Despite Manchester City’s continued financial outlay, which saw them spend a further £90 million in the summer, it’s clear that they are nowhere near the finished article. The battering against Bayern Munich showed they are someway short of being placed in the bracket of elite European sides, and their dreadful away form, which has seen them take just four points from a possible 18, further underlines their deficiencies.
Although the summer spending spree added depth and options to City’s squad, it hasn't completed the jigsaw. The defeat to Sunderland was more proof that City cannot rest on their laurels, and that business in January is a distinct possibility.
It's clear for all to see that City need a new left-back. Gaël Clichy was excellent last year, but his shaky start to the season has brought a vulnerability to the role. It was already an area City were light on, with Clichy’s understudy, Aleksandar Kolarov, a failure since his 2010 move from Lazio.
Yet Kolarov continues to make regular appearances—12 already this season—despite barely ever having a good game for the club. At £16 million, he represents the worst piece of transfer business completed by former manager Roberto Mancini. He's profligate going forward, and a liability defensively—the worst possible combination for a modern-day full-back.
It’s not right that a club with the ambition and resources City have should regularly field such an inept full-back. Talk of a move away in the summer failed to materialise, but Pellegrini should be making it clear to Kolarov’s agent that he is free to find a new club in January.
The goalkeeper situation also needs addressing, with two options on the table. Either City can buy a replacement for Joe Hart, or they they can add an experienced goalkeeper who can provide better competition than Costel Pantilimon.
If City decide to replace Hart completely, then Víctor Valdés or Iker Casillas must surely be considered. Both are excellent goalkeepers with the experience of playing for a top European club. In fact, in the case of Casillas, very few other ‘keepers can claim to be as well-versed at handling the pressure of top-level football. He is a World Cup winner with over 150 caps for Spain.
Valdes’ contract expires in the summer and he looks certain to leave Barcelona, and Casillas isn't currently Real Madrid’s No. 1 after being usurped by Diego López. A recent report in the Mirror suggested City are keen on Valdés.
However, if Pellegrini and his staff are confident that Hart can recover his once-superb form, then a short-term option to provide healthy competition seems logical. I have written before about how Mark Schwarzer, who left Fulham in the summer to fulfill the back-up role at Chelsea, would have been an ideal signing. Júlio César of QPR is another who fits the bill, and he will be available in January after failing to nail down a first-team spot under Harry Redknapp.
Javi García is another player who symbolises City's need for reinforcements. He has played 11 times this season, sometimes out of position at centre-half, when it's clear for all to see he isn't good enough to play for a top side in Europe.
Some will quite rightly argue that City have spent so much in recent seasons that talk of needing new players seems absurd. However, their record away from home suggests they remain short of what it takes to compete at home and abroad. It wouldn't be a surprise if City look to make signings in the next transfer window.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.