Manchester City begin their quest for back-to-back Premier League titles with something of a parliamentary air ringing in their ears. The slogan ‘5 more years’ is the ever popular mantra when a UK Government is seeking a second term in office.
The 60 month tenure is all the rage on the sky blue side of Manchester this week, as one by one, City’s superstars sign up to sustain & enhance the Etihad success story.
City fans are loving a drip feed of contract extensions as David Silva, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero have all pledged their long term futures to the Abu Dhabi ‘project’.
Samir Nasri was first to take the five-year plunge this pre-season, as Ferran Soriano, Txiki Begiristain and Manuel Pellegrini went about the business of nailing down the nucleus of City’s two-time title winners from the past three years.
A revitalised Aleksander Kolarov signed up for an additional three years and now there’s every prospect that announcements on extended Etihad stays for Edin Dzeko & Joe Hart are just days away.
There’s even a suggestion that despite some unpalatable summertime shenanigans, Yaya Toure could even get an improved deal …talk about having your cake & eating it!
Caustic humour aside, it’s a stunning statement by the champions that this season’s title defence will be founded on a bedrock of continuity and harmony.
Not only are the stars staying in Sheikh Mansour’s galaxy, City’s gravitational pulling power has seen the arrivals of an influx of high calibre players who will help Manuel Pellegrini chart new sky blue horizons.
Eliaquim Mangala finally, finally arrived with a transfer fee that immediately made him the highest priced defender ever to enter the English game.
City’s seemingly messy & protracted pursuit of the giant 23-year old centre back, owed everything to complex negotiations with 3rd party interests and was not of the player’s making.
The French international, who Pellegrini believes will become one of the best defenders in the world, actually put pen to paper and signed for City on July 12th, but the deal could not be finalised until the conclusion of other fiscal matters.
In keeping with the usual anti-City agenda, the media chose to weave a web of deceit circulating rumours that the ex Porto defender was holding out for better offers from Chelsea or the soon to be vanquished – or should that be VAN-QUASHED – palate of orange & red over at Manschesscher Unitet.
Whereas it’s all change for United, with transfer speculation, a new manager and a step into unfamiliar territory (e.g. League Cup 2nd Round), City are the polar opposite – a model of meticulously targeted transfer activity, consistency and tried & tested management.
Whoever would have foreseen such a dramatic role reversal?
City, with what appeared a perpetually revolving managerial door at Maine Road, the City of Manchester Stadium and even since moving to the Etihad (Hughes & Mancini) were the constant, when it came to negative comment and coverage.
Any journalist who was rash enough to criticise Manure in Sir Baconface’s sizzling years of success, would find themselves banned from the Carrington press conferences and the media suite at The Swamp.
Dear old David Moyes changed all that. The self-styled Theatre of Dreams was drowned out by a cacophony of shrill screams as United surrendered the Premier League title by a yawning gap of 22 points – a record – well done Moysie!
Louis Van Gaal has apparently brought the ‘feelgood factor’ back to the Trafford Troglodytes – they have already won silverware from Walt Disney – so why not attach the red and white ribbons to the PL trophy right away?
From City’s perspective it’s all good news.
Dismissed and derided by Fergie as the ‘noisy neighbours’ the decibel levels emanating from the Etihad are low, very low, when contrasted with all the ballyhoo surrounding Trafford Borough, cash splashing Arsene Whinger, Brenda’s £100m+ Suarez-less rebuild, and Maureen ‘sinking’ that Chelsea are now a ‘big horse’ title winner.
In reflecting the persona of their manager, it is City who go about their business in a professional and efficient manner, getting the job done and not seeking the oxygen of screaming back page headlines.
Lest we forget City are working under duress – more accurately described as UEFA Unfair Financial Fair Play twaddle – which has restricted the club’s transfer activities.
Nonetheless, irrespective of FFP, CEO Ferran Soriano said the club only ever intended strengthening key areas of the team. They feel this has been done by addressing a perceived weakness at centre back, a strength-in-depth issue at right full back and a holding midfielder who would shield the back four to greater effect.
In acquiring Mangala, Sagna and Fernando for a combined £44m Pellegrini is convinced it’s a job done.
Signing Argentine keeper Willy Caballero from his former club Malaga, means the manager knows he now has two highly accomplished goalkeepers vying for the number one spot.
It’s well known that Joe Hart performs at his best when facing a genuine challenge for his starting job, as evidenced when Shay Given was still a threat. Caballero is a definite upgrade on the departed Pantilimon.
City’s fifth summer signing, young Argentine midfielder Bruno Zuculini is definitely one for the future, hence he’s going out on loan to La Liga.
In stark contrast, the big surprise addition to the squad, Frank Lampard is very much one for the present.
Astonishment, shock, surprise, consternation, delight…the signing of Lampard was warmly welcomed by most City fans, but not all. Those opposed to him swapping royal for sky blue will surely come round, once they witness what he can bring to the team between now and the end of January.
On loan from New York City, Lampard’s presence could be a key factor in a successful Champions League Group stage, as well as establishing a platform in the first half of the season to make it three PL titles out of four.
City’s remaining transfer activity looks to be limited to those leaving the club between now and September 1. Micah Richards, Scott Sinclair and John Guidetti should be on their way, but hopefully Matija Nastasic will be staying, especially after Karim Rekik’s loan to PSV.
It looks as if City will have cracked the centre back ‘faultline’ that existed in the first half of last season. Kompany, Mangala, Demichelis and Nastasic should provide the necessary wherewithal.
If Fernando, nicknamed the Octopus for his ability to tackle and wrestle the ball off an opponent, is a more effective defensive barrier than the likes of the departed Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell, it will add a welcome solidity to City.
Zabaleta, arguably the best right full back in the world, will remain first choice but Sagna will get plenty of game time, keeping two quality full backs fresh all season round.
The loss of Negredo until deep into the autumn is a blow but, a team that scored an amazing 156 goals last season can only benefit from a rejuvenated Jovetic and, fingers crossed, a fully fit Aguero.
City won the title despite the Argentine talisman missing half the season. If that doesn’t focus the minds of City opponents, well, what will? City also coped when key figures Kompany and Silva were injured for prolonged periods.
Silva remains the main creative hub and is as influential in his own way as a marauding Yaya and, arguably even more so than when Captain Kompany, City’s Belgian Boulder is missing.
It would be asking a lot of Yaya, now seemingly back on track after his tragic and ‘wayward’ summer, to hit the dizzy heights of last season’s amazing achievements, but such are the demands from a club determined to be the best in England and Europe.
It’s acknowledged that it’s harder to retain a title than win one in the first place – everyone wants to take the scalp of the Champions.
That said, Manuel Pellegrini is now one PL campaign wiser, his players are conversant with his philosophy and tactics, they have even more of a title winning mentality and the squad has improved.
Upon succeeding Roberto Mancini, Pellegrini’s brief was to win five major trophies in five years.
If City can add to their PL and Capital One Cup success of 2014 with three pieces of silverware in 2015 it will be sky high sky blue fives all the way.
After all, unlike the Palace of Westminster, the Coalition Government or Her Majesty’s Opposition, Manchester City are fortunate and grateful to have one very well liked and trusted MP!
By David Walker
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu