Manchester City: Season Preview


‘The Chilean Engineer’ Manuel Pellegrini finished his first season as Manchester City manager with a respectable contribution to what is a famously empty Etihad trophy cabinet. After having brought home the League Cup and Premier League trophies (neither of which came easy, through a second half comeback and final day win respectively), the only piece of silverware Manchester City fans will still be hoping for Pellegrini to capture is the Champions League trophy.

Despite going a step further than the year before through qualifying for the knockout stage, fans were still left a bit sore as they were beaten 4-1 on aggregate by a Barcelona side that are not what they once were. In the league, City turned it on from the get-go, beating teams 4-0… 6-0…4-0… 7-0… as they fired their way to the title (narrowly missing out on Chelsea’s Premier League goalscoring record by one goal [102 to Chelsea’s 103]).

Vincent Kompany and Co. celebrate during City’s 6-3 thrashing of Arsenal

However, their goal scoring exploits didn’t translate to an easy trip to the title, and it took a Chelsea win at Anfield and two final games in which the ball just wouldn’t go in for long periods to put the title back into the hands of those who’d won it dramatically two years earlier.

This season, City will hope to replicate the last…but this time with a more consistent record against smaller teams and a proper run in the Champions League. In anticipation of a season of expectation for Manchester City, I’ve analysed City’s chances this year:

POSITION in 2013/2014: 1st


Fernando Reges (£12 million) – a versatile midfielder best suited to a defensive midfield role, Fernando was nicknamed ‘The Octopus’ during his time at Porto for his adeptness in regaining possession. Could be great back up in the centre of the park for aging Yaya Toure and workhorse Fernandinho, allowing his midfield partner to break forward while he protects City from their biggest threat – the counter attack.

Bacary Sagna (free) – brought in as possible back up for both the right back and centre back positions, his signing was met with confusion from some City fans due to his possibly high wages, and anger from Arsenal fans for joining the mass Emirates exodus to City started by Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri, who were soon followed by Gael Clichy and Emmanuel Adebayor.

It will be interesting to see how often he will start at right back ahead of arguably the best right back in the league, Pablo Zabaleta.

Willy Caballero (£6 million) – it may first appear that Caballero is just another signing to improve Manchester City’s squad strength, but Manuel Pellegrini has wisely employed his former goalkeeper at Malaga to give Joe Hart the competition needed to get the best out him.

Last season Hart found his poor judgement cause both his national and domestic side problems and was, for a short time, replaced by Costel Pantilimon in goal. When Hart returned, he was as good as ever. With Pantilimon gone, Caballero has stated that he has come to City to fight for a first team place, meaning Hart must be on top of his game to keep his place as the last line of defence at the Etihad.

Following Costel Pantilimon’s move away from the Etihad, Willy Caballero has joined in hope of fighting for Joe Hart’s place in the side.

Bruno Zuculini (£1.5 million) – This Argentinian youngster’s signing crept under the radar when he first arrived at City, however, strong performances during pre-season (including a goal against Sporting Kansas City) caused the public to take notice.

A strong goalscoring midfielder, it is unlikely (particularly with Fernando’s arrival) that Zuculini will get much playing time this season, prompting a loan move away. If pre-season is anything to go by, on his return he should be ready for the first team.

Eliaquim Mangala (£32 million) – Although not a completely done deal, a leaked video and many inside rumours suggest Mangala will be going to the Etihad this summer. City’s marquee signing this transfer window, the French international has been brought in to fill a hole that will be likely left by Martin Demichelis come next season.

Despite Demichelis’ unprecedented improvement last season, his style of defending does not quite fit City’s fast paced offensive and defensive play, so Pellegrini will see pacy Mangala a better fit than Demichelis, allowing the defence to recover from counter attacks without entirely relying on captain Kompany. Like Kompany, Mangala is a centre back comfortable both on and off the ball, able to strike up attacks with long and short balls.

Should Mangala strike up a strong partnership with his French-speaking counterpart, City’s defence will be as strong – and as suited to the modern game – as ever.

Frank Lampard (6-month loan)  – Will improve City’s squad depth and domestic player count and maintain Lamps’ fitness until he goes to New York, however it is uncertain whether he will play much considering he is there for only 6 months.

City new boy Fernando could give the Citizens the defensive strength in midfield they miss in Fernandinho’s absence. Mandatory Credit: Gary Rohman/Sporting KC-USA TODAY Sports


Joleon Lescott (free) – left a City team that were always going to sign another centre back, rendering the Englishman useless, not going to be terribly missed this season.

Jack Rodwell (£10 million) – leaving Manchester City as a cautionary tale for young footballers, warning them of the dangers of joining a big club too early. After two seasons of injuries and a lack of playing time (16 games, many of which came as a sub), Rodwell will be happy to move onto the next chapter of his career, with a Premier League winners medal in hand.

Costel Pantilimon (free) – despite some more than adequate performances during Hart’s absence from the side, Manchester City and Pantilimon agreed it was time for a change at the end of his contract, so the giant shot stopper will now ply his trade with Sunderland.

With Caballero’s signing Pantilimon would find himself fased out anyway, with Sunderland giving him a better chance of starting than City ever could. However, he has to compete with Sunderland’s player of the year Vito Mannone for a spot.

Gareth Barry (free) – Another member of City’s exclusive English contigent on the way out, Barry was consistent in his holding midfield position for his four seasons at City, racking up a total of 132 appearances for the team. Following a successful loan spell at Everton last season, Barry has returned to Goodison following the expiration of his contract with City.

Also Alex Nimely and Alex Henshall (released)

"PREDICTED STARTING XI: Hart; Zabaleta, Kompany, Mangala/Demichelis, Kolarov; Fernandinho, Yaya Toure; Nasri, Silva, Aguero; DzekoThere is a chance Pellegrini could adjust his formation to accomodate the on-form Jovetic (something that I hope is done), which would involve playing Jovetic just behind a lone striker in Aguero, with Dzeko on the bench. However, given Dzeko’s great form towards the end of the season and the team’s lack of experience playing with two similar strikers in Aguero and Jovetic makes this only a possibility and not a certainty."



Incredible attacking threat – It’s no secret that Pellegrini’s coaching relies on ruthless attacking moves, outnumbering the opposition defence in order to get the ball into the net. At City, with world class attacking talent in Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko, Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo (as well as the powerhouse midfield talisman Yaya Toure) his style of play has found a home rivalled by few teams.Coming just one shy of the record Premier League goal tally in one of the League’s most competitive seasons, Manchester City have cemented their place as one of the most exciting – and talented – sides in the league. Next season will be no different. In an era where the league is paying more and more attention to goal difference, City will be out to keep up their enviable goal tally next season.

An experienced side – In City’s squad last month, the average age was almost 27, which is higher than half of the league, while the starting line up included veterans like Yaya Toure (31), Fernandinho (29), Pablo Zabaleta (29) and Martin Demichelis (33). Next season new boys such as Fernando and possibly Mangala will be the only first team players without Premier League without the experience of winning the Premier League.

Threat from set pieces – According to Squawka, Manchester City’s 26 goals from set pieces puts them at second in the league in this stat, behind Liverpool. With Yaya Toure and Kolarov able to score directly from free kicks from either side of the box, and David Silva whipping in crosses to aerial threats in Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis (as well as Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo), City pose a substantial threat from set pieces.

Incredible home form – If City keep up their home form from last season, they will again be a force to be reckoned with. Pellegrini’s men scored 63 goals in 19 games at home, losing only four points in the process, turning the Etihad into a fortress fearing by any who entered.

Yaya Toure – who has quickly become known as a deadly free kick specialist – lines up a successful free kick against Newcastle


Vulnerability from counter attacks – When a team commits men forward to attack, they leave themselves open to a counter, which is exactly what happens to City. Vincent Kompany’s pace is usually relied on to break down these counter attacks, while Martin Demichelis is often left in the wake of his quicker opponents. With the possible signing of Eliaquim Mangala, Kompany could find himself with a defensive partner who could aid him in the chasing of onrushing opponents, mending this weakness considerably.

Questionable away form – Manchester City lost 23 of their 27 dropped points away from home last season. Despite overcoming an early setback in the form of only 4 points in their first six away games, the damage had been done. Many of these dropped points came against smaller teams, with losses against Cardiff, Villa and Sunderland nearly wrecking the champions’ campaign. Should Pellegrini keep City as consistent away as they are at home, next season could be a whole lot easier.

Injury concerns – Two of City’s standout players, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany, have had problems with fitness over the last few seasons. Aguero found himself sidelined three times last season for three different injuries, while Kompany – who was affectionally named ‘Glass Man’ at Hamburg for his habit of getting injured – suffered a knee injury towards the end of the season as well as a thigh injury that left City without their captain at the close of 2013. Should their injuries continue, City will be left without their two talismans and, as last season showed, without these players, they lose a bit of their edge.


Many regard this season’s title race as a two horse one – between City and Chelsea

Although many will point to Chelsea as the new champions come next year, I believe their reliance this year on a striker who has no Premier League experience could be their downfall. Should Diego Costa get injured or not perform (a la Fernando Torres), Chelsea will have to rely on a not-what-he-once-was Didier Drogba, as Mourinho has sold Demba Ba and appears to be showing Eto’o the exit door too.

Looking at both these teams’ squads, they shouldn’t lose any matches against the other teams in the league, however it is yet to be seen which team will be more consistent. If Manchester City should be free from many major injuries this season, I believe they will retain the title…but if Aguero and Kompany do get injured, it will be hard for City to compete with an improved Chelsea side that is, as Mourinho says, ‘a horse that this year can run the race’.