AHEAD of Manchester City’s first game in the 2015-16 Barclays Premier League season, Callum Matthews takes a look at their chances this season.
2014-15 was another disappointing season for City. Their inability to provide a serious challenge to retain their Premier League crown was disheartening. At times some of the football was the worst on show post-Sheikh Mansour’s takeover in truth.
Stoke, Hull and Burnley at home are three games that spring to mind without too much thinking where the Blues just didn’t reach the standard required. However they did manage to secure second place without too much of a battle in the end, but having been top on News Years Day they’ll be disappointed they didn’t challenge Chelsea closer for the title.
Despite much talk about Manuel Pellegrini’s head being on the chopping block for pretty much the whole of last season, the club have decided to stick by the Chilean and have even agreed a one-year contract extension with the 61-year-old.
Early cup exits in both the League and FA Cup did little to lift the spirits at the Etihad and another exit at the last 16 stage in the Champions League was, dare I say, predictable.
Perhaps worryingly, the club although now frequently challenging in England, seem unable to tempt high quality Champions League quality players to the blue side of Manchester.
Another interrupted and completely unconvincing pre-season campaign has left the loyal City faithful questioning what this season has in store.
They simply have to have a better campaign. If it isn’t the management team- on the playing and non-playing side may face the sack alongside a number of the ageing squad.
Raheem Sterling (Winger from Liverpool, £44 million): It was perhaps one of the most protracted transfers of the summer so far, but the 20-year-old got his wish to leave Merseyside for Manchester. Liverpool stuck to their guns and got the fee that they wanted and although it’s a large fee, last summer before the World Cup everyone was calling him world class- most people have forgot that. He’s been a bright spark in a worrying pre-season for City and should become a crucial player this season.
Fabian Delph (Midfielder from Aston Villa, £8 million): It’s well reported that City needed to add England players to their squad this summer and that’s been fairly obvious in their recruitment progress over the close season. In one of the strangest transfers, perhaps ever, Delph looked set to sign after City triggered his £8m release clause before he did a U-turn and pledged his future to Villa before a week later changing his mind again, eventually penning a five-year deal at the Etihad.
Enes Unal (Striker from Bursapor, undisclosed): One for the future, but the 18-year-old is highly regarded in Turkey and is expected to have a bright future having scored goals throughout different age categories. Has made the odd substitute appearance in pre-season and has looked slightly off the pace and has been loaned to the Genk for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.
Patrick Roberts (Midfielder from Fulham, undisclosed): Another for the future, it been rumoured during the early days of the summer before it appeared to be off but City did secure the signature of the highly-rated winger. I don’t think he’ll be anywhere near the first-team this season so expect a loan move to be announced at some stage.
Alvaro Negredo (to Valencia, £20 million): Despite a hugely impressive first six months in England, his family never settled in Manchester and he spent last season on loan at Valencia before they completed the obligatory signing that was part of the deal this summer.
Matija Nastasic (to Schalke, undisclosed fee): A huge disappointment was the way Nastasic’s career at City went downhill. He put in multiple eye-catching performances during his early days, however in the Pellegrini days he never settled before spending the season half of last season at Schalke and they made the move permanent.
Karim Rekik (to Marseille, undisclosed fee): Rekik is highly regarded by his country Netherlands, however he’s never seemed part of Pellegrini’s plans and having spent two seasons at PSV on loan he completed a move to Marseille.
Scott Sinclair (to Aston Villa, undisclosed fee): A panic buy during Roberto Mancini’s days in charge at the club. He was never up to the standard of challenging for titles and after impressing on loan at Villa in the second half of last season he completed a permanent move.
Stevan Jovetic (to Inter Milan, 18-month loan): There’s been some confusion over this transfer. City reported the transfer was an 18-month loan with the view to a permanent transfer, but the Italians reported that he’d signed a contract until 2019. He never quite settled at City and his injury record meant that City had little choice but to cut their losses.
Dedryck Boyata (to Celtic, undisclosed fee): Having made his senior debut for City in 2010, the Belgian has replaced City defender Jason Denayer at the Scottish Champions. He may have found his level at Celtic as he was never quite enough to break through at City.
Jordi Hiwula (to Huddersfield, undisclosed fee): After having never made a senior appearance for the Blues, Hiwula has joined Championship side Huddersfield and they’ll be hoping his goals can keep them safe from relegation.
Greg Leigh (to Bradford City, free agent): A young left-back who spent time on loan at Crewe Alexandra last season is another youngster released having never played a professional games for the Blues. After impressing on trial at Alexandra’s League One rivals Bradford the 20-year-old penned a one year deal with the Bantams.
Seko Fofana (to SC Bastia, loan): After spending time on loan at Fulham last season, the powerful box-to-box midfielder will be spending this season on loan at SC Bastia in France.
Micah Richards (to Aston Villa, free agent): Injury problems have ruined his City career, particularly under Pellegrini, and after spending last season on loan at Fiorentina the right back joined Tim Sherwood at Villa and has been named as ‘on-field captain’ for this season.
James Milner (to Liverpool, free agent): The club did everything they believed they could to keep the England midfielder at the Etihad, but the lure of a centre midfield slot at Anfield was too good to turn down for the 29-year-old. His versatility is likely to be a huge loss for City.
Olivier Ntcham (to Genoa, loan): The French youth international signed a new five year deal with City before joining the Italian club Genoa on a two year loan deal. TheI Rossoblu reportedly have the option to purchase the 19-year-old at the end of the loan.
Adam Drury (unattached): The 21-year-old winger is another player leaving the Etihad having never made a first-term appearance. Has spent time at Leeds and Bradford on trial so far this summer but is still without a club currently.
John Guidetti (to Celta Vigo, free agent): Has struggled with injuries during his times at the Blues, but after scoring eight goals in 24 games during his spell at Celtic this season he’s decided to go to Spain to join Celta Vigo.
Jack Byrne (to SC Cambuur, loan): The Irish under-21 midfielder penned a new four-year deal before joining Dutch sude SC Cambuur on a season long loan.
Angelino (to New York City, loan): After Brandon Barker, the Spanish left-back is perhaps the biggest talent in the clubs academy in the moment. He’s joined City’s sister club New York and has already impressed bombing down the left wing.
Dominic Oduro (unattached): After joining City in 2011 from the Ghanaian football academy ‘Dare to dream’ the 20-year-old has been released without making an appearance for the club.
Frank Lampard (to New York City, end of loan): The former Chelsea midfielder became a fan favourite during his one season stay at the Etihad. He scored some crucial goals during his brief spell and is going to be a miss.
Sergio Aguero- The Argentine was literally unplayable at times last season and with his injury problems now seemingly behind him I expect this to be his best goal scoring season since joining the club from Atletico Madrid. With the arrival of Sterling already completed, the signing of Kevin De Bruyne muted and David Silva the 27-year-old should have plenty of chances created for him this season and he could be the difference if the Blues are to mount a serious title challenge this season.
Vincent Kompany- Two seasons ago, the Belgian was considered in the world’s elite when it came to the centre-half position. However after a ropey season last year and multiple injuries, this season is a make or break season for the 29-year-old. If he returns to his best there’s every chance that City will not only challenge for the title but win it. If he doesn’t return to his best City may well be challenging for a top four slot never mind the title.
Yaya Toure- Similarly to Kompany, the Ivorian had his worst season in a City shirt last season. However he proved how valuable he was in the penultimate game of the season at Swansea and that may have saved his career at the Etihad. Unlike previous summers he’s had a tournament free summer and that could be crucial for him. He has to reach the heights he did last time the Blues won the title in 2013/14 if they have any chance of regaining it this season.
Other squad members: Caballero, Sagna, Denayer, Demichelis, Clichy, Delph, Zuculini, Nasri, Navas, Lopes, Bony, Kelechi.
At the moment it’s literally impossible to predict how the top four will finish. Arsenal were poor against West Ham, Chelsea looked average at best against Swansea and both United and Liverpool, despite winning, were unconvincing.
I have concerns about City however. Last season’s weaknesses at the back, particularly centre-half and left back, are currently still unresolved. Perhaps more worryingly is the failure to add a world-class centre midfielder to the squad. It was far too easy for sides to get through our midfield and at our defence last season (I’m still having nightmares about Patrick Bamford’s goal for Middlesborough in the FA Cup) and that hasn’t been resurrected.
Although I do think Delph will prove to be a shrewd acquisition he’s not going to be the difference between winning or not winning the league. The remaining days in the transfer window could be huge at the Etihad and I think it will be the difference between City winning any silverware this season.
At the moment although I think Sterling will improve the Blues, he doesn’t answer the problems of last season. However I think they’re still good enough to hold off the challenge of Arsenal and United for 2nd place but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them finish lower.
By: Callum Matthews
*All signings, players out, possible line-up/squad correct as August 9*