After another summer of big money spending – and who believes they are anywhere near finished! – the pressure is on Manchester City boss Mark Hughes to achieve an absolute minimum of qualification for the UEFA Champions League during the 2009-10 campaign. Although many will feel that City should be looking to challenge for the title, with a number of strong teams in their way, it may prove a bridge too far for what will essentially be a new team.
In fairness, it is a little premature to assess the chances of the City team to breaking into the top four, but we can at least consider whether or not they are on the right lines.
Backed by the endless cash supply of the Abu Dhabi group, City have spent an unbelievable amount of money, with £18m striker Roque Santa Cruz becoming the latest player to check in at Eastlands this week. The goal is simple – to establish City as one of the most powerful clubs in Europe and in doing so, make the Manchester City shirts one of the best selling soccer jerseys in the world.
Breaking into the top four – let alone winning the title – will be a huge ask however. It has been done before, just ask Chelsea and Roman Abramovich. However, it is questionable whether or not City are yet at that level. For one, even with the huge amounts invested under Claudio Ranieri, it wasn’t until the arrival of a top, top manager in Jose Mourinho that the Blues were true contenders for the title. A good manager can add 10-12 points a season by influencing games with tactics and substitutions. That Mark Hughes has the Mourinho midas touch currently seems more than a little doubtful.
The other major difference is that Chelsea had top, top players. In Peter Cech, they signed arguably the best goalkeeper in the world. In Didier Drogba, one of the most powerful and fearsome forwards in world football. And in John Terry and Frank Lampard, they had an English spine to the team and players who would be welcome in any of the worlds top football sides.
It is difficult to imagine any City star – including the recent high profile signings such as Santa Cruz and Gareth Barry – walking into the top four of the Premiership sides. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how much money you spend – if you don’t add real quality, you don’t have any god given right to win football matches.
Currently, City don’t have any players in their team with experience of being part of a top four – let alone Championship winning – Premiership side. That guys like Barry, Santa Cruz, Given, Richards, Ireland and Bellamy are good Premiership players is in no doubt. But to break into the top four, Manchester City are going to need to add real quality – someone who will make the kind of impact that Fernando Torres made at Liverpool, transforming the club from a team struggling for fourth spot, to a side genuinely competing for the title.
The seemingly inevitable arrival of Carlos Tevez will help improve City’s stock, but they must look to add real quality in the shape of an Eto’o, a Villa or someone along those lines. Without a genuine world class superstar in their team, City will be nothing more than an also ran in the Premier League and they might find that the football shirts they had hoped to sell in their gallons take a little longer to fly off the shelves than expected.
Written by Danny Watson, a professional sports writer who blogs about football news.