Football FanCast columnist David Mooney assesses the shrewd moves that Mark Hughes has made at City this summer.
Mark Hughes is playing quite a shrewd game in the transfer market. While it would be daft to expect Man City to get a top four place this coming season, it is one of the clubs aims for the coming few years. I think it's fair to say that anything less than top six this time around would be a disappointment, especially with how this summer has progressed so far.
And last season's league finish was marred by the disastrous away form and a poor start that left the club in the bottom three on Christmas Day. Despite that, Mark Hughes managed to get the team close to a Europa League place come the end of the campaign.
Looking at the teams that finished above City that you would expect to push for Europe again next season – the likes of Everton and Aston Villa – and you can see that Mark Hughes has a non-Blackadder-esque cunning plan to finishing above and bettering them.
He appears to be buying players that will strengthen City. And not just strengthen City, but weaken his opposition.
So far, he's grabbed Barry from Aston Villa, Adebayor from Arsenal, and Tevez (effectively) from Man United. Add to that the fact he's pursuing Lescott from Everton and Terry from Chelsea, then if all of his transfer moves are successful, he'll have strengthened City immensely, while having taken prize assets from five of the nine teams that finished above his. Prize assets that helped those clubs finish above City. And if they're not there anymore and are joining forces at City, it makes City's job easier and their opposition's harder.
Okay, so Arsenal, Chelsea and Man United aren't exactly finishing where you'd realistically expect City to finish next year – I'd love a top four position, but I still think it's just a bit too out of range for the coming season – but they're the teams City should be rivalling very soon.
Even if Hughes can't prise Lescott or Terry away from Everton or Chelsea respectively, then he'll still have a squad that should push on from last season. Towards the end of last season, City were starting to look comfortable, but it was a little bit too late to do any real damage. Assuming the team can carry that on, then, with the new additions, they should be a formidable force.
Combine the summer transfer so far, with academy products like Ireland, Richards, and Onuoha (and, hopefully, after his appearance in South Africa a fit Michael Johnson), City will have a mixture of young talent and experience.
And should Blatter's plan to introduce a rule enforcing a set number of English players starting in Premiership teams, City shouldn't struggle there – with Richards, Bridge, Barry, Wright-Phillips and, after last season's performances, Onuoha looking at being first team regulars. And Hughes is still after Lescott and Terry.
If they can sort the away form out and pick up more than 11 points on their travels, then why can't City get their first top six finish since their return to the Premiership in 2002? And if that all goes well and there's another good summer of shrewd business, why can't the 2010/11 season be when City worry the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, United?
And if it all goes pants, then I'm sure the City fans' black humour can keep us going.
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