It was a dreadful season with few, if any, highlights for the worst home team in the premiership ever in terms of goals. There were no home goals after New Year’s Day, in fact only ten in total. The close season also saw the departure of three of the clubs best performers and the likable Stuart Pearce.
In came “Frank Sinatra” with his millions and he immediately appointed the oft reviled pantomime villain of the piece Sven-Goran Eriksson. While many of the press still wish for him to fail, I believe that he is winning over many of his erstwhile critics.
His late appointment did not leave too much time for reinforcements. Unkindly, many people referred to his signings as “Sven’s Video 11.” Are they forgetting that he has had much free time since his sacking as England coach? Are they also underestimating the influence of Tord Grip?
While this man came back from abroad with his recommendations, Sven was tying up the future English prospects with new contracts. To him it was equally vital to ensure that the academy talent was not forced back. He committed to attempting to tie Micah Richards to long term contract. Similarly he persuaded Michael Johnson, who will at some point star for England, to resist the advances of Liverpool. Steven Ireland, Nedum Onuha, and Kaspar Schmeichel have also been tied in.
I am sure that many of these contracts will only be honored if City make the European cut next season, if not this. Eriksson does seem to be building for the future though. It is rumoured that he will not sign anybody older than 26.
So let us consider how the club has performed on the field this season—100 percent home premiership record with half the fixtures behind them. This is magnificent by anybody’s standards. They still have Arsenal, Chelsea, and Liverpool to come, but they have beaten their local rivals.
Away from home must be cause for concern if they are to achieve their ambitions of a Top Six finish. The club will state top half after last season, but they are not fooling anybody with six meagre points so far. They were hammered at Chelsea, but did keep three consecutive clean sheets thereafter, so they do seem to be able to react positively to a setback.
They have just been dumped out of the Carling Cup at home by Spurs. Will this cause a crisis of confidence? It remains to be seen, but I do not think so.
Sven also appears to be more ruthless at club level and prepared to switch tactics if he is not getting the upper hand on the pitch. He will switch his formation at halftime if he feels he needs to. City are patient to build from the back, but deadly on the counter attack. He has also moved already to try and find his 20 goals a season forward by signing Nery Castillo on loan. If he can find his man, City could seriously challenge for honors.
Can City finish in the Top Four? I would have to say no, not this year.
But can they finish in the Top Six? This is more likely.
Will they win a trophy? Probably not now the Carling Cup has gone, but they may well reach the last four of the FA cup.