While Manchester United are spending heavily to help repair the damage caused by David Moyes’ spell in charge at the club, Manchester City have kept themselves relatively quiet in the transfer market thus far.
In Willy Caballero and Bacary Sagna, they’ve signed two low-key veterans to help fill out the squad, while Porto’s Fernando will likely be a rotation option with Fernandinho.
City’s title win last season wasn’t a given, nor were they standout favourites at any stage of the season. The Jose Mourinho factor at Chelsea had many tipping them for the title at the start of the campaign, while Liverpool’s heroics during the second half of the season had them as frontrunners to land the league title. On top of that, doubts remained about Manuel Pellegrini’s credentials, or lack thereof, in taking City to the title, having never guided a team to major honours during his time in European football.
On the pitch the team didn’t always play up to the imperious feats displayed at the Etihad. Games such as the away loss to Cardiff City highlighted the defensive frailties in the side, both in goalkeeper Joe Hart and his back four.
The team’s lack of depth at centre-back also became an issue; while Martin Demichelis had to fight off his undeserved early detractors, Vincent Kompany was far more at fault for poor defensive displays throughout the season.
The problem City had in the summer following their 2012 title win was that they didn’t build on what they had. Players like Robin van Persie were chased and the team very much needed a strong midfield presence to play alongside or in place of Yaya Toure. Instead of moves that would have taken the club forward, the signings of Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell and Scott Sinclair were even less than sidesteps, with the club failing to mount anything resembling a serious title challenge, something made even more clear following Alex Ferguson’s departure from United after landing the 2012-13 title.
Despite their form at home for much of last season, few can say for sure City will defend their title amid the kind of strengthening taking place at Chelsea and Manchester United – the latter of which is surely not over.
Sergio Aguero had a torrid World Cup with Argentina, one which came off the back of another frustrating domestic campaign due to injury. Stevan Jovetic, similarly, struggled to get going, while there was plenty of concern that Alvaro Negredo hit only one league goal in the entire second half of the season.
If the league season isn’t a sure bet, the club are also in need of strengthening to further themselves on the European stage. The Champions League is a competition where Pellegrini has a good track record, but the loss at home to Bayern Munich displayed the gulf in class between City and the team widely considered the best in Europe.
Yaya Toure’s agent has become a nuisance more than anything of late, a fire which the club will want extinguished as quickly as possible. But it is a problem. Toure was the team’s most valuable cog in winning the league title last season in the prolonged absence of Aguero. Losing him, either altogether physically or just mentally, will have a resounding effect on the club’s efforts to retain their title.
As good as they can be, there are still holes in this side. City have a squad full of fantastic players, but it’s difficult to think of any beyond Toure and Aguero who can drag the side over the line to major silverware.
The makeup of the behind-the-scenes staff differs from what it was two years ago, and there’s something about City’s quiet behaviour that plays to Pellegrini’s natural demeanour. But the Premier League can be unforgiving. City didn’t win the league last season because they had the best or strongest squad. Instead, they were gifted that opportunity through the self-inflicted mistakes of others. Chelsea, in particular, have moved quickly to address those shortcomings.
There is nothing certain about the state of City’s three most important players, Kompany, Toure and Aguero. But based on recent events, it could prove costly if the club set out to rely too heavily on those three individuals to see them to the top of the mountain once again.