After a limp title defence last time out, City have taken on a new manager and spent close to £90 million on four new additions. There’s been significant change at the Etihad this summer.
Here are five reasons why they will be in a stronger position to win the Barclays Premier League in 2013-14.
Roberto Mancini did a fantastic job as manager of City. For the first two-and-a-half years of his reign, City steadily and consistently improved. The defensive shambles left behind by his predecessor, Mark Hughes, was sorted first, followed by an FA Cup win which broke City’s trophy drought, and then a glorious season in which City played free-flowing, attacking football and won the title in wonderfully dramatic circumstances.
The improvement under his stewardship should not be underplayed.
However, last season saw City regress quite considerably, with the squad seemingly becoming fractured and unhappy. Rumours of Mancini losing the respect of his team began to emanate, and the lack of players who came out to praise or thank him after his dismissal said a great deal.
Manuel Pellegrini, on the other hand, is a man known for his ability to unite a dressing room. Edin Dzeko has already praised him, saying how much more involved he feels under the Chilean, and the players he’s worked with in the past often give glowing reports about their experience. Whereas Mancini was distant, Pellegrini appears to pride himself on building close links with his players.
If City become a happier, more harmonious squad under new management this season, it should significantly improve their chances on the pitch.
One of the most glaringly obvious failings in City’s play last season was the lack of pace and width in attack. The signing of Jesus Navas should rectify that. It was staggering just how narrow City were at times, and when they struggled to score first in games, they found it difficult to find an alternative system to unpick the lock.
Navas’ arrival means City can stretch the play if need be, giving the opposition something completely different to think about. He loves to hug the touchline and go past his full-back, which should see dynamism added to the City attack.
The Spanish winger also has an incredible turn of pace, another element that was lacking in the final third last season. Aguero aside, City didn’t really have anyone who could burst past a player and cause problems with their pace. Navas most certainly can.
In Alvaro Negredo, a summer signing from Sevilla, City have found themselves a proper No.9. A big, strong battering ram of a forward, Negredo lives for goals, always playing on the shoulder of the last defender and looking to score, something which should sharpen City’s attack.
He will give City a physical presence up front that even Dzeko, their other big striker, couldn’t offer them last year, and he should score plenty of goals.
The return of Micah Richards, City’s brilliant right-back, will give everyone at the club a lift. The academy graduate is a huge favourite amongst the others in the squad and is City’s longest-serving player. It’s great to see him back in action.
It also gives City some options. Whereas Pablo Zabaleta was used exclusively at right-back last season, he can now cover at left-back when Clichy is injured or rested, meaning the need to play the unreliable Aleksandar Kolarov is reduced.
Richards can also play at centre-back, which is by no means his best position as it nullifies the attacking side of his game—is his greatest asset—but, again, it gives the new manager options if City find themselves short.
Alex Ferguson has gone. I sometimes have to remind myself after a lifetime of watching the great Scot in action. His ability to maximise the talent within his Manchester United squad was incredible—a crucial factor in United’s success.
In recent seasons, it’s been widely accepted that United’s squad hasn’t been of the same quality as United sides of old, yet they’ve continually challenged for the Premier League trophy.
Last season, they won back the title from a City side who had spent heavily again after winning the league themselves, with the Blues, on paper, having a far superior set of players. Much of this was down to what became known as the "Fergie Factor".
What exactly the "Fergie Factor" entailed is subject of conjecture. Was it his ability to rotate his squad and keep his players happy? Was it is his half-time team talks that so often got a positive reaction? Was it the respect his players had for him? Was it the demands he put on them to give everything for the club? Or maybe a combination of all of this and more? What’s clear is that he eked every last drop of blood and sweat out of almost every player he worked with at United.
Alex Ferguson is the greatest manager the game has ever seen and to think that his departure won’t benefit City would be foolish. With all due respect to David Moyes, no one can replace Fergie.