Despite their loss to Tottenham earlier in the week, Manchester City fans should still have plenty to feel good about going into the summer. The English press was all too happy in vilifying the Sheik Mansour’s tactics of overpaying for players and trying to buy themselves a Champions League spot, but they did well to stick together and get to the brink of their goal.
Going forward, their number one priority should be clear – keeping Carlos Tevez. The Argentinean has easily been their best player, and if they are able to keep him from moving to Spain in the summer, it will be an important statement that the players believe in what ownership is trying to accomplish. Tevez and Adebayor form the second best strike partnership in the Premier League, behind Anelka and Drogba, and if Adebayor is able to stay healthy, avoid stamping on former teammates, and stay far away from Angola, there’s no reason they couldn’t combine for at least 50 goals in the top-flight next season.
Beyond making sure Tevez is in a sky blue kit next season, the other main decision regards the commitment to aging first-team players or to youth. Sheik Mansour should take note of Chelsea’s current plight. After Roman Abramovich sunk hundreds of millions of dollars to buy the best established talent in the world (not to discount the results he got for his money), the Blues face an aging roster and few quality youngsters to replenish the ranks.
Two casualties of this commitment should be Craig Bellamy and Shay Given.
Craig Bellamy has been the best wide player in Manchester this season, but the emergence of Adam Johnson has made him expendable. Playing Johnson in his natural left wing spot should pay greater dividends for his development, and giving Shaun Wright-Phillips more starts on the right is little, if any, downgrade. With Bellamy saying earlier in the season that he may have only one or two years of football left in him, allowing him to go should be a necessary, albeit difficult, pill to swallow.
Shay Given is certainly a solid keeper, and, with David James and Heurelho Gomes, among the best shot-stoppers in the league. However, it was well-proven this season (and in his latter years at Newcastle) that he’s not a great organizer of the defence, which the club sorely needs. Joe Hart left little doubt with his phenomenal season at Birmingham that it’s his time to shine – Mancini should take a chance on Hart’s potential for long-term greatness.
City’s list of other young players is nothing short of amazing, and they should give them the opportunity to flourish in the first team. Talented youth on loan, such as Jo, Felipe Caicedo and Vladimir Weiss should get first-team chances next season. Players not quite ready to cement their places should go out on loan and get the experience they need to make the jump; specifically, Nedum Onuoha, Dedryck Boyata and Abdisalam Ibrahim. These names are the future of City football.