Manchester City Struggling to Find an Identity


Manchester City have created more shockwaves around the footballing world than any other club in the past 3 years, and they have done it all whilst acquiring just one major trophy. Money talks and Manchester City’s millions have seen them bring in some of the world’s greatest footballers, but that doesn’t hide the fact the club still has no idea who it really is.

When the Abu Dhabi United Group took over Manchester City in August of 2008, it began a revolution of the transfer market and forever changed the game off the field. The club moved immediately to put themselves on the map by paying a British transfer record fee of 32.5 million pounds for Robinho. They then spent another 48 million pounds on top of that huge fee on players such as Shaun Wright Phillips and Jo, in an attempt to add further depth to a squad that was a mid table Premier League team.

The club then spent another 40 million pounds the next transfer window some four months later bringing in players such as Craig Bellamy and Nigel De Jong, players that fit the identity Mark Hughes was trying to create, but was still a long way away from achieving this. From August to the end of January 2009, City had cleaned out 15 players form the squad in anticipation of creating an elite team.

The summer of 2009 was the most ridiculous transfer window football has ever seen. Manchester City went on a spree the likes of which we have never seen and probably will never see again. At least not in this context. They were attempting to show their full financial muscle and went for broke spending an unprecedented 120 million pounds on six transfers. Emmanuel Adebayor, Kolo Toure, Gareth Barry and Carlos Tevez led a who’s who of established Premier League talent who decided to jump on board the bandwagon and in the mean time, earn week salaries in excess of anything we have ever seen.

Come January, City were still unhappy with their team and their lack of identity and as a result fired Mark Hughes just before the end of the year to bring in established European manager Roberto Mancini to oversee the dramatic rise to stardom the owners, players and fans were anticipating. Mark Hughes had not done an overly poor job, but his lack of silverware and the fact he was not considered an elite manager, led the club to move into the direction of someone they were sure would get them to where they wanted to be.

Mancini was rather composed during this first transfer window, as surprising as that may be, and brought in just two players, though the controversy remained. Former Arsenal captain and legend Patrick Vieira joined the club as did Middlesbrough youngster Adam Johnson. Mancini was seemingly biding his time.

At the end of the season City narrowly missed out on a Champions League position and thus went on another ridiculous spending spree to reassure themselves and their fans this experiment would not fail. A measly 90 million pounds was spent bringing in European talent such as David Silva and Mario Balotelli, but also stayed local signing James Milner. We began to see the ostracising of many players Mark Hughes had brought to the club as names such as Bellamy, Jo, Santa Cruz and SWP found it difficult to get a game under Mancini and many were left out of his first team squad.

Edin Dzeko was the lone signing for Manchester City come January 2011, but he was reportedly signed for 30-40 million pounds. They have recently paid more than that to bring in yet another striker, Sergio Aguero, who was believed to have signed for close to 45 million pounds.

So what does all of this mean. The reckless spending and uncertainty within the locker room and the board room has set back the progression of this team. Mark Hughes was picked as the man to begin a dynasty the likes of which the Premier League had ever seen, and he set about creating it his own way. A year into the process he was cut for a higher profile manager who some say cowardly went about clearing out Mark Hughes’ players in an attempt to create his own presence within the club.

Manchester City’s greatest asset is also their greatest downfall. Money is the reason for their success but it is also the greatest contributing factor in their continued failures. No doubt an FA Cup and a third place EPL finish is not a spectacular failure, but for the money that has been spent, the names they have on paper and the expectations they and the world have, it is not enough.

Manchester City lack leadership. Mancini has displeased several players within the club with this lack of command and back bone when handling the more pressing issues. His tactics have been tremendously criticised. Mancini has attempted to create a team and do it his way, but that way does not seem like it can be everything to what the club wants it to be. By that I mean Mancini’s goal with Manchester City is much different than what the club needs. Mancini continues to bring in players such as David Silva, Edin Dzeko, Sergio Aguero and thus is seemingly blinded by the difference between English football and the rest of Europe.

Mancini would be much more successful as a manager on the FIFA video game.

No doubt the club has improved under him, mostly because of the hundreds of millions that has been spent doing so, but there isn’t necessarily a manager available that could do a better job. The problem is that Mancini seems to lack an understanding of how to be successful in the English game. You need to find an identity.

Look at the greatest clubs in English football over the past 30 years. The great Arsenal teams of the 90’s, early 00’s were built on the back of leaders such as Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams. They had a true identity. Manchester United have built their unwavering success under Sir Alex upon figure heads such as Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and have always maintained an identity true to the club and true to the English game. Chelsea have emerged in the 00’s as an elite team behind John Terry and Frank Lampard and despite the fact they have seen many managers come and go they have retained their level of success because of their leadership. The great Liverpool team of the 80’s enjoyed huge success under Paisley and Dalglish combined with on field generals such as Beardsley and Kegan. Both teams had an atmosphere of belief and confidence that ensured their identities.

See the trend that is emerging with these great teams? They always had great leaders. They were always 100% sure of themselves within the squad. They knew their roles, they understood the game and they played with passion. I honestly cannot say that of Manchester City. Who do they turn to when their backs are against the wall? Who is the voice of reason in Eastlands? Who will rally the team like a Vieira, or a Dalglish, or a Keane or even a Terry?

Manchester City need to identify an identity. Mancini’s idea of adding wave after wave of European talent may make the headlines and cause off the field attention, but they will continue to fail on the turf because they do not possess that true idea of a team that we have seen from the great clubs over the past few decades. They can sign all the Balotelli’s and Aguero’s and Silva’s they want, but they will never dethrone Manchester United until they bring in players with heart, with courage and with leadership. Those are three characteristics that outweigh everything else when it comes to the English game. Manchester United’s latest premiership winners were perhaps their worst on paper we have seen since Sir Alex Ferguson took over some 25 years ago, but he knows better than anyone what it takes to be a true champion.

Until Manchester City consider the past they will never conquer the future.

Follow @mcphee23