It’s that time again - the start of the season - but this time with a twist that many City fans have yet to experience – the first defence of the Premier League title.
The high-octane effects of last season took their time wear off, but victory is always insatiable, a thirst quenched only by the taste of further victories. Sergio Aguero’s goal against QPR will never be forgotten, but now it is history and the club must focus all its will on repeating the feat – albeit more surefootedly – this time around.
This season that has to be the priority. The question is can they do it?
It’s been a good pre-season as far as pre-seasons go, winning the majority of matches, although nowadays one senses these things are more about opening the club up to new markets than anything else. The plus points are that we don’t have too many injuries, and we’ve also had the opportunity to blood more youngsters.
Today of course we also won the FA Community Shield, the trophy that eluded us last year when we shot ourselves in the foot against United, surrendering a two goal lead in a game we should have easily won.
Even if it means little, it’s a nice start to our season as champions.
However, the transfer market – or rather City’s inability to move decisively within it – has to a large extent overshadowed these positives. The frustration of this situation was most clearly evident in Mancini’s press conference prior to today’s match, with the City manager simply referring the vast majority of transfer questions to City’s head of football administration Brian Marwood – the man responsible for acquiring new players.
City of course are also hamstrung by the new financial fair play (FFP) rules, and their need to cut the wage bill or, at least, keep it on an even keel. The two most notable culprits - Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz – have not yet been moved on, meaning that we can hardly add to a frontline that boasts four top class strikers.
There’s also a sense of club that will no longer be held to ransom. We were surely there in the market for the likes of Thiago Silva and Robin van Persie, but the hierarchy are now much less willing to pay over the odds for this kind of talent, and are much more keen to drive a harder bargain. The Daniel Agger transfer story smacks of this. We all know the spending of recent years just isn’t sustainable and, if continued, would see us kicked out of Europe because of FFP. At any rate, the true holy grail is bringing through our own talent.
Chelsea and United have both strengthened, and of course we should be looking to – no team can ever stand still. We certainly need new faces for the Champions League if nothing else. But if the squad remains unchanged until January it shouldn’t be a cue for all hell to break loose.
We’ve now got something at City that we haven’t had for decades: consistency. There will always be power battles within the club – managers will always want new players and administrators will want to do it in a way that is right for the club. One thing that gets lost in all this is that we’ve a strong, balanced squad, with good depth and exceptional talent. The spine of team is now established: Hart, Kompany, Yaya, and any one from our four top strikers.
The other big plus is that we’ve some exciting new talent on the fringes. Anyone watching the pre-season friendlies will have seen the likes of Karim Rekik, Abdul Razak and Dennis Suarez. Hopefully we’ll see a bit more of them soon.