In modern football, the idea of a strongest XI is a somewhat outdated notion, particularly at the big clubs, who often find themselves coping with the rigours of multiple competitions.
A manager uses his resources as wisely as possible, selecting a side based on the fitness of his players and their suitability to playing against a particular side. A core of stars tend to remain consistent, with the majority of places rotated to ensure a mental and physical freshness over the course of a long season.
As Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini often says, it’s better for a manager to have too many good players at his disposal than not enough at all, but even so, the Chilean is very often left with the task of leaving out a group of talented individuals every single time he selects a first XI.
Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, when fit, are guaranteed starters. Pablo Zabaleta, by virtue of being a full-back, a role which requires high levels of energy expenditure, may find himself rested more this season thanks to the arrival of Bacary Sagna, but for the last two years he has also been considered indispensable.
City’s other positions, though, are subject to change. Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov share left-back duties almost equally; the ex-Arsenal man is Pellegrini’s choice when faced with a side who offer pace in wide positions, while the Serbian is selected against teams with less intention to go forward.
Kolarov's attacking instincts can add an extra dimension to City’s forward play, helping to overload down the left, causing havoc with deliveries into the box. His defending leaves much to be desired at times, but there’s no doubt that against lesser opposition Kolarov brings added attacking threat that helps defeat teams.
Eliaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis are fighting it out for a place alongside Kompany, with Matija Nastasic having strangely faded into the background. Mangala is seen as the long-term partner for Kompany, and his performances so far have suggested he has the tools to be a top-class centre-half, but Demichelis' experience and excellent form mean that for now, Pellegrini will implement a rotation policy.
And in midfield, the arrival of Fernando means City now have serious options, even if his six-game absence after injuring his groin against Stole earlier in the season has delayed the impact of that. Fernandinho remains as valuable as ever, with his energy still mesmerising at times. Along with Toure, a unique player possessing pace, power and ability to run at defenders, Pellegrini has a wonderful mix in midfield.
It's a similar case with City’s attacking wide players. Silva is the club’s most important player and is given licence to roam, with James Milner, Samir Nasri (who’s currently out injured) and Jesus Navas fighting for the other wide place in the side.
Nasri adds guile similar in style to Silva, while Milner brings a discipline and freakish fitness level that makes him an incredibly safe option. Milner is underrated technically too, but his willingness to fight for his side remains his most defining and impressive feature.
There are very few City fans who like going to games against other big sides without the England man, such is his desire to win back possession and protect his full-back. His performances in recent weeks are beginning to make him indispensable.
Navas is completely different, a player whose game is built around a searing pace which can be devastating when he's on form. His problem since he arrived last summer has been consistency, but there's no doubt that when he plays he offers a constant outlet down the right and can cause real damage.
Edin Dzeko, by virtue of his consistent availability, has found himself as a regular since the turn of the year. Stevan Jovetic and Aguero have both struggled to put a run of games together in recent times, and with Alvaro Negredo now at Valencia, it leaves Dzeko in pole position much of the time to take his place up front.
Pellegrini will be hoping Aguero, his most lethal marksman, can string together a consistent run of fitness—it could be the difference between winning and losing the title. Jovetic will be expected to push Dzeko hard for the position alongside him.
It's clear City have strength in depth in all areas. To compete aggressively on four fronts they will need their players to be fresh throughout the campaign. Rotation, it seems, may be key.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter: @RobPollard.