Premier League Preview: Manchester City

My Premier League previews continue with megabucks Manchester City now in the spotlight. After numerous big-money arrivals City will be looking to break into the lucrative top four. 

Roberto Mancini really did splash the cash for the Eastlands club as new faces entered the team. Yaya Toure joined from Barcelona for a massive £28 million transfer fee, while David Silva, who did not play a big part in Spain’s recent World Cup winning side, also joined City from Valencia for a staggering £24 million. Inter Milan striker Mario Balotelli has repeatedly been linked with a move to the club, as has Aston Villa’s James Milner. More extortionate prices are being quoted for both players as Mancini looks to assemble a team of stars at the City Of Manchester Stadium. Defender Jerome Boateng has also moved to City, joining from German side Hamburg for a fee of around £11 million. He is joined by fellow defender Aleksandar Kolarov, who joins from Lazio for £16 million. With their own version of Galacticos, surely City will be looking towards the title this season?

Joe Hart seems determined to fight for his place at the club as he looks to take the number one jersey from Shay Given. A move away from City may be better for the England hopeful, though, as Given is certainly not going to be willing to give up his place. The Irish goalkeeper has been a fine servant to the league over the years and was as solid as a rock last term for City, although a shoulder injury at the end of last season meant that Mancini had to bring in emergency signing Stuart Taylor to fill the gap. Whoever is chosen to play between the sticks, however, has a strong line in front of him. Kolo Toure, Vincent Kompany, Joleon Lescott and new recruit Boateng are all solid centre-backs, giving Mancini the pleasant problem of choosing between the four players. Micah Richards would also go into that selection cauldron, although the twenty-two-year-old will be looking to try and get into the England squad and so a move to a team who can promise him first team football could be on the cards. Wayne Bridge, Pablo Zabaleta and Nedum Onouha are all in contention to play either side of the chosen centre-backs, as is Kolarov. Another bright English star, though, could be forced to leave Eastlands to find first team action, in the shape of Onouha. The defender has been the subject of speculation recently, linking him with a move to Steve Bruce’s Sunderland. City, though, should be terribly difficult to break down at the back next season.
            The midfield of the team is full of top quality players. Gareth Barry has established himself as one of the best holding midfielders in the Premier League in the last few years; the fact that City now have Nigel de Jong, Patrick Viera and new recruit Toure could mean that at least one of them has to leave, as they all do the same job and are all, with the exception of Viera maybe, very capable of doing a job in the top flight of English football. City are relevantly strong on the wings with Shaun Wright-Phillips, who was poor at the World Cup in South Africa, and David Silva the most obvious choices. Robinho is also an option for Mancini although the Brazilian forward has stated his desire to leave the club to join Santos, where he spent last season on loan. Adam Johnson is a promising player but could find himself out of Mancini’s plans if Milner is bought. His namesake, Michael, could also leave as the central midfielder is going to find it very difficult to force his way into an already-packed midfield. And another home grown player could also be about to leave the club, Stephen Ireland. The Republic of Ireland international fell out of favour at City when Mancini was appointed and barely featured for the Italian. As the Premier League recently introduced the “home grown”, 25-man squad rule, City could be in trouble. The club currently have nearly fifty players named in their first team squad, double of what the new rule will allow.
            There may be a number of strikers that are forced to leave the club due to the rule. Felipe Caicedo, Roque Santa Cruz, Craig Bellamy and Brazilian striker Jo could all go, with Emmanuel Adebayor also rumoured to want a move away from Manchester. There were rumours in the summer that Carlos Tevez, who played a huge part in City’s success last season, wanted to move away as he wasn’t happy with Mancini’s running of the club. The Argentinean, though, seems to have backed down now and looks set for another season at City.
            One to watch in the City side this season is Adam Johnson. Although he may struggle to break into the side Mancini showed a lot of faith in the young English winger and, hopefully, that faith will continue this season. There were calls for Johnson to be included in Fabio Capello’s World Cup squad in South Africa recently but the former Middlesbrough man didn’t quite make the cut for the final twenty-three man squad. If Johnson can break into the Manchester City squad this season, though, he could be firmly in Capello’s plans from now on.
            Whenever a team is injected with money the whole club is full of optimism. The team sign various players, sometimes for a little more than they are worth and maybe more players than they actually need. This is what is happening at Eastlands at the minute. However, the same sort of situation happened when Mark Hughes was in charge in 2008 City couldn’t reach their high targets and instability started to set in. Although the club now look stable financially and look to have found the right manager, things can go horribly wrong horribly quickly. 

Where will they finish?: 3rd
Official title odds: 20/1 (Stan James)
Star man: Carlos Tevez
One to watch: Adam Johnson
Main weakness: Stability is the key
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