Have Manchester City turned a corner? The club finally topped a group in the Champions League after a historic win over Borussia Monchengladbach and are still favourites to win a third Premier League in five seasons. They’ve largely been without star players Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany, while midfield maestros David Silva and Yaya Toure have struggled for fitness at points this term.
However, a betting man still wouldn’t back City to win the Champions League. Furthermore, all bets are off closer to home this season in one of the most unpredictable Premier League campaigns to date.
Manuel Pellegrini is perhaps likely to lift the trophy come May, but there’s a long way to go and this season is proving to be outrageously difficult to read.
The club have been trounced on the odd occasion so far. Both Liverpool and Tottenham fought tooth and nail to smash four past them apiece, suggesting Pellegrini still has many of the issues he faced last year.
Despite the arrivals of Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne to provide energy in attack, playing staff further back still look weary when faced with enthusiastic opponents. The £70m-ish spent on Eliaquim Mangala and Nicolas Otamendi has not proved to be inspired spending as of yet, either – the pair, particularly the Argentine, are clearly good defenders but seem to crumble without the stoic presence of the heroic Kompany alongside them.
The club clearly have some way to go before they can be considered major players in the Champions League, as well as being placed in the same bracket as previous title contenders. Never have they been looked upon with the same aura the famous Sir Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho teams were going into a season.
With that in mind, here are THREE potential arrivals and THREE possible departures to solidify City as contenders.
Without the guile of Sergio Aguero, the Manchester outfit look a different side. There has been some improvement from Wilfried Bony in recent weeks, but the Ivorian is simply leagues below Aguero in terms of class.
Bearing the Argentina star’s injury record in mind, the club should make a move for some to bridge that gulf. Inter Milan star Mauro Icardi is the name on everyone’s lips at the present moment, as the bad boy 22-year old continues to frustrate at Inter Milan. He’s been given the captaincy at the San Siro after his impressive 31 goal haul last term, but dropped by Roberto Mancini in recent weeks.
He’s by no means the finished article yet, but he is a quality forward – he’s intelligent, physical and comes with a lorry-load of potential.
As an understudy to Aguero, his countryman could potentially improve by learning from the 27-year-old and create a wonderful attacking trident with Sterling and De Bruyne in the years to come.
The Argentine has become something of a cult hero at the club after initially disappointing. When he was first afforded a run of games, the former Bayern Munich man looked slow and cumbersome. Little has changed pace-wise in the intervening time, though he has proved himself a vastly knowledgeable operator and a solid defender.
However, it’s clear the 34-year old is not a long term option. A return to his native South America looks increasingly likely for the player, whether it be next month or in the summer. Rosario Central have been linked with taking the ex-Malaga defender back home.
There will be fond memories of the defender after he turned his career around in England. While he was clearly never up to the task of taking City forward, at least he stopped those ‘donkey’ jibes. For the most part, anyway.
As ever with City, the big names keep coming. Real Madrid playmaker Isco has long been touted as a target at the Etihad following his work at Malaga with Pellegrini. The Spaniard, while impressing, has largely failed to command a regular starting berth in the Spanish capital with Real Madrid following his 2013 move amid their plethora of Galacticos.
Having spent big on young talents in an effort to freshen up the ranks, perhaps a move for the 23-year could finally come off. Compatriot David Silva is clearly a superstar, though he is edging ever closer to 30 and his injuries have cost the team.
The aforementioned Sterling and De Bruyne are likely to feature with or without Silva in the side though the options from there onwards become somewhat limited. Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri are good players, but again the gulf in class is so wide.
While Isco is unlikely to play second fiddle his arrival would add another big name into the attacking midfield and perhaps an heir to Silva’s crown going forward.
Aside from one well taken goal during the demolition of Spurs back in November 2013, what has Jesus Navas done in Manchester? Other than run really fast.
The 30-year old is jet heeled, that much is for sure, but his end product is rarely there. He may be an effective change of pace to bring off the bench occasionally, but as the club look to march on in their quest for world domination, he is nowhere near up to scratch.
Linked with a return to Spain, the La Roja international should be sold back to Sevilla. Even if Arsenal’s reported interest in him comes to fruition, the club should consider his sale, even if strengthening a Premier League rival is rarely standard practice.
Brazilian left-back Alex Sandro’s exploits against the Etihad club both home and away in the Champions League have reportedly drawn him to their attention. In light of both Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy’s struggles, they would be wise to strengthen an area that has been somewhat of an issue for a while now.
The 24-year old only joined Juventus this summer but has gone on to prove himself as one of the top full-backs in Europe. Two Man of the Match performances, a passing accuracy rate of around 85.4% and a WhoScored average rating of 7.38 has established him as a solid option.
There is not a wealth of top class full-backs in world football currently and the wage packet City could presumably offer the former Porto man could be a decider. While Juventus are clearly a huge European team with a rich history, Serie A trails behind the Premier League in more ways than one.
The irony that the Old Lady beat City home and away this year, as well as reaching the Champions League final last season, is quite prevalent I know. However, it’s not too hard to imagine that the English league is miles above its Italian counterpart in terms of attracting players.
Ok, so we’re cheating a bit here. Samir Nasri would have been another choice, but the Frenchman was recently the subject of a three month layoff, pretty much ruling out any deal next month.
Belgian youngster Jason Denayer is said to have impressed Galatasaray enough while on loan in Istanbul that the Turkish titans are keen to take him on a permanent deal.
While we have talked about the need to continue the introduction of youth in the side, it may seem odd to propose selling a promising 20-year old centre-back. However, the Belgian is not much younger than Mangala, who looks a cut above.
Perhaps there could be a case argued that Denayer should be sold. With any forward planning, City could structure a deal containing a buy-back clause or first option should he leave the Turkish capital.
If he’s that good he won’t stay in Turkey that long.