No laurel-resting for City
Roberto Mancini’s men should have little trouble coping with the pressure of life at the top as they eye further success in 2012/13…
Instability is not only a preserve of the unsuccessful; despite enjoying their best league campaign for decades it was only in the season’s frantic final seconds that City truly established a platform for further success. It is difficult to say exactly what impact the powerful so-near-yet-so-far emotion might have had on the club had United taken the title but it is now a moot point. Occasionally-disruptive influences Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli enjoyed resurgences during the run-in and European Championships respectively and while Mancini is yet to add to his squad, there will be high-profile arrivals before the end of August.
Though there are undoubtedly advantages in employing a director of football (or similar) to take care of transfer dealings – affording the manager more time to deal with the business of coaching – these arrangements tend to forge fractions. Brian Marwood is City’s broker and his work behind the scenes has not always won support from Mancini. That the club entered August without having made a marquee signing, or indeed any acquisition to the senior squad, is not a cause for inflated concern given the players still at the Italian’s disposal. But with the Champions League group stages kicking off in mid-September, the manager has little time to waste to integrate new faces, with a European bid the next item on the club’s agenda.
However, any current friction between Marwood and Mancini is likely to be storm-in-a-teacup stuff which can be swiftly brushed aside by the end of August. As far as the boss’ position with the board as a whole is concerned, the hefty new contract gives an indication of the level of support but he can’t afford to take his foot off the pedal. And any repeat of the Tevez situation of last term is unlikely to be viewed favourably.
Just imagine your club sealing a first title for 44 years in the fashion City secured their success in May. It doesn’t even need to be the Premier League; it could be the Ryman Division One South or League Two – the sort of euphoria which can sustain a supporter for a lifetime. But this is not a club, or a fanbase, about to indulge in any laurel-resting. With a cocktail of champagne and sweat still teeming from his brow following that final-day victory, skipper Vincent Kompany was already talking up continued dominance.
It is a wholly new position for the Citizens. For 20 years they have looked on as their city rivals have been swiped at from all quarters but it is a price more than worth paying for success. There will be a significant hike in pressure with the title theirs to defend and the Champions League a realistic goal but having battled through the storm in 2011/12, there is a feeling that it will take plenty to stop them progressing further.
There are those who like to believe that titles should be won exclusively with pluck, ruddy-faced free transfers and a long-serving tea lady but they are not now and they weren’t 30 years ago, however hazy the memories. So we can safely dismiss the notion that City somehow did something new – or bad - in combining transfer spending with the players already at their disposal to earn success.
However, the issue of money won’t disappear, and that is thanks to UEFA’s financial fair play regulations which clubs will be forced to consider more carefully this coming season. While the likelihood is that most will either find a way around the rules or gently comply without a significant change of tack, the matter will remain on the agenda at the Etihad. For this reason, as well as the continued success of the club both globally and hyper-locally, the academy’s recent award of category one status is important. And in the present, with Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham building under new regimes and United a similar proposition to this time last year, City are the team to beat.
Jack Rodwell (Everton).
Greg Cunningham (Bristol City), Vladimir Weiss (Pescara), Wayne Bridge (Brighton – loan), Owen Hargreaves, Gunnar Nielsen, Stuart Taylor (all released).
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