Manchester City & The Big Four
The cross-Manchester transfer of Carlos Tevez continues a summer of insane spending by the blue half of the city. It’s not necessarily over yet, either. They remain on the tail of John Terry and are also in talks with Emmanuel Adebayor. At a time during which the more established clubs above them in the table seem to be standing still in the transfer market, it’s not unreasonable now to argue that Manchester City pose a very real and present threat to one of the Champions League Four, though whether their behaviour in the transfer market is a good thing football remains much more questionable. Indeed, it could be argued that their recent tendency to throw money about like confetti is, at a time like this, obscene.
Over the last few months, a bewildering array of players have arrived (or, in the case of Shaun Wright-Philips, returned) to the City of Manchester Stadium. There remain weaknesses in their team, most notably at the centre of their defence, although this is being obviously addressed in their pursuit of John Terry and Everton’s Joleon Lescott. On the whole, though, for all of the talk of madness surrounding the club, their recent signings have, broadly speaking, made sense. Shay Given is one of the Premier League’s better goalkeepers. Carlos Tevez has proved himself at West Ham United and Manchester United, as well as for Argentina. Gareth Barry has, broadly speaking, been a consistent performer for some years in the Premier League. None of the recent batch of City signings could recently be described as “gambles”.
And all the while, the Champions League Four remain in a state of relative stasis. Manchester United have now lost Tevez and Ronaldo, and missed out on Benzema and Ribery. Liverpool brought Glen Johnson from Portsmouth but lost out out Barry. Chelsea are still sweating on John “Mr Chelsea” Terry’s latest apparent demands to speak to Manchester City, and Arsenal’s Chief Executive Ivan Gazidis stated last week, in an interview that seemed to be effectively telling Arsenal supporters to stop expecting the club to spend a lot of money this summer, that “Simply spending money does not make a team or guarantee success”. There probably hasn’t been a better time in the last four or five years or so to try and crack that particular hegemony.
Still, however, doubts remain over City’s credibility to launch a sustained challenge for the Premier League trophy itself. The coaching staff – Mark Hughes, Mark Bowen, Glyn Hodges, Kevin Hitchcock and Eddie Niedzwiecki – looks too inexperienced, and question marks remain over how secure Hughes’ position will be if City don’t have a barnstorming start to the season. A change of manager would mean upheaval that may be a step too far if the title is to be won. It should also be remembered that we do not know for certain that a place in the top four will be enough for the free-spending owners. The possibility of instability behind the scenes at Manchester City remains in the background, in a way that it is unlikely to at Manchester United or Arsenal, though this could change at any point in the season.
The tantalising prospect of someone breaking the Champions League Four, however, remains. Manchester City’s spending may be unsustainable to the point of lunacy but, with the new football season now only a month away it might at least make a change if they can launch a sustained challenge for the championship. We may not, however, find out whether this is a sustainable route to success for some years. Manchester City supporters would be best advised to enjoy the good times while they last.