Manchester City: 5 Key Areas to Improve on This Season
Roberto Mancini's quest for the Premier League title may be over but the pursuit for perfection remains ongoing.
Salvador Dali, the famous artist and artistic genius, once said: “have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it,” but Mancini might just want to give it a go.
From the moment he took over the helm at the Etihad his uncompromising attitude has been omnipresent.
When a Carlos Tevez hat trick helped sink Blackburn 4-1, Italian said, “I'm angry because we conceded a goal. Our gift. I think it's most important we stay concentrated for all the time,” according to Daily National Analysis.
Earlier in the offseason Mancini has made it clear he wants his team to win the title with more conviction. “Winning like we did is too difficult. I hope if we win the title this year it will be a few games before," Mancini told goal.com.
But how do you improve a team that was the best in the league last season?
New signings is the most logical approach and a measure that City has resorted to in recent seasons. This year however it seems that the club are being forced to change their ways due to pressure from the Board of Directors and UEFA’s financial ‘fair play’ rules.
Mancini and Brian Marwood (the club's football administrator), have reportedly fallen out about Man City’s lack of investment in the transfer market. The Independent reports the Italian boss saying, "I am not in charge of this [the club’s finances]. It is important [to sign players early] because, after what we did last year, it is important we continue to win."
With the Premier League season three weeks away from kicking off, it seems that Mancini will not have his wishes granted. The City squad will have to look at themselves with a degree of self-criticism in order to improve.
Roberto Mancini was sacked from his job at Inter Milan due to a series of disappointing European campaigns. Three consecutive Scudetto titles were not enough to stop Jose Mourinho replacing at the helm of the San Siro club.
It seems that Mancini’s poor luck in Europe has been taken to Manchester.
City’s debut in the Champions League was underwhelming, and their Europa League campaign worse.
Edinson Cavani’s 69th minute strike put a damper in City’s arrival to the club football’s premier stage although Kolarov’s 75th minute effort spared their blushes a little.
Mancini’s men never really turned up against Napoli. Their passing was wayward and their attacks lacked any real conviction.
The following 2-0 defeat at the Allianz Arena demonstrated with startling difficulty the difference in class between Champions League debutants and seasoned campaigners.
Hopes were restored by consecutive victories over Villarreal but a big performance evaded City when it really mattered at Naples.
The only saving grace from City’s Champions League debut was a 2-0 win over eventual finalists Bayern Munich—a result which shows City is capable of performing in Europe.
It’s difficult to judge City on their Europa League campaign given that a huge shift in the title race forced them to cast their attention away from the competition, but their first half display in the second leg against Sporting Lisbon was disappointing, especially with such a strong team.
The failures of the Champions League were mistakes that are made from inexperience; the City squad need to channel such disappointment into positive displays this season.
Securing the Premier League title means that they can legitimately be regarded as one of the leading clubs in world football, but the next stage in the process needs to be a string of solid displays in Europe.
When Everton’s new recruit Darron Gibson condemned the Citizens to defeat at Goodison Park, a big question mark was placed over the heads of the club’s most revered talent.
Can Mancini’s men handle the pressure of leading the Premier League title challenge?
Kompany was quick to dismiss such criticism. The Independent reports the club captain saying:
"If there is one thing I know about our team it is that we are mentally strong.
"If anything it will give us a boost to carry on and if people want to underestimate us, then please do so."
At the same time, United were going strong, and a victory over West Brom moved Sir Alex Ferguson’s men to the summit of the Premier League.
Manchester City’s mental strength seemed to have abandoned them. Mancini even reintroduced Carlos Tevez to the team, which was a move that smelt more like desperation than inspiration.
But then something unexpected happened. The players rose to the challenge and proved critics wrong.
Kompany’s decisive header in the Manchester derby epitomises the Belgium international's leadership credentials and the fight back against QPR—when even the most loyal of fans thought it was all over—shows the resilience in Roberto Mancini’s team.
The fightback to win the Premier League should never have happened. City should have kept their head high earlier. The fact that they battled so hard however shows that the mental strength is there and the experience of such a hard-fought campaign should help them further develop.
Depth at the Back
Vincent Kompany’s suspension and Kolo Toure’s absence at the African Cup of Nations placed a lot of pressure on young Stefan Savic. The enormity of the task that had befallen him was written all over his face.
A series of nervy displays from the 21-year-old Montenegrin centre back has left critics questioning whether he is good enough to play for a top European club. In fairness to the youngster, opportunities to impress were limited. When he was given one, he was thrown into the deep end from the word ‘go.’
Roberto Mancini seems concerned about his team’s potential frailty in the backline; they are only one injury or suspension away from becoming stretched.
The Italian has tried to be proactive by bringing in new talent but failed in his bid to lure AC Milan centre back Thiago Silva to the Etihad. The Brazil international instead opted for a move to Paris St. Germaine.
Dedryck Boyata’s return from a loan spell with Bolton may go some way at relieving defensive concerns, but the Belgian youngster is perhaps more inexperienced than Stefan Savic.
Vincent Kompany’s six-year contract extension has promised an air of consistency to City’s back four but it does not resolve the lack of depth.
Perhaps Micah Richards could deputise if Mancini fails to add to his defensive artillery. The Great Britain Olympian was outperformed by Pablo Zabaleta towards the end of the season and may favour a switch to the middle in order to get more first team football.
Manchester City’s fluid movement, individual brilliance and composure on the ball was superb last season and, at times, breathtaking.
But, to become the best team in the world, more is needed.
That statement may sound churlish when you look at attacking options like David Silva, Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli—all of whom could walk into any team in the Premier League. Their talents however leave one key area of the pitch lacking: the wing.
At the start of last season City were able to outplay anyone in the league. Look no further than their performance at Old Trafford to serve as an example. Teams were not expecting such dominance from the Citizens and as such they tried to outplay them.
But then opposition managers decided to sit back, hoping to frustrate the Blues. The 4-5-1 became a common tactic used against City and our poor results against Sunderland and West Brom serve as prominent examples.
Playing with more width will make it much more difficult for teams to frustrate City for the obvious reason that it will mean their defence becomes spread more thinly. This width could move up space in the centre for Silva and Toure, allowing them to still play with a degree of fluidity without worrying about Mancini’s game plan becoming too narrow.
The problem is the current squad is not blessed with natural wingers. Adam Johnson is the only player who specialises in this role, but he is all too often caught out of position.
Samir Nasri has played the wide role before but the Frenchman is more comfortable playing in a central position. James Milner has deputised out wide. He kept Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Stuart Downing out of Roy Hodgson’s England squad, but the former Aston Villa man’s lack of pace made him look, at times, uncomfortable playing in that position.
This is a problem that is likely to persist until a new signing is made. Mancini tried to resolve the problem by bidding for Edin Hazard, but the former Lille winger opted for a move to Stamford Bridge instead.
Up Front (?!)
Manchester City scored more than 90 goals in last season’s Premier League and had three strikers scoring 13 goals or more.
Talent like Emmanuel Adebayor, Craig Bellamy and Roque Santa Cruz has failed get a look in to Mancini’s starting 11, yet it seems the Italian coach is determined to add to the depths of his striking talent.
Their top four strikers cost more than £100 million to assemble and with talent like John Guidetti and Luca Scapuzzi on the ranks, it’s unclear why Mancini is seemingly desperate to secure the services of Robin van Persie.
Newspapers such as the Sunday Mirror have closely linked RVP with a move to the Citizens, however the Sunday Express believes that the Dutchman’s wage demands make a move to United for Juventus more viable.