Sunday, February 13, 2011

Manchester City - still not ready

It's typically always been tough being a 'Citeh' fan. For all their claims to being the true Manchester club and the club who real Mancunians follow, the years of looking up the table at their more illustrious and famous neighbours but surely rankle and fester. City have also been caught in a situation where they have had periods where the gap between the clubs has closed to a level which has given genuine cause for hope only to see themselves slip away time after time, ultimately doomed to failure. Only supporters from clubs such as Spurs or Atletico Madrid can truly understand how this must feel. A couple of seasons ago however things changed at Manchester City when they signed Robinho, except they are still the same.

With the access to unlimited funds from the Middle East, Manchester City was suddenly propelled into another stratosphere of expectations, aspirations and dreams. In fairness to those who belt out Blue Moon at the City of Manchester stadium, very few seem to have turned into spoilt brats, they on the whole seem to remain pragmatic about their team and its' fortunes, but that may be simply because they still haven't won anything.

Many informed observers find City's new found wealth and spending highly distasteful - we'll discount Monsieur Wenger's however as he simply finds everything distasteful - but the reality is that the vast majority of people would welcome that kind of investment for their team. Growing up in Scotland I was always a Rangers fan and on moving to London I also began supporting Chelsea (pre Abramovich!). Looking at the clubs now, I'm delighted that Chelsea are able to go and buy Fernando Torres whereas Rangers have been staring down the barrel of bankruptcy for nearly two years now. Let me tell you there is no romance in Rangers' situation whatsoever, it is dreadful to see your club in that state. Ask Leeds United fans whether they'd have liked a rich benefactor post Risdale instead of a trip to the old Third Division.

Having watched the Manchester derby yesterday, it is clear that there is no quick fix in the quest for success. Those neutrals cheering on the other side in some attempt to support the nobility of football against the evils of money should remember an all conquering United side adding Juan Sebastian Veron and Ruud Van Nistelrooy after yet another trophy laden season. Liverpool of old spent big money on Barnes, Bearsdsley, Dean Saunders, if you've got it spend it. The problem Chelsea and Manchester City have is quite simply they are not 'establishment'. New money is always looked down upon, phrases like noisy neighbours are used, how dare anyone challenge us or wish to better themselves, know your place.

Manchester City, for all the investment are however not ready to win trophies yet. They have a fantastic squad, already one of the best in Europe with strength in depth and no lack of quality - except possibly at centre back - in all areas. Yesterday however showed that Ferguson and ManYoo remain the yardstick, been there seen it done it a thousand times. It was no surprise that Scholes and Giggs were picked yesterday, they are both winners and United through and through. Rooney, whilst being an Evertonian still understands the mentality of the North West and after nearly twelve months of mediocrity provided a piece of (slightly shinned) pure inspiration and quality when the situation and occasion needed it.

It also is not just down to the players but the managers. This is a decidely average ManYoo team compared with others I have seen yet Ferguson constantly coaxes performances out of them that cannot fail to impress. The likes of John O'Shea and Darren Fletcher I suspect would only be see as average players were they plying their trade somewhere else. It is hard to currently gauge just how able or not Roberto Mancini really is. His success with Internazionale came at a time of massive upheaval in Serie A with one of the Scudettos handed to them by default and the following year they simply had to push against an open door with AC being docked points and Juventus being expelled from the top division, his record in Europe was also pretty average. This blog however has a growing suspicion that if given time he will do a very good job at City and one would hope he will be given that time, he does however have a plethora of tools at his disposal so results are and should be demanded. You cannot however expect him to start knocking over Ferguson on his own patch instantly, he is up against one of the all time greats, maybe even the greatest.

What City need more than a bunch of new players is time. Mancini firstly needs to repair the damage done by the scatter gun transfer approach and that means weeding out the rotten eggs. That process has been started with the jettisoning of Robinho and Adebayor, mercenaries with little love for living in the North West of England other than the fabulous wages. City are well shot of both of them, fine players that they both undoubtedly are.

It will be next year before City will see anything like the best of Edin Dzeko and finding out which system to use him in. Steve McLaren was unable - doesn't sound surprising really does it - to do so earlier this season and he has just been shown the door at Wolfsburg. If Tevez's personal situation can be stabilised (probably with yet higher wages), those two could form a possibly lethal partnership and with the quality of David Silva - for my money the most watchable player in the Premiership along with Luca Modric - pulling the strings behind them and Mario Balotelli also thrown into the mix, they could have a settled strike force to destroy anyone anywhere.

It is City's own fault that they are behind schedule. Their minimum target last year was fourth place and the Champions League gravy train that was to follow. Liverpool's Benitez inspired implosion meant it was on a platter for them only for them to fluff their lines against Spurs and allow Peter Crouch to demote them to the Europa League. This season Chelsea's sudden realisation their squad is too small and old (you read it here first) has given them third place as a very attainable goal.

City have little or no European presence or pedigree and with no Champions League football they stand little or no chance of hiring the very best players. That and the ineptitude of their CEO Garry Cook who seems wholly out of his depth was the reason for the laughable failure of their ludicrous attempt to sign Kaka. His reasons for refusing to sign for them for the same reasons that Robinho did also tells you everything about Brazil's thumb sucking number eleven. Gone and best forgotten.

City need very little to seriously challenge for the title. A new centre back certainly would not hurt if they were able to get the very best but other than that what they really need is almost impossible to get. They need one of the absolute best midfielders in the world to add the top class quality in the middle of the park they still seem to lack. The players however that they would need to get them to that next percentage level, a Cesc Fabregas or an Andres Iniesta are almost certainly unobtainable. Wesley Sjneider or Steven Gerrard would be older but possibly more realistic alternatives and the best option might be to make a big money offer for Bastian Schweinsteiger. Luca Modric is another potentially as they could supply him with able minders in Yaya Toure and Nigel De Jong. The key is to add absolute quality however and far less quantity. Shedding more unwanted squad players should improve the harmony in the squad also, the squad needs be brought together and united (pun intended).

Manchester United and to a lesser degree Arsenal have benefited greatly from continuity. It does not always work as in the case of Benitez - mitigating factors granted - but Chelsea have certainly suffered greatly from several seasons of upheaval with a huge loss of focus and one hopes they will stick with the great eyebrow from Italy. City need to stick with Mancini, reign in the pointless spending on players in the 10-20 million pounds region and concentrate on landing one or at the most two very big fish. Silverware might just follow then - no nonsense.