Man City must aim higher still

January 12, 2010

SOCCER-ENGLAND/VIEIRAThis time last year, I wrote a piece arguing that Manchester City were setting their sights in the transfer market pathetically low.

For a club with almost limiteless funds, putting Craig Bellamy and Nigel de Jong at the top of the transfer wish list was a bit like a Lottery winner hunting through the racks of last year’s suits at TK Maxx.

Since then, their dealings in the transfer market, with the exception of moves for Carlos Tevez and possibly Emmanuel Adebayor, have shown a similar lack of ambition.

As well as Tevez and Adebayor, City have signed Joleon Lescott, Kolo Toure, Gareth Barry, Roque Santa Cruz and now Patrick Vieira, who is returning to the Premier League at the age of 33. Most of them are decent players. None of them are from the top drawer.

It may seem perverse to criticise City when they have just won their fourth successive league game, a Tevez-inspired 4-1 success over Blackburn Rovers, to climb to fourth place under an ambitious new coach in Roberto Mancini.

Yet now, with the Champions League a realistic target and no one in the Premier League looking beyond their reach, this is precisely the time they must set their sights much, much higher than the rollcall of mediocrity they’ve spent the last couple of years assembling.

What is Roberto Mancini’s coaching philosophy? What sets them apart from the other clubs, like Aston Villa, with their noses pressed up against the Big Four glass?

How many non-City fans could tell me what their first choice midfield is? Who is the player pulling the strings? What are the team’s defining characteristics? Are they ruthless counter-attackers led by the bustling Bellamy, reformed Rusholme Ruffians inspired by Robinho (or Stephen Ireland) or do they have aspirations to pass teams into submission?

You can see why City might be reluctant to shop at the high end of the market after two high-profile failures — first Robinho, who has not done much to suggest Real Madrid were unwise to let him go, and then the 100 million pound rebuff from Kaka — but they should not let that discourage them.

I’m not saying City need to make a “galactico” signing in the 100 million pounds range. They should, however, be shopping for elite internationals at the peak of their careers, the sort of players who can really stamp an identity on the side. Patrick Vieira? Five or six years ago, maybe.

Once City have established an identity, they should find it easier to attract more top players who find the prospect of playing for them appealing from a football point of view.

Tevez was a good start. Next on the list should be David Villa, Franck Ribery, Kun Aguero, Andres Iniesta, Karim Benzema, and if they want to be really cheeky, Nemanja Vidic and Cesc Fabregas.

How much debt was it that Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan wrote off? £300 million should get you a lot more than the current hotch-potch of styles and players, and fourth place in the league.

PHOTO: Manchester City’s new signing Patrick Vieira (L) poses with manager Roberto Mancini during a photocall at the club’s Carrington training complex in Manchester, January 8, 2010. REUTERS/Phil Noble


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Posted by uberVU – social comments | Report as abusive

I’d agree with much of what’s written, although I think the author underestimates Gareth Barry’s ability. I would also argue that De Jong’s influence this season has been considerable, and I expect Holland to go close this summer given the steel he will lend to the always creative Dutch.

As far as City are concerned, the challenge is to recruit players who will fit into the team tactically, something which the “Brazilian beach” footballer Robinho has singularly failed to do. Vieira is certainly a curious signing and we’ll wait to see what impact he has: much of it may well be unseen on the pitch at game time.

Clearly, the summer period post-World Cup will be when Mancini (or his successor) will look to recruit high quality players. It has traditionally been notoriously dicicult to assimilate players during the winter transfer window, and whilst City have played some relatively poor teams in recent weeks, those of us old enough to remember Rodney Marsh’s disastrous effect on City’s promotion push many years ago would prefer to see an incremental approach to buidling on the last 4 games.

Posted by Teddy11 | Report as abusive

Hi Teddy. I agree that an incremental approach is a good idea, and rushing headlong into the transfer window will end painfully … I just hope that City don’t sign any more players who are merely “quite good”.
Having so much money is an incredible luxury and the club should be able to find outstanding players with excellent attitudes.

Posted by KevFylan | Report as abusive

I find some of Phil Noble’s comments rather odd I can see the benefits of a couple of the players he suggests Manchester City should sign. Can he however really be serious about Nemanja Vidic, who shows excessive aggression, gets taken apart by small fast players and seems to get booked quite a lot. I actually think that Vidic could be a liability for a manager rather than an asset.

Manchester United’s have been very successful using home grown players and as City have some very good youngsters they should stick with what they have. Man City should spend wisely when the opportunity arises and only buy players they really need, now they have made it into the top four.

The Manchester City players sitting on the bench would walk into most Premier League clubs first team, they also have the best English goalkeeper farmed out to Birmingham. The forgotten players of Mark Hughes days have proved they can make a worthwhile contribution under Mancini, so a pragmatic approach is needed not a lets spend money approach. The big spending Real Madrid haven’t really succeeded, so why would it work at Eastlands ?

Posted by milt | Report as abusive

Vidic is a little bit better than that, I think, milt.
But in general I think you hit the nail ont he head. Make use of the youngsters and when you get an opportunity to sign a player of real quality, do it.
Real madrid used to have the policy of “Zidanes and Pavones” in reference to the great Frenchman and the youngster Paco Pavon, who came through the club’s youth set-up. It didn;t work out perfectly, perhaps, but my word was it fun while it lasted.

Posted by KevFylan | Report as abusive

Well, City is in line to take up all the poaching United used to do at Sporting Lisbon. Matter of time before Veloso, Moutinho et all will be lining up for Sheiek money!

Posted by Starting_Eleven | Report as abusive

City will never be able to attract top drawer players because no matter how much money they have, they will never be a club of Real Madrid’s or Barcelona’s stature, and both can match any financial offer City might throw at mutual transfer targets.
Also, City’s results and performances under Mancini show that all they needed to start firing on all cylinders was a new coach with a winner’s mentality. As you said Kevin, it’s no good having too many chiefs and not enough Indians, the failure of the galacticos clearly showing there’s only going to be one outcome when that’s your team’s profile. And anyway, Tevez not a top-pevel player? Rubbish. What have Benzema, Ribery and Fabregas achieved that he hasn’t? How many other “quite good” players can boast of two premier league titles and a champions league? Viera, I suspect, has been bought as cover. City’s identity? They come to me as an attacking team happy to trade punches with anyone, which is what any neutral fan likes to watch.

Posted by Magicwand | Report as abusive