Manchester City capped their best season since Sheikh Mansour took over the club by beating Stoke City 1-0 at the weekend and claiming the FA Cup. Champions League qualification has also been achieved and the club could still claim third place in the Premiership and forfeit the often challenging qualifying rounds.
But Champions League success brings with it an extra thirteen games against top level opponents. And, whilst a top four finish is highly commendable, fans will expect more next season as Robert Mancini looks to justify Sheikh Mansour’s huge investment with a side capable of challenging for the Premiership title. So, as City look to make that step up, is a big summer spending spree exactly what the side need?
Mancini himself has said himself that he needs players with Champions League experience. Whilst the squad contains experienced performers such as Carlos Tevez, Patrick Vieira and the Toure brothers, the squad is, in general, youthful and inexperienced at the top level. The likes of Vincent Kompany, Adam Johnson, Joe Hart and James Milner have made vast improvements as players but cannot be expected to deliver Champions League success on their own.
City have already been linked with moves for the likes of Kaka, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wesley Sneijder and most recently Cesc Fabregas, whilst of greater importance is settling the future of Carlos Tevez at the club. But Roberto Mancini must remember that there is more to building a team capable of winning titles than simply buying the best players in World football. It was the current squad that delivered the FA Cup and Champions League football and City must preserve the backbone of the team rather than reshape it to accommodate big name signings.
Admittedly there are areas that will need improvement. Fans are still undecided on the likes of Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov whilst there also appears to be a desire for a winger in the mould of Alexis Sanchez of Udinese. Mancini himself has cited the example of Tottenham this season who, despite making the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, struggled to improve on last season domestically with a weak squad in comparison to their rivals.
But UEFA’s Financial Fair Play laws will also dictate transfer policy to an extent. Despite the extra income from the Champions League, the club will still have to balance its books by 2014 and exercise some financial conservatism. But, at the same time if Manchester City failed to improve on this season or didn’t perform well in the Champions League after a refusal to invest money that is available then surely fans would start to question Mancini and Sheikh Mansour.
Yes, Mancini must look to improve his squad for next season with suitable and appropriate signings as the squad prepares for their biggest challenge yet. But, more importantly, the Italian needs to maintain the balance and blend of the team that got Manchester City there in the first place.