So Manchester City await their Champions League debut this week. Go on, admit it. Hands up who feels a little disappointed. Ignoring the fact money clearly talks in football nowadays, (take note Arsene Wenger) Napoli will visit the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday for the first of what will surely be many nights of European football ahead given the quality of the side Roberto Mancini has assembled this season. Whilst their group is a tricky one, Bayern being the obvious challenge ahead and Villereal and Napoli no pushovers themselves, I for one believe they have the talent to kick on and make the knockout stages and who knows, maybe cause a few shocks. After all, they are better equipped than the Spurs side who made such an impact on last year’s tournament. The strike power in their side is almost unbelievable. The 5-1 win over Tottenham saw Aguero partner Dzeko in attack and bag five between them. This left Carlos Tevez and Mario Balotelli on the bench. Yep, Carlos Tevez. The man who last season, it seemed City couldn’t even score a goal, let alone win a game without. Balotelli also needs to grow up fast or find himself quickly becoming the forgotten man. His most recent backheel showboating and I-Pad playing antics suggest Mancini may well cut his losses on someone he has so fervently defended, even staked his reputation on his ability to man-manage and get the best out of the young striker, a task he appears to be failing at.
Back to Tevez, whose want-away antics this summer left everyone involved in English football sick of the sight of him. Even the City fans’ deeply rooted affections for him have been rocked, and it wouldn’t surprise me if many of them had joined me in cursing the collapsed move to Corinithians, or Inter Milan’s unwillingness to meet the £50 million valuation figure. After all, Mancini has worked hard to dispose of those capable of disrupting a new-found team spirit, with Adebayor, Bellamy and Santa Cruz swiftly moved on this summer. The new partnership of Dzeko and Aguero is blossoming nicely, Aguero fitting the part superbly with 5 goals already to his name, and linking nicely with the much maligned figure of last season, Dzeko.
The Bosnian hitman looks the business at the moment though, starting the new campaign on fire, and looking like his adaptation to the English game is complete. This therefore completes a frontline that City’s English rivals can only look at and weep. Andre Villas-Boas must turn green in envy when comparing the quickly ageing Didier Drogba and woefully inept Fernando Torres to City’s awesome foursome, while if Arsene Wenger had a strike force of this quality, City would have probably bought it off them by now. Even Sir Alex must have to offer a jealous nod across the city to his ‘noisy neighbours.’ With David Silva, a man who Mancini today compared to Xavi and Iniesta in terms of his play making ability and the wonderful gifted, if not temperamental Samir Nasri supplying the artillery, the City fans must be drooling over the possibilities this season holds.
However, Mancini’s side does hold a similar resemblance to one of my teams on Football Manager, with a trigger happy approach adopted for spending untold fortunes and an irresistible urge to buy marquee forwards, forgetting about the eleven as a whole. Whilst De Jong, Barry and Yaya Toure provide decent options for the spine of the midfield, City appear to lack width, with only Adam Johnson in the squad offering a genuine outlet wide on the flanks, and he makes fewer appearances these days than the amount of restaurants Tevez claims are good in Manchester. The full back positions are hardly filled with gold-dust, for all Micah Richards tries, he is prone to the occasional brain explosion in defence and cannot get past Glen Johnson forEngland’s right back spot, a man whose defensive ability is leakier than a colander. In the left back role, Kolarov has hardly set the world alight, and appears to come from the John Arne Riise school of left backs, a howitzer of a left foot and little else. And I haven’t heard Gael Clichy’s name mentioned too much in the tidal waves of complaints over Arsenal’s summer transfer dealings. And whilst new captain Kompany is the model of consistency at the back, I wouldn’t fancy seeing Jolean Lescott trying to mark Lionel Messi or David Villa out of a Champions League semi final. With such problems in mind, City fans need to keep check with reality, the squad is talented, but in many ways limited, and Mancini needs to ensure the defensive shackles, seen all too often last season, do not get thrown back on the big games, whilst tinkering a formation to suit his star-studded frontline. If he succeeds in this, well, City should make waves in the Champions League and the Premiership this season, ensuring the Blue Moon rises even higher.