Manchester City were the undisputed winners of the summer transfer window, making potentially world class additions to their squad in nearly every department.
Chelsea manager Jos Mourinho said after his side won the English Premier League last season that the Blues’ title rivals would ‘not accept it’ and would react in the summer window to strengthen their side to try and wrestle back the crown. Manchester City have done just that, and done so with style.
Three big signings in the form of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and NicolA?s Otamendi have been the highlights of the summer for the Citizens, despite some high-profile departures including the likes of James Milner, Edin DA?eko and Stevan Joveti .
Quite simply, Manchester City won the transfer window– at least as far as English clubs are concerned. The lifted Financial Fair Play sanctions certainly played a role, and it almost seems as though the Sky Blues were waiting for an opportunity to go on a shopping spree after being temporarily grounded by European football’s governing body, UEFA.
Here is a look at how Manuel Pellegrini’s squad shapes up following an extremely busy summer for the likes of Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano.
Goalkeepers and Defenders
There was no transfer activity as far as the Manchester City goalkeeping position is concerned, with Joe Hart and Willy Caballero continuing as first and second choice respectively. The Englishman, in particular, has been in fine form of late and has yet to concede a Premier League goal this season.
However, there was a big signing in defence for the Citizens in the form of Argentina centre-back NicolA?s Otamendi, recruited from Spanish side Valencia for a reported A?32 million. The 27-year-old had a stellar 2014-2015 season with Valencia, earning himself a place in the official La Liga team of the season.
With the addition of Otamendi, Manuel Pellegrini now has three extremely strong choices in the centre of defence in captain Vincent Kompany, Eliaqium Mangala (who has started the season well), as well as new boy Otamendi. Martin Demichelis also remains an option for the Chilean at centre-back or even midfield if needed.
a Manchester City FC (@MCFC) August 20, 2015
Meanwhile, highly-rated young Belgian centre-half Jason Denayer was loaned to Turkish club Galatasaray. With the 20-year-old making inroads into the senior Belgium side and with the 2016 European Championships to come at the end of the campaign, a season of regular football was most likely the priority for the youngster.
Matija Nastasi , Micah Richards and Dedryck Boyata also departed from the club on a permanent basis, but given the sheer depth and quality of the City defence, it is hard to see how Pellegrini will miss any of them.
Goalkeepers in the squad: Joe Hart, Willy Caballero, Richard Wright
Defenders in the squad: Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta, Vincent Kompany, NicolA?s Otamendi, Eliaquim Mangala, Martin Demichelis, Aleksandar Kolarov, Ga l Clichy
Verdict: A. Manchester City can now boast of arguably the best defence in the Premier League. Not only do they have incredible depth in that department, but the addition of Otamendi gives them that extra bit of quality in the first XI, despite the fine form of Mangala at the start of this season. The new arrival will also keep captain Kompany on his toes, and if the Belgian international were to have a major dip in form like last season, there will always be another quality centre-back to come in and take his place.
The departure of Jason Denayer on loan might be the only slight negative given the youngster could have contributed to City’s season, but there will be few complaints if he has a successful loan spell in Turkey and continues to be involved with Marc Wilmots’ Belgium side.
It is in the midfield department that Manchester City have strengthened most impressively, with signings that should worry their domestic title rivals. The signings made, not only add quality to an already impressive midfield, but given their age, may also form the base for the next ‘cycle’ of players at the club, after the likes of David Silva, Samir Nasri and JesA?s Navas eventually move on.
Fabian Delph was signed from Aston Villa after a fairly dramatic– but thankfully relatively short-lived saga– where the former Aston Villa captain made a couple of U-turns to eventually end up in Manchester. Signed for a mere A?8 million, the England international is not only a quality box-to-box midfielder who gives Pellegrini more options tactically, but also a player who will strengthen the club’s home-grown contingent.
Raheem Sterling became the most expensive English footballer in history after Manchester City paid an eye-watering A?49 million to secure his services from Liverpool FC. The Citizens can, however, afford to spend that amount on the youngster, and will know that the fee will quickly be forgotten if he lives up to his considerable potential. The 20-year-old has already given Pellegrini’s attack a new dimension and will be a key player for the Sky Blues this campaign.
Kevin De Bruyne returned to the Premier League as the second most expensive player in its history after Manchester City paid Bundesliga side Wolfsburg A?54 million for the attacking midfielder’s services. The Belgian had a world class season in Germany and was named the Bundesliga Player of the Year as he helped his side finish second in the league and win the DFB Pokal, scoring in the final against Dortmund.
De Bruyne has long been a key player for the Belgian national team, and his burgeoning talent will now be put to the test on the biggest of stages at club level. How he is able to cope with playing second fiddle to the likes of David Silva and not being the focus of his team’s attack will be intriguing to watch, but if there is any club whose style suits the 24-year-old, it is that of Manchester City.
The Citizens also made an extremely clever signing in Fulham winger Patrick Roberts, with the England U19 international earmarked for success given his level of natural technical ability as well as his pace and trickery on the wing.
James Milner was a fair high-profile loss for the Citizens, and arguably the only major blemish in their transfer window. The Englishman left on a free transfer despite reportedly being offered a new contract. With his departure, City lost a player who was not only priceless to the squad because of his versatility and experience, but also because he was a quality home-grown player.
Scott Sinclair also left permanently for Aston Villa, but it is safe to say that City fans will not be losing too much sleep over that particular transfer.
Midfielders in the squad: Fernando, Fernandinho, Fabian Delph, Yaya Tour , David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Samir Nasri, JesA?s Navas, Patrick Roberts, Bruno Zucilini
Verdict: A+. In spite of Milner’s departure, it is difficult to imagine how the Citizens could have done better in refreshing their midfield options, something that was much needed given some of the flat performances in the last season. Sterling and De Bruyne are young players with world class potential who will undoubtedly make a difference to Pellegrini’s side, particularly in the Champions League, whilst Patrick Roberts is one of the most talented young attacking midfielders in the country.
In contrast to the defence and midfield, Pellegrini does have a paucity of senior strikers available at the minute. It helps to have the best striker in the league in Sergio AgA?ero leading the line, but the injury to Wilfried Bony and the departures of Stevan Joveti and Edin DA?eko from Manchester City have meant that the Argentine superstar is the only senior striker available to the Chilean manager currently.
Despite his undoubted world class quality, AgA?ero has had his injury issues in the past, and it could spell trouble for the Citizens if they were to resurface. As such, with no senior strikers signed, and with Stevan Joveti and Edin DA?eko departing for Inter Milan and AS Roma (on loan with an option to buy) respectively, the striking options Pellegrini has are fairly limited.
Nigerian Kelechi Iheanacho had an impressive pre-season with the first-team and is likely to see some minutes on the pitch, but question marks remain over whether the teenager can make a real difference if the two senior strikers are out injured. In such an event, it is quite likely that Pellegrini will play Sterling up front given the wealth of options available in the Manchester City midfield.
Strikers in the squad: Sergio AgA?ero, Wilfried Bony, Kelechi Iheanacho
Verdict: B. No significant incoming transfers, and the departures of two senior strikers leave Manchester City a little short up front. In the event of an injury to Sergio AgA?ero, it will be interesting to see how the Sky Blues cope, particularly if it were to occur in a crucial time of the season.
OVERALL VERDICT: A.
The top English clubs will be casting envious glances at Manchester City’s squad, which is now undoubtedly the best in the division. Quite simply, the Citizens were the biggest winners in the transfer market. Although they did not sign as many players as other sides, the quality of their signings reaffirm their ‘title-favourites’ tag.
With the signing of Otamendi, Pellegrini has sorted out what was one of the biggest issues his side faced last season– the centre of the defence. The signings of Fabian Delph, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne and Patrick Roberts have shown City’s desire to build for the future whilst remaining successful in the present.
If there is any criticism to be levelled at Manchester City, it is the exorbitant transfer fees paid for Sterling and to a larger extent, for Kevin De Bruyne, as well as the failure to sign a senior striker. That, however, is unlikely to affect the club financially in terms of Financial Fair Play, whilst the possibility of moving Sterling in the role up front should take care of any potential striker crisis.
Manuel Pellegrini must not only aim to win the Premier League this season, but should also look to launch a major assault in the Champions League. Manchester City have never gone beyond the Round of 16 stage, but with their current squad, a quarter-final spot should be the minimum target for the club.
All in all, if Manchester City’s performance throughout the season reflects their performance in the transfer market, there is every chance that the Citizens will be celebrating a third Premier League title in five seasons.