5 Keys to Success for Manchester City in 2014/15
Manchester City enjoyed a hugely successful season under Manuel Pellegrini in 2013/14, and they will be looking for more of the same this time around.
They've made a series of new signings that have improved their options, and their opening-day win over Newcastle was impressive, but Chelsea's improvement means City are likely to have a real fight on their hands if they are to retain the title they won in May.
So what areas will be crucial to City's success this season?
1. Keeping Sergio Aguero Fit
One major factor is the fitness of Sergio Aguero. He struggled during the second half of last season with a series of injuries which halted his form. If City can keep him for the majority of the season, their chances of success are greatly improved.
He scored 26 goals in his first 25 games last season, but only managed two in the last 14 after niggling injuries upset his rhythm. When he's fit and in form, he's the best striker in the Premier League.
City will be desperate to keep him fit for the majority of this campaign.
2. Using Their Squad Effectively
City's squad depth is greater than it's ever been. Bacary Sagna, Fernando, Willy Caballero and Eliaquim Mangala have all been added to their title-winning squad this summer, meaning their options now run deep.
There are now two players in every position who will expect to be playing regularly—the kind of competition Pellegrini craved last season.
The manager's job will be to maximise his options. If City want to make an aggressive assault on four competitions this season, they will have to rotate their players and make sure they are still fresh in March when the season begins to reach its climax.
3. Being More Flexible Tactically
If there was one major criticism that could have been levelled at Pellegrini last season, it was his unwillingness, at times, to alter from his preferred 4-2-2-2 formation. City's league triumph and League Cup win ultimately vindicated his approach, but there were games when it was clear that more flexibility would have benefited his side.
Take the Liverpool away game, which City lost 3-2 and surrendered the initiative in the title race. Pellegrini's side were way too open and attacking and fell behind early on, giving them a mountain to climb. A more cautious, three-man central midfield would have helped City cope with Liverpool's quick start.
Pellegrini now has more options with the additions he's made and he must show more flexibility when needed.
4. The Form of Mangala
City's big summer signing was Eliaquim Mangala, a 23-year-old centre-back signed from Porto. Mangala isn't quite match fit yet and won't feature in the first team for a few games, but having spent big money on securing his signature, he seems set to play a significant role in Pellegrini's team.
However, patience may well be needed. Mangala is seen as a player with outstanding raw attributes, but the finer details of his game still need improving, and his ability to adapt to English football will be crucial to City's season.
5. Maintaining Yaya Toure's Level of Performance
Yaya Toure's form last season was arguably the difference between success and failure for City.
He scored 20 league goals—24 in all competitions—from midfield and won City's Player of the Season award. He was truly outstanding throughout the campaign.
At 31, though, it's unclear how much longer he can sustain his world-class level of performance. City need it maintaining this season if they are to build on their successes of the last campaign.