Manchester City's Top 5 Priorities in the Summer Transfer Window
Before a ball was kicked this season, most observers felt Manchester City had by far the strongest squad in the Premier League, an assertion that appeared accurate throughout much of the first half of the campaign.
However, as the season has progressed, and with City continuing in four competitions up until the beginning of March, it became less and less clear whether, in fact, they did possess as much strength in depth as many felt.
It seems they rely on a core of world-class players, and if one or more of that group are unavailable, they suddenly look vulnerable.
With that in mind, City will be looking to add quality to their ranks again this summer, as Txiki Begiristain and Manuel Pellegrini collaborate and draw up a list of of targets. Here, we take a look at the five areas City most need to strengthen.
With Micah Richards set to leave City this summer, there is an urgent need for the club to find a replacement. The pressure placed on Pablo Zabaleta for the last two seasons is unsustainable, and he now needs a challenger capable of stepping in to offer him a rest.
Richards' form and fitness over the past two seasons has seen him fall way short of the level needed to fight for a place at City, and despite being offered a new contract on improved terms, he has accepted he needs to move on in order to play the amount of games he needs to play to resurrect his career.
Arsenal right-back Bacary Sagna, available on a free transfer this summer, is rumoured to be Pellegrini and Begiristain's first-choice option, with a three-year deal thought to be on the table, according to a report by David Hytner in the Guardian.
What's clear is City cannot afford to go through another campaign with just one right-back playing the majority of games.
City's Gael Clichy, superb last season and deserving of his new contract last summer, has suffered an alarming dip in form this year, meaning a left-back has become even more of a priority.
Aleksandar Kolarov has emerged as City's first-choice for much of the season, but he has always lacked defensive nous and, despite his excellence going forward, he remains a liability.
He's just 18, is already established in the Premier League, qualifies as homegrown and has been consistently excellent in a side that likes to play open, attractive football.
Joleon Lescott's time at City will reach an end this summer when his contract expires, and City will therefore need a new centre-half. It's an area they aren't particularly strong in anyway, with Matija Nastasic struggling with a mysterious knee injury and 33-year-old Martin Demichelis only ever really a short-term option.
It will be City's priority to find a world-class partner for Vincent Kompany during the next transfer window.
City tried to sign Eliaquim Mangala during January, only for a deal to fall through at the 11th hour (via BBC Sport), but it demonstrates their desire to secure a top-quality player in that position. Mangala is set to be expensive, and City may feel they can find better value elsewhere.
4. Defensive Midfielder
City have the strongest first-choice midfield pairing in the Premier League but lack adequate back-up when either Yaya Toure or Fernandinho are absent.
Making sure they can cope with the rigours of multiple competitions is their primary concern, and so finding a midfielder of the requisite quality will be uppermost in the club's mind.
Like with Mangala, City made attempts to attempts to secure a defensive midfielder from Porto but again were thwarted at the final hurdle. Fernando was the target then, and don't be surprised if the club pursue his signature for a second time come the summer.
Javi Garcia has improved but is still lacking the dynamism City need in midfield, and Jack Rodwell's injuries continue to hold back a serious talent. Fernando, an out-and-out defensive midfielder, would give City just what they need.
Although Joe Hart's time out of the first team has certainly seen an upturn in form and proved a masterstroke by Pellegrini, even now his level is not at the standard City need from their goalkeeper.
Almost every dominant, successful side in the history of the game has boasted a world-class goalkeeper, and Hart, unfortunately for the Blues, doesn't fall into that category.
His distribution remains poor, frequently culpable for surrendering possession and rarely launching attacks with either his kicking or throwing, whilst he still lacks assuredness when dealing with corners and crosses into the box.
A 'keeper such as Manuel Neur, probably the best in the world at the moment, would obviously be unobtainable, but a Victor Valdes or Iker Casillas would improve City, certainly in the short-term.