne Bridge (Brighton & Hove Albion, loan), Owen Hargeaves (released)
Net Spend: £12million
Opening Fixture: Southampton, Etihad Stadium (Referee: Howard Webb)
Predicted finish: 1st
Key Man: Vincent Kompany
While much talk has been about the goals of Sergio Aguero last season and how many more he could get this time around, Roberto Mancini’s Belgian captain is the key man in his side.
Such is the potency of Manchester City’s forward line that the absence of the little Argentinean can be dealt with, especially now an equally diminutive and talented compatriot has returned to the fold.
Last season had its ups and downs, but the Citizens only really looked truly vulnerable when Kompany was absent from the starting line-up. It is no wonder Mancini has reportedly been chasing Liverpool’s Daniel Agger, as the pairing of Joleon Lescott and Stefan Savic looked decidedly wobbly – look to the Carling Cup semi-final for proof.
Kompany has improved steadily since he joined from Hamburg four years ago, as has his importance to the team and City’s organisation at the back is severely reduced when he is injured – keeping him fit will be the most important task for City this season.
The drama of last season’s finale spread euphoria among City fans, but it should also serve as a warning to the profligacy and loss of focus that saw them surrender a commanding lead at the top of the league, nearly handing fierce rivals United the trophy.
Mancini has been grumbling about the club’s transfer policy over the past few weeks, as the City hierarchy seem determined to try and lower the wage bill ahead of the impending Financial Fair Play rules being implemented by UEFA.
City’s head of football administration, Brian Marwood, has refused to sanction any big name signings until the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Edin Dzeko and Roque Santa Cruz are moved on – Carlos Tevez was reportedly one of those the club was open to selling, but his form in pre-season seems to have changed that.
Champions always need to stay ahead of the game if they want to stay top but the level of recruitment City have undertaken in the past couple of seasons mean this rule may not be so easily applicable, as they still have the strongest squad and it is a team still getting used to one another.
If they can heed the warning of losing focus from last season, then it is hard to see any side coming close to Mancini’s in the title race, even if he doesn’t make any further signings after Jack Rodwell of Everton.
City are the favourites, quite rightly, and have improved themselves greatly by reconciling Tevez with the manager and rest of the squad – it is hard to see anyone coming close to them.