By Alistair Banks
Season 2015-16 is a pivotal one for the blue side of Manchester. Having finished 1st, 2nd, 1st and 2nd the last 4 years there is the distinct possibility that they won’t be top two come the end of May. This fan hasn’t even considered them finishing lower than runner up the last 4 years, but he is this season.
With the continued building in strength of Arsenal, the relative ease that Chelsea won the league last season, and the presumed progress of Manchester United under the Dutch Moyes, there is the real possibility that Manchester City are fighting for 4th with Southampton’s 2nd XI.
These are slightly worrying times in Eastlands. As has become a regular occurrence, City have shit the bed in preseason, shipping 8 goals in their matches against Real Madrid and Stuttgart. Asterisks can be applied to both performances due to injuries in key defensive positions but this may well be buttering over the cracks. Last year’s defence struggled against the best sides. Defensive reinforcements Mangala and Fernando have much to prove after indifferent performances, while the previously untouchable Vincent Kompany was also often below par last year.
City shored up the defensive end by doing nothing more than resigning 20 year old academy product and star Celtic loanee Jason Denayer, to a new 5 year deal and promised him first team football. This sounds rather inadequate but is exactly what I hoped would start happening. City have also dealt with the selling of Stevan Jovetic and likely sale of Edin Dzeko by promising 17 year old Nigerian wonderkid Kelechi Iheanacho first team opportunities. They had to bring the youth through eventually and it looks like this will be the year it begins. Whether it brings dividends this year is the $100 million question.
There have been some positives to come out of City’s off season. The signing of Raheem Sterling was prolonged, messy, expensive and prolonged! But there’s no doubt he has a point to prove. If his pre season form is anything to go by he has the bit between his teeth already. Sterling’s direct running is just what City’s attacking strikeforce needs.
Speaking of messy, the signing of Fabian Delph could well be a key acquisition. City now have a midfielder with the pace to offset the worldly talents of the slowing Yaya Toure. And as I seamlessly flow onto the subject of Yaya, it’s no secret that City struggle when the Ivorian cake-loving tank is away on African Nations Cup duty. This year he’ll be available all season, and he’s not complaining about any off season birthday snub. He was superb vs Real and City bossed the midfield for 20 minutes before Delph pulled a hammy. Hopefully a snippet of what is to come.
At the attacking end of the park, City are still the best in the league. They scored 10 goals more than their nearest rivals last season, although they did struggle against the tighter defences at the top end of the table.
There has been movement in the ranks, with the promising but underachieving Stevan Jovetic now at Inter, and the inconsistent Edin Dzeko likely moving to Roma before the season starts. These two have been replaced by the inconsistent Bony and promising but likely underachieving Iheanacho! (Boom! Boom!)
In all seriousness, adding Sterling to the likes of criminally underrated David Silva, Nasri, Aguero (remember him?), and Toure and you can pen in 80+ goals again.
Finally one can’t write up a season preview for City without the ongoing saga of the manager. Manuel Pellegrini was hailed as a charming polite man, the anti-Mourinho, who won the league playing attacking football in 2013-14. Last season when things went awry, MP’s quietly spoken manner made one wonder if he possessed the fire in the belly to kick them onto higher things. We’ll see soon enough, because they need kicking.
With the looming shadow of Pep Guardiola seemingly getting closer by the day, the 2015-16 season has the possibility of coming completely off the rails (think UCL group elimination and 4th place finish) if the club looks too far ahead to next season, when as far as I can tell Guardiola has said nothing more than his future at Bayern Munich is undecided. Every City ‘In the know’ knows Pep is coming. But then again, some still think Paul Pogba’s signing next week too….
This City fan would sign up for a cup and 2nd place, and a season of player development right now. I can’t see anyone overhauling Chelsea again this season. Hopefully no one else overhauls City.
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