Just what the English Premier League needs, another ill-informed, tinkering owner. I’m certain that Manchester City’s billionaire owner Thaksin Shinawatra is a reasonably intelligent man. You don’t get to be a billionaire without a little nous. However, like many other rich sports franchise owners, he does not appear to be content to stay at arm’s length and delegate the first-team management to an expert in the area. In this case, it is coach Sven-Goran Eriksson who has done a solid job of starting to rebuild the Manchester City squad.
However, Shinawatra is unhappy with the club’s recent form and has said that he will decide on Eriksson’s future as manager at the end of the season.
Thaksin bought Manchester City last year after being deposed as Thailand’s prime minister in a military coup and hired former England coach Eriksson. After a strong start to the season, City have faded in recent months and are now eighth in the English Premier League standings with four matches remaining.
Thaksin, acknowledges that the team would need some changes next season but his statement demonstrates his lack of expertise in the area.
“We’ll probably have to sell some players and buy some new ones. We need some defenders, midfielders… midfielders are the key,” he said. “We have some good players but we need more.”
He is right to say that City do need some changes. But overall, the defense and midfield is pretty solid and I don’t think it needs a lot of tinkering.
City are 7th in the league in terms of fewest goals conceded. The teams that have been better are the likes of Man United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Portsmouth, Everton and Arsenal. Where they really trail behind those squads is in terms of goals scored. City have conceded 40 goals (1.18/game) but have only scored 39, which places them 11th. More importantly, with a few more goals, how many of their 10 draws might have been converted to wins?
Midfielders? With Martin Petrov, Elano, Michael Johnson, Geovanni, Gelson Fernandes plus young guns like Vladimir Weiss ready to challenge for first-team spots, City are not hurting in midfield. They need to find a younger version of Dietmar Hamann but should have another season to do that and it could be that a defender like Javier Garrido could be converted to do that job.
Defenders? With Dunne and Richards at the centre of defence and Corluka at right-back the only glaring hole is a first-choice left-back. Neither Michael Ball or Javier Garrido have been terrible but if they could lure someone like Nicky Shorey or Paul Konchesky (just to throw a couple of names out) they’d have a solid starting backline. Nedum Onuoha and Matthew Mills are just two of the good young defenders City currently have on the books that could provide some depth at the back.
For my money what City really missed this season (like the past several seasons) were dependable strikers. Losing Bojinov and then Castillo to long-term injuries did not help. Benjani has not fit into the squad as of yet, but as was the case with his time at Portsmouth, might catch fire after he becomes more comfortable with his teammates.
Unfortunately, it looks like they will lose one or both of Kasper Schmeichel or Andreas Isaksson as they both want (and deserve) a chance at first-team football. I was never sure why Schmeichel lost his starting place. I didn’t think he did anything to lose City points when he was between the sticks. Depending who goes and who stays, City might need to sign an experienced keeper to back up Joe Hart.
There are a few other players that should be sent on their way, many of them currently loaned out anyway. Ousmane Dabo, Emile Mpenza, Jihai Sun, Danny Mills (on-loan to Derby), Paul Dickov, Georgios Samaras, Bernardo Corradi, Rolando Bianchi and though he has popped up with a few goals, Darius Vassell. I’m really undecided about Stephen Ireland as the lad has a lot of talent but seems to have some serious problems away from the game. If he can get his personal life sorted out and focus on football, he’d make a great right-wing to complement Petrov on the left.
Up front, I would keep Daniel Sturridge, Benjani Mwaruwari, Valeri Bojinov, Nery Castillo plus perhaps sign one more for cover.
I’m not suggesting that City not make defensive or midfield signings should a good fit come along. What I would fear if I were a City fan is Sven being sacked. This would mean a new manager coming in, which typically means large changes to the squad. I think City have a strong core to build from and can improve on this year’s showing with a little patience and investment.