After winning their first title in 44 years, Manchester City failed to put up a decent defence of it last season.
As a result, their neighbours and rivals Manchester United claimed it with four games remaining, leading to manager Roberto Mancini being relieved of his duties.
The Citizens have hired Manuel Pellegrini to fulfil the task of reclaiming back the Premier League trophy, but also to establish City as a force in the Champions League.
After reaching the quarter-final stage with a deeply troubled Malaga side and losing narrowly to Dortmund, the Chilean will be expected to achieve more with the greater resources at his disposal at the Etihad Stadium.
The former Real Madrid manager was given a healthy budget this summer and he has invested it in players whom he thinks can get the job done.
In addition, he has also been able to offload the likes of Carlos Tevez, Kolo Toure, and Roque Santa Cruz, among others, which will relieve some of the pressure on Manchester City’s considerable wage bill – he will certainly know the value of this considering the issues his former club currently face due to breaching UEFA’s financial regulations.
This article will look at the strengths and weaknesses of this expensively assembled squad and will also attempt to predict which the style of play Pellegrini will deploy next season.
There is not much competition in this department with Joe Hart being a clear favourite over Costel Pantilimon and Richard Wright. However, the main issue is the England No.1‘s poor form over last season – most notably errors against Southampton and West Ham.
If his form fails to improve he may put City’s title challenge in tremendous jeopardy. Having a quality and consistent goalkeeper is crucial to league dominance and, should Hart fail to fire once more, it is difficult to imagine Pantilimon coming in to do a sufficient job.
City were very unlucky with Vincent Kompany’s injury last season and luckily had a revelation in teenage sensation Matija Nastasic. Nevertheless, after letting Kolo Toure go and having an injury-prone Micah Richards as back up, their central defensive options seem limited.
Failure to sign any defender would be very risky for the Manchester outfit and, should they decide to sign someone, he will have to be patient as there is healthy competition, bearing in mind that Lescott has plans on extending his contract. However, their full-back options are good and they have requisite quality and cover on both flanks.
This seems to be the area with the most depth as City has an overload of midfielders capable of playing an anchor role, namely; Yaya Toure, new signing Fernandinho, Jack Rodwell, Gareth Barry, Javi Garcia and rising youth player Abdul Razak.
The dilemma is that all the aforementioned are full internationals and, although not all of them regulars, they will have their eye on breaking into their respective national team starting XIs with the 2014 World Cup looming.
It seems inevitable that at least one of them must leave either permanently or on loan – either way, Manchester City have an enviable range of options in this department.
There are currently five players who prominently ply their trade on the wings at the Etihad Stadium. With the exception of a single player (Scott Sinclair), all of them are regular internationals and will all look to be getting a lot of games this season.
It will be interesting to see how Pellegrini manages these players and how he gets them to operate. Based on his formation with Malaga last season, and even previously with Villareal, he seems to prefer having a direct winger play with a creative-inward one.
With this in mind, he should play either Milner or Navas (direct wingers) with Silva or Nasri (creative wingers) that will make this City side look more like his previous teams.
Despite signing two new strikers in Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo, incumbent Sergio Aguero still remains to be their best striking option. This simply implies that unless one of those signings will operate on the already overloaded wings, one of them is bound to accompany Edin Dzeko on the bench.
Generally, City’s strike force like their midfield and wing departments in looking well equipped with not only quality but also quantity.
In summary, the midfield, wing and striking positions are very solid and are likely to be the focal point in helping City secure the Premier League title.
However, their defensive positions look like the weakest area of the team, though it should not be underestimated as they conceded fewer goals than any other side last season (34).
On paper, with City’s squad depth and near infinite resources for January reinforcement, they should reclaim back the title – but has the game ever been played on paper?