By Alistair Banks
(Waves hand around) Hey , yeah, hey, remember us? You know, the champions? Yeah we’re good thanks…..
Lost in the avalanche of red driven hype is the fact that yes, it was actually Manchester City who won the title last season.
We did only win it because of ‘the slip’ mind you, or because ‘The Special One’, after demolishing his rival managers in Zen master-like mind games, managed to somehow lose to Crystal Palace , Sunderland and draw at home to ahhhh Norwich. It was an accidental triumph. A lucky title, or something like that…
That’s right, Liverpool had the league trophy won, the shirts printed and were halfway through their 25th rendition of ‘We’re going to win the league!’ when a funny thing happened, they still had to play Chelsea, you know, a pretty good team.
Meanwhile on the blue side of Manchester, City stomached their through a harrowing loss to the Champions elect and then stumbled their way to a 2-2 draw with Sunderland. All looked lost! With the season gone, the money hungry mercenaries with no team spirit consigned themselves to at least trying to win their remaining games. And City duly did this with an element of almost boring calm, while others slipped, spluttered and leaked goals faster than you’d play the fiddle on the decks of a quickly sinking TransAtlantic liner.
The Premier League is a 38 game season and as Sir Alex Ferguson said when City won in 11-12, “If you win it, you deserve it.” It was a moment of class from a manager who had just lost the league in the most gut wrenching of circumstances. City won the league last season and they deserved it.
Anyway enough about last season. The off season for the Champions has been a quiet one comparatively speaking. While their main rivals have spent plenty of coin and had large squad changes, City have quietly gone about strengthening areas where it was needed. Fernando was brought in from Porto to help protect a sometimes exposed defence under Pellegrini’s attacking outlook. They have added more defensive depth with the arrival of fullback Bacary Sagna from Arsenal on a free transfer, and most recently and perhaps most importantly, the addition of the magnificently named Elaquim Mangala. After months of speculation, the 23 year old French centre back was finally announced as a City player just two days ago. City see him as the long term partner for Vincent Kompany. One wonders what happened to the last long term partner Matija Nastasic who was outstanding under Mancini in the 12-13 but almost invisible under Pellegrini.
It sometimes disappoints that after an error or two, a young player is replaced with another big name. The days of City doing this are close to an end due to FFP restrictions and I personally think this is a good thing. City’s Barca connection of back office geniuses have been promoting the holistic approach of attacking football and developing talent. This hack would love to see that talent come through and have a chance, rather than positions being filled with another overseas star. Perhaps I shouldn’t be complaining with two out of a possible 4 trophies in the cabinet from last season.
In a nutshell, I am picking City to win the title again for one main reason. When healthy they have the best spine in the league. None is stronger than Kompany, Toure, Silva and Aguero. Last year these four players played a combined total of 8% of the season, or 285 out of a possible 3420 minutes together. I didn’t count them, but it’s a fact, and City still won the league.
It’s a credit to the depth and spirit within the squad.
This team now knows how to win titles and if they can keep those four on the park for an extended period of time then a third title in four years will follow, despite the improvements other clubs have made.