Predicting Manchester City's Starting XI for the New Premier League Season
It seems somewhat odd that Manchester City, the world's richest football club, are the only side in the Premier League's top six yet to make a significant signing in the summer transfer window.
But, then again, they are the Premier League champions, which perhaps makes their need for improvement less imperative than those of the teams below them.
In spite of that, City are likely to make at least one big signing before the window closes at the end of August. One particular striker who shall, for now, remain nameless is top of that list of candidates.
Here is how City's starting XI could look when they line up against Southampton on August 19, taking into account any potential star signings.
GK: Joe Hart
For all of the myriad stars who each cost eight-figure sums to help bring the title back to City after 44 years, few have been more instrumental than the £600,000 acquisition from Shrewsbury Town.
No goalkeeper kept more clean sheets in the Premier League last season, and Hart was a shoo-in for the No.1 spot in the PFA's Team of the Year.
No disrespect to Costel Pantilimon, but the big Romanian is unlikely to dislodge the England keeper from his first-team place this season.
RB: Pablo Zabaleta
With Micah Richards representing Team GB at London 2012 this summer, the right-back could potentially finish his Olympic campaign just seven days before the start of the new league season.
City manager Roberto Mancini will most likely give Richards a rest before he begins the league campaign in earnest, safe in the knowledge that Zabaleta is a more than adequate replacement.
The Argentinian's versatility has been a great asset for him throughout his City career, and he is an all-round more accomplished footballer than Richards too.
CB: Joleon Lescott
Just a year ago, the contingent of fans and pundits who were sceptical of Lescott's worthiness in the City team was a strong one.
This summer, after a title-winning season spent as a key part of the league's best defence, Lescott has returned from Euro 2012 after starting all four of England's games in Ukraine.
The Brummie defender has now fully displaced Kolo Toure as one of City's first-choice centre-backs, something which is unlikely to change this season.
CB: Vincent Kompany
The first man to lift the Premier League trophy for City was perhaps their best and most consistent player last season.
While Carlos Tevez was off sulking on the golf course and Mario Balotelli was doing goodness knows what at all hours of the night around Manchester, Kompany was a dignified and assured presence who helped make City's band of megastars into a team.
He only cost £6 million when he signed from Hamburg four years ago. Next season he will continue to make that amount look like one of the best bargains for years.
LB: Gael Clichy
The last member of Arsenal's famous "Invincibles" squad of 2004 to leave the Gunners, Clichy won the second league title of his career in his first season at the Etihad Stadium.
The Frenchman went on to make 28 league appearances for the Citizens last term, and has quickly become a staple of the team's back four.
Fellow left-back Aleksandar Kolarov, by contrast, continues to look more like a luxury player whenever he is fielded instead of Clichy.
CM: Nigel De Jong
Dismissed as a thug for his display in the 2010 World Cup final and then as a danger to his fellow professionals for his part in Hatem Ben Arfa's horrific leg-break, De Jong has since re-built his reputation.
The Dutchman's midfield destroyer bit may not be one for the purists, but he has shown himself to be an important part of what City try to achieve on the pitch. De Jong's contract is entering its final year, but he has said he is hopeful of staying.
Injury restricted him to just 21 league appearances last season while Gareth Barry played in all but four games of City's title-winning campaign. However, the Englishman's advancing years mean De Jong can expect to see more action in the coming season.
CM: Yaya Toure
City's rampaging, all-action midfield general was a joy to watch last season as he provided the driving force behind so many wins which proved vital in the final reckoning.
His absence during the African Cup of Nations was keenly felt by City as their form dipped way below that of their thrilling early-season exploits.
Just to underline his importance to the team, he scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Newcastle late in the season when a title-bid-damaging draw looked on the cards.
AMR: James Milner
Considering the mouth-watering array of attacking talent in the City squad, Milner's continued presence feels like some to be something of an anomaly.
Amid all the continental technique and Latin flair, here is an English workhorse. However, it is that industry, and no little shortage of talent in his own right, that makes Milner such an asset.
If Zabaleta bursts forward down the left, Milner is there to cover the run. If Yaya Toure decides to start rampaging into the final third, Milner drops in to offer security. If David Silva is surrounded by defenders, Milner will offer the support of a quick exchange of passes to release the Spaniard.
AMC: David Silva
Speaking of Silva, the man that the rest of the City squad calls "Merlin", just keeps on improving. While he may have suffered a bit of a dip midway through last season, Silva regained his form at Euro 2012, showing he was back to his best.
From his sumptuous through-ball for Cesc Fabregas to score in Spain's opening game against Italy to his own expertly-guided header against the same opposition in the final, Silva had a great tournament.
After six weeks away from competitive football in the summer, the little magician should be raring to go again once the new season gets underway.
AML: Samir Nasri
Over the past 12 months Nasri has joined a new club, fired a few choice phrases back at fans of his former team, won the Premier League, scored against England in his first ever match at a major international tournament, engaged in a war of words with journalists from his own country and been disciplined by the French federation.
In the middle of all that, somewhere, was winning the league. While he became well acquainted with the City bench midway through his first season at the club, Nasri contributed at the start and the end of the 2011/12 campaign, and ensured he was as deserving of a winner's medal as any of his new team-mates.
It is also worth noting that he has only recently turned 25, and so still has a few years of improvement in him.
CF: Sergio Aguero
With all this talk about Robin van Persie potentially jumping ship to Arsenal, just like so many of his former Arsenal teammates before him, it is almost as though everyone has forgotten about Aguero.
The Argentinian striker scored 23 Premier League goals in his debut season for City including the stoppage-time winner against QPR on the final day of the season that clinched the title.
He began his City career by scoring twice against Swansea, but only after coming on as a substitute. Mancini eased his £38 million signing into his team, insisting he had to fully recover his fitness from the Copa America earlier that summer.
If Van Persie does indeed sign for City, he could be treated in similar fashion, both as a way of making sure the Dutchman knows he has to earn his place in the side and reassuring Aguero that he is not just being ditched.