As Samir Nasri scored the winning goal in the 80th minute against Premier League new boys Southampton on Sunday, the overriding sense was that of deju vu: starting this season the way last season ended—with a dramatic late goal.
But while the matches themselves might have exhibited more than a touch of familiarity, Manchester City’s 2011 and 2012 summer transfer windows cannot have gone any differently.
Indeed, starting in Roberto Mancini’s team at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday was Jack Rodwell, his only summer signing thus far.
What a change in City’s transfer policy, and let’s take a look at five things we can take away from City’s summer so far.
Emmanuel Adebayor finally completed his protracted move to Tottenham Hotspur this Tuesday (BBC Sport), and while City will be subsidizing his wages even at White Hart Lane, Mancini has finally gotten one of his biggest-earning stars off the wage bill.
Similarly, Wayne Bridge, who had reportedly been earning £90,000 a week, left City for Brighton in the Championship this summer, which both confirmed his true ability and City’s previous big-spending ways.
Also out of the Etihad, although not as eye-catching, are Stuart Taylor, Vladimir Weiss and Owen Hargreaves, as well as reserves Ahmed Benali and Greg Cunningham.
With UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules on the horizon, City have clearly embarked on separate paths from Chelsea’s extravaganza this summer.
And with the likes of Roque Santa Cruz, Kolo Toure and Nigel De Jong still on City’s books, Mancini will be looking to get them off his wage bill sooner rather than later.
It’s been a quiet summer for City, to say the least, especially up front.
In defence, City have been linked with a whole host of players, and City might still be making a further midfield signing in Scott Sinclair (The Guardian), but, outside of rumors linking Edin Dzeko with a move abroad (Metro), there hasn’t been anything of note in the striking department.
One of the major reasons? Carlos Tevez’s return.
It’s not a return as much as it is his responsibility as an employee of Manchester City, but when Tevez turns it on, he remains one of the best strikers in English, and indeed European, football.
He’s started the season with two goals in two matches—against Chelsea in the Community Shield and against Southampton last Sunday—and will surely be a fixture for Mancini up front.
If Dzeko stays put, City will have four top-quality strikers to choose from, unlike most of last year.
The only contingency now is Sergio Aguero’s injury status.
By the time the 2011-2012 Premier League season started, Sergio Aguero and Gael Clichy had already reported to duty at the Etihad and were ready to go.
City’s third and final big-name signing, Samir Nasri, arrived almost a year to the day, on Aug. 24.
By huge contrast, City have only signed Rodwell thus far, and if the Sinclair transfer goes through, will make their second signing in August.
It’s late by City standards, and it was no surprise that Mancini went public with his frustrations at his club’s lack of transfer activity in early August (Daily Mail).
Of course, it could have been smoke and mirrors, as Jack Rodwell arrived a mere two days after the above article was published, but Mancini may well have made a good point.
By doing their business so late in the transfer window, City’s new recruit (so far, that remains in the singular) spent his preseason training with his former club, Everton, rather than with Mancini.
Not necessarily the best preparation from City’s point of view.
While just the first example, the Jack Rodwell transfer signaled a change in City’s transfer policy.
Because after being linked with Javi Martinez (Daily Mail) and Daniele De Rossi (Daily Mail), Mancini ultimately brought in Rodwell, also a defensive midfielder, but who is better known for his potential and “Englishness” than any established qualities as the other rumored signings.
Rodwell adds to an already strong English core of Joe Hart, Micah Richards, Joleon Lescott, James Milner, Adam Johnson and Gareth Barry.
And in light of the Sinclair rumors, perhaps City are paying more attention to the English FA’s homegrown quotas than their previous transfer policies had reflected.
But are these signings at the expense of other, perhaps more established, stars that City could bring in?
It’s been a dramatic departure, to say the least, from previous summers that saw the likes of Aguero, Nasri and Yaya Toure arrive at the Etihad.
But while Mancini still enjoys a league-beating squad at his disposal, a combination of the above factors leads us to wonder what might have been.
What might have been if Martinez had been signed to sit alongside Toure in the defensive midfield position?
What might have been if Daniel Agger (The Guardian) had been signed to partner Vincent Kompany in central defence?
What might have been if genuine world-class performers, instead of budding English prospects, had been added to Mancini’s squad?
They would have been the sprinkling ornaments to an already strong squad, an opportunity to truly pull away from the rest of the league and to take on the continent’s leading lights.
Instead, Mancini starts with largely the same squad he had last year.
Only time will tell whether this summer’s transfer policy has done him justice, or failed him spectacularly.
Of course, there are still nine days to go until the transfer window slams shut on Sept. 1, which means City still have enough time to bring in a few signings yet.
And with the Aguero injury, don’t be surprised to see further strengthening up front.
But the overall situation still applies—that this is a strangely underwhelming summer at Manchester City.
What are your thoughts on City’s transfers this summer? Are they fine as is, or should they have strengthened earlier? Let us know in the comments below.
Also check out: Analyzing City’s Jack Rodwell Transfer