By Chris Wright
And lo, another £80-odd million from the Sheik’s loose change jar has been frittered away into the ether and Sergio Aguero – one of the most in-demand forwards in world football, or so we’re led to believe – is officially on board at £200,000-a-week for the next however long.
Seeing as the vast swathes of money involved don’t seem to matter one iota, the acquisition of Kun can only really be described as a ‘coup’ from a City perspective, one more in a lengthening line of singularly impressive, if vulgarly expensive high-profile signings – indeed they’ve had to pay over the odds to capture player’s agent’s imaginations, but the size, strength and speed at which they’ve assembled their squad is mind-boggling, with bona fide quality now padding out most if not all quarters.
City were dependent on Tevez last season, a luxury they may not be able to fall back on this time out
As well as being impressive, Aguero’s signing is also a timely one; with
Jo now gone Carlos Tevez desperate to up-sticks and flee back home to Milan or Madrid to be closer to his kids, City are staring down the barrel of loosing their main, nay only continuous goal source from last season – goals without which, lets face it, they wouldn’t have managed a Champions League finish last year.
That said, to my eye at least, City as a collective aren’t nearly as fractious as they’re continually pegged out to be.
While your always going to have isolated schisms with uneasy, tempestuous players like Balotelli and Tevez around, the nucleus of the group seems tight enough from a footballing perspective (no more or less so than any other ‘big club’) regardless of all the supposed wandering eyes, flux loyalties and balls-out, shouting-at-traffic loonery – and, more importantly, while the growth on the pitch is running nowhere near parallel to that off it, they seem to be getting more and more cohesive as a first-string season-by-season despite the fringe faces rotate in and out on a bi-annual basis.
Dzeko looked awkward during his maiden season at Eastlands
Admittedly City’s attacking ranks are yet to have been properly bedded in (a David Silva/Aguero connection could be golden next term), but Roberto Mancini has been busy over the last two years, sensibly building his side from the back forward. Bobby has staffed a solid central defense and defensive midfield with consistent, dependable performers – even the most stoic United fan would surely admit that they’d take Vince Kompany and Nigel De Jong in a heartbeat, no?
City aren’t just a house of cards or a travelling revue show laden with expensive curios of the modern age, they’re a steadily improving footballing unit with their first silverware under their collective belts and a remarkably stable base considering how rapidly their commercial product has bloated around the globe – which is testament to Mancini’s level-headedness I suppose.
Mancini: level head, natty hat
City get their 2011/12 Premier League campaign underway with a Monday night game against newly-promoted Swansea on August 15th at the Etihad Stadium and, although the Welshies are somewhat of an unknown quantity, you’d have to expect that the groaning billionaires are going to kick things off with three points.
The first Manchester derby of the season falls nine games into the season, at Old Trafford on October 23rd, with odd teasers here and there before a tricky run of fixtures ensues throughout late November and December that will see City squaring off against Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Stoke and Liverpool again over Christmas – not a bad little test of their mid-season title credentials.
City’s run-in doesn’t look overly fraught with danger after April 7th’s trip to the Emirates (though, of course, you never know with these things) with West Brom, Norwich, Wolves, Newcastle and QPR all to play over the final two months – however, the ‘return leg’ of the Manchester derby is pencilled in for 28th April which could, along with all the usual froth and fury, transmogrify the blue half’s third-last game of the season into a make-or-break affair.
Any road up, I’ve rambled on long enough and the question must now go out: do you reckon City have what it takes to seriously jab a thumb in the eye of United and Chelsea’s little game of pass-the-parcel with the Premier League title this coming year? Or are they still trying to ‘run before they can walk’, so to speak?
This season, Sky Sports will be showing 115 live Premier League fixtures, with every match available in HD and selected matches in 3D.
Every single Barclays Premier League team shown live in the first set of Sky Sports HD fixtures, and all three newly-promoted clubs shown live at least three times by the end of November.
Sky Sports will be covering all the big head-to-heads, including Manchester United’s heavyweight clashes with Arsenal (Aug 28th) and Chelsea (Sep 18th), as well as screening seven major derbies in HD including Everton v Liverpool (Oct 1st), Tottenham vs Arsenal (Oct 2nd) and the Manchester derby followed by QPR vs Chelsea (both on Oct 23rd).
Please note however, that all fixture are liable to change – we wouldn’t want you to miss out!