2013/14 EPL season preview: Manchester City
Manchester City's Yaya Toure competes for the ball with Manchester United's Wayne Rooney. AP Photo/Matt Dunham
In Manuel Pellegrini, Manchester City have one of the shrewdest managers around and his desire to play attacking football should suit a league where the winner inevitably delivers on the front foot.
What happened last season
After the stoppage time heroics of Sergio Aguero on the final day of season 2011/12 gave Manchester City their first title in 40-odd years, the feeling was Roberto Mancini might be able to build a dynasty at Eastlands.
But the blue moon rising turned out to be somewhat false as City went from the united, flowing, balanced and in-synch side of 2011/12 to one that looked like it couldn’t wait for last season to end.
For all the quality produced by the likes of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Aguero and David Silva in the championship season, the headline hoggers last season were unfortunately Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez.
Mancini struggled to keep his star-studded squad happy and united, ultimately bringing about his undoing, this despite City having the best defensive record in the league.
Clearly it wasn’t a complete disaster, but the lack of goals certainly meant it was a campaign of underachievement for such a deep squad.
What happened in the off-season
Pellegrini got to work quickly, spending swiftly to secure four players, initially attacking midfielder Ferandinho and wide player Jesus Navas, then later strikers Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic.
Add Silva, Aguero, Samir Nasri and Edin Dzeko and it’ll be fascinating to see how Pellegrini shapes his array of attacking options.
While Navas provides width up top, an area City lacked under Mancini, perhaps it’s Fernandinho who’s the pivotal buy given that he’ll give the midfield balance.
The Brazilian should compliment Toure, who appeared to have all the pressure to hold and drive City last season, as he had done the season before.
Jovetic, meanwhile, has the quality to share the creative burden with Silva.
Why Manchester City fans should be excited about the 2013/14 season
You have secured one of the best and most experienced managers in the world, and he certainly has the ability to bring back the attacking flow of the championship season, not sacrificing the defensive structure.
Pellegrini has a ridiculous amount of options up front, and if any aren’t working he’ll always find an alternative when he turns around. And, unlike Manchini, he doesn’t have Balotelli taking up so much of his man management time.
Instead he can worry about varying his tactics, deciding if he should use the width of Navas, the drive of Fernandinho or the creativity of Silva and Jovetic.
As well, the arch-nemisis, Sir Alex Ferguson, is no longer chewing his gum in the United technical area, and that’s reason enough for City fans to get pumped.
The main man to carry Manchester City’s 2013/14 hopes
You could just about throw a blanket over City’s plethora of attacking options, and while I’m looking forward to seeing Jovetic in the EPL, I’m equally hoping to see Yaya Toure back to his 2011/12 best.
Defence wasn’t an issue for City last season, but getting enough goals was, and if Toure has a big season controlling the midfield, it should allow the likes af Silva, Fernandinho, Aguero, Negredo, Dzeko and Jovetic to flourish.
Verdict – Title contenders
Pellegrini’s main challenge will be to adapt quickly to the pace in the EPL, but with his experience in the Champions League, I think he has the flexibility to do it, and Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti have already proved it’s easier these days to walk in and do well.
His other major challenge will be to manage such a big squad, keep everyone happy and finding the right mix.
I’m banking on him having the smarts to pull it all together and bring the title back to Eastlands.
Follow Tony on Twitter @TonyTannousTRBA