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Why Manchester City Are Best Poised to Challenge Manchester United for the Title

man city crest Why Manchester City Are Best Poised to Challenge Manchester United for the Title

Photo by ivan03

Not too long ago, Manchester City hardly ever shared the same expectations as their Red counterparts. Then, in August 2008, the Abu Dhabi United Group bought the team and their impact has been immediately felt with an unprecedented number of signings. They struggled under the first season and just missed out on their aspirations in 2009. Yet, after more signings, the team started to show they could be a top 4 club. The 2010 season ended quite well with their first trophy in more than a third of a century as well as gaining access to the coveted UEFA Champions League.

As a result of these strides, Manchester City has now become the greatest threat to United’s chances for repeated success in 2011. The question is, are they up to the challenge?

Right now, City looks better than any other team competing with United. Chelsea’s squad looks too old to muster competition for the title. Arsenal, as usual, look like they have the potential to compete for the title but lack the resolve and mental toughness to win crucial matches. Liverpool look greatly improved under Kenny Daglish and could certainly make a run this year but I still feel that at best, they’ll finish in the top four. By default, that leaves City as the best team to compete against United for the title.

Manchester City looked like they were finally starting to show chemistry with each other during the last months of the season. In prior seasons, the roster seemed to lack an understanding of how to play with one another as they looked like a bunch of expensive talents struggling to work together. The first thing that seemed to take shape for City was their back line which has proven to be one of the best in the Premier League. Led by co-captain Vincent Company, whose form at center back has been amazing, they have done well with the consistently good performances from Micah Richards Aleksander Kolarov, and Pablo Zabaleta. Joleon Lescott, who sometimes has looked quite shaky, has held his own overall in a defense that was tied with Chelsea in allowing the fewest goals in the past year. Of course, the play of Joe Hart has also been phenomenal as he had the most clean sheets with 18 and was the winner of the Barclays Golden Glove.

In midfield, they have enjoyed two of their best signings in Yaya Toure and David Silva. Toure has been simply a monster on the field, whose pace, physical prowess, and timely goal-scoring have made him an instant favorite with the City faithful. Silva has added a crucial touch of creativity in their central midfield as his technical ability and vision is nothing short of magnificent at times. Nigel de Jong will continue his solid play as a defensive midfielder while Gareth Barry will likely still factor heavily up front in the central midfield in terms of building up chances.

The trickiest situation will be determining the striker situation at City. Carlos Tevez is a prolific finisher entering the prime of his career but he’s repeatedly shown his desire to leave the club. While he has been a central figure of their attack, it may be too risky to depend on him when he could want to leave at any moment. Emmanuel Adebayor will return from loan at Real Madrid and while he’s struggled at times to play with City, I feel he could still have a lot to offer considering he’s only 27 and is a proven goal-scorer in the EPL. That then leaves two of City’s young strikers of the future; Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. Dzeko struggled in his first few matches but he should be given more opportunity to improve this year. Balotelli meanwhile has been inconsistent, at times showing a lack of maturity and understanding on the field. However, he has recently showed his potential after being the man of the match in the FA Cup Final and City will hope that this will be the year that Balotelli moves forward in England.

In terms of coaching, while Roberto Mancini has proven to be a quality manager, he may be to blame for holding back their potential. The biggest question surrounding him is why he so often tends to favor using defensive tactics. Mancini is of course a product of Italian football, where defense often comes before anything else when it comes to winning. However, considering the potential of City’s roster, they were overly defensive and cautious against the top teams — often settling for a draw. They played ugly football especially at home against Manchester United where their safety-first approach took any life out of the game.

If this is City’s year to take charge, Mancini has to become more adventurous and creative in his tactics against elite teams. Creating goal-scoring opportunities is how the EPL is won and Mancini may be too afraid to gamble on his team going forward for the win against the best. As a result, I wonder whether this team has the character, spirit, experience and resolve to challenge United and the rest of the EPL for the title.

One thing about City that needs to be improved is the squad having more faith and belief in themselves as a team. While City greatly improved in terms of chemistry, they still need to get even better as they rely too often on individual performances.

City also fields a lineup that greatly lacks experience when it comes to winning trophies especially in England. The pressure may be too heavy for this team as they’ll enter next season with higher expectations than they probably have ever had before. After all the money that has been pumped into this club, it is time they take it to the next level in both England and Europe.

Overall, the 2011-2012 season should be a fascinating year for the squad. They have the individuals to win but it will all come down to their strategies, team-play, and resolve to be the best.

The United vs. City matches, especially, should be even more fun next season.

This entry was posted in Leagues: EPL, Manchester City. Bookmark the permalink.

About Michael Schwartz

Michael wrote for World Soccer Talk in 2011 and 2012 with pieces that tackled a variety of topics related to the English Premier League and International competitions. He’s now back to continue writing about the Beautiful Game. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelSchwart2
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19 Responses to Why Manchester City Are Best Poised to Challenge Manchester United for the Title

  1. dominjon says:

    Unless their manager changes his spots they won’t win the league, altough I would expect them to be nailed on for top 4 and will do well in Champions League. However unlike some of the other euro leagues, the Premiership requires a consistently positive approach to win.

  2. Maybee says:

    I think the only two teams likely to challenge United this year are Man City and Liverpool. However, I think Liverpool have a better chance of winning the league than City do. Man for man, City should have the better squad than Liverpool – a better squad than anyone in the PL, in fact. But it also has some of the biggest egos in the PL and a manager who hasn’t proven good man management skills. Unlike Kenny Dalglish. As a Liverpool fan, I know I’m biased, but I still think Liverpool’s a better bet than City.

    Also, with City in the Champion’s League at least through the group round (with away league fixtures after each game!!) and Liverpool with no European football, that should at least theoretically benefit Liverpool’s chances.

    • MUFC77 says:

      As much as i hate City and as much as I detest Liverpool both will be to inconsistent to win the league next season. It will be the usual 3-4 teams fighting it out with Liverpool scrapping for fourth spot. Give City one more season and a with a decent run in the champions league this year then i can see them being serious contenders.

      Then again they have to make it out of the group stages of the CL and they are going to be in group with at least two of the big boys just like spurs were this season.

      • Maybee says:

        “The usual 3-4″?

        United will challenge for the title. That’s a given.

        Arsenal. Well, they are Arsenal. They need some leadership on the pitch and off it. Wenger is not going to change his philosophy. Cesc will probably stay to mope another season, because I don’t think Barca can afford to pay what Arsenal want for him. They need to invest, and I don’t see that happening. Next season will be the same as this one.

        Chelsea. They’ve hung an albatross around their necks in the form of a sulky Spaniard. Half their team is aging and past their prime. They need to reinvest also. A new manager. Finding someone – anyone – to bring back the Torres of 08-09. Nope. Not happening this season.

        Tottenham. They’ll probably make a good run at top four, but they are no where close to challenging for the title this season.

        That only leaves Liverpool and Man City. And I stand behind my prediction:

        1 – Liverpool
        2 – United
        3 – City
        4 – Tottenham
        5 – Arsenal
        6 – Chelsea
        7 – QPR (oh, trust me, they’re coming…)

    • lolwut says:

      If you think liverpool are a better team than city then please for the love of god put down your crack pipe, liverpool improved under kd last season but you still need a few players to get to 4th yet let alone win it.

  3. SoccerLimey says:

    I wouldn’t be too quick to write off Chelsea if Hiddink gets the managers job over there. Combined with Abramovich’s money, they will challenge again. Arsenal, if they spend wisely and modify their approach will be a threat and frankly, Liverpool will be a force again too.

    I’m of the opinion that City will actually be the team to struggle.

    We’ll see.

  4. Steve says:

    I only see Chelsea and City challenging United. Liverpool did well in the second half of last season but there was no pressure on them. Just cant see them competing for the league at all.

    • Maybee says:

      There was no pressure on Liverpool to win during the second half of the season?

      I’m going out on a limb here to guess that you aren’t a Liverpool fan. There is ALWAYS pressure on Liverpool to win. Other clubs and those in the media might write us off, but the fans, Kenny, the owners, and the players themselves want to win more than anything. You should have seen/heard/read some of the teeth-gnashing that went on after each draw or loss. Liverpool fans put A LOT of pressure on the club to win. And, besides, Kenny and the players were pushing for a European spot. And nearly made it.

      If you are looking for a team to crumble when the pressure is on, don’t look at Liverpool.

      • MUFCforlife says:

        But there is a difference between playing for the title and winning in general to make up the awful first half of the season Liverpool had.

  5. Matt says:

    I know that it’s slightly irrational, but it really feels unfair that a small club is just able to buy their way to a league title.

    It was unfair when Chelsea did it, and it will be unfair when City do it in the next couple of years.

    I hope the Financial Fair Play initiative proves to work.

  6. Gary says:

    Liverpool will never win the title with buys like Carroll and Henderson. City are most likely to cahllenge for the title because they already have a decent squad, will be able to attract top talent as they are now in the Champions League and can afford to pay more wages to players than most other clubs. That’s a big advantage. I wouldn’t rule out Chelsea just yet. With the right manager and some housecleaning and new talent they could make a run at the title. I see it being either a 2 or 3 team race, United, City and maybe Chelsea.

    By the way, Liverpool are buying average British talent and selling talented players like Meireles. Aquilani, who had a decent season at Juventus, will also be sold. Can’t see how moves like this can help Liverpool’s title aspirations. I can see them paying 15 million for Charlie Adam and 20 million for Stuart Downing. This is the new Liverpool we are talking about. All money but average talent!

    • MUFC77 says:

      ^^^^^This is exactly right. Yes they are buying young English talent but in the grand scheme of things that English talent is not very good, just look at the England U21s. Maybe they can be great players in 3-4 years but by then Gerrard and Carragher will be done and gone and you have lose that experience to go along with the young talent.

      • TGN says:

        I don’t consider Carroll or Henderson “NEXT YEAR WE WIN” type purchases. Its 3-4 years as you say. The next set or purchases will decide if we have the playmakers and depth to stand up to the pace ManU set. Hoping for Mata, Zapata, Matuidi or any combination of the three along with some expected English attempts like Downing *But for 20 would much rather go after N’zogbia* .

        Fully expect a real challenge in two seasons, once Liverpool seize one of the four spots and can recruit on a even step with the other big clubs. And as long as Suarez is the focus of our attack, we can take on anyone.

        Meireles i don’t believe will be sold, all paper talk to stir the hornets nest. Aquilani doesnt want to come back, not much else we can do if the player wants to stay home to stay in the Azzuri as Italy chooses from people who play in Serie A usually *Why Rossi was kept out so long I believe* .

  7. Christian says:

    I’m so tired of hearing how Mancini holds back the team due to his defensive tactics. City finishes top three and wins a trophy and you’re whining about the game not being open enough. There are no style points last I checked. As a Citizen I couldn’t be happier with the results we’re seeing now.

    PS – City vs United is always exciting no matter what.

    • MUFCforlife says:

      I specifically said that City were on the rise and I wouldn’t be writing about them as the main contender to United if they hadn’t been doing well in the first place. I understand your argument because City fans aren’t use to their team doing this well which has generated great excitement. While being content with your team’s strides is good for you, City are never going to take off to win the League or stand a chance in the Champions League if they keep the same tactics. Open, attacking football is how most teams win and it takes character and spirit which City lacked when playing against the best teams by playing out for the draw. For the amount of $ pumped into the squad, their expectations should be a lot more than a top 3 finish and an FA Cup.
      PS-City vs United won’t be as lively especially at Eastlands if you keep playing for the draw.

      • Christian says:

        So says the United fan. Given time I’m sure the team will find a degree of working better with one another to produce this ‘open game’ that you’re looking for. I’ll look for points and results in the meantime. 3 points are 3 points no matter the score.

  8. Clampdown says:

    A post about true challengers for the 2011-2012 title before the summer transfer window even opens? I really think that more than in previous years this transfer window will have a great impact on that.

  9. cityman says:

    why do all the red fans go on about Mancini and his tactics at Eastlands when his own manger in Sir Taggart employed the exact same at OT as it was City doing all the attacking and until Kompany slipped Rooney would not have have shinned in that ”wonder goal”…. the same tactics was employed at Wembley as Utd came out” with it’s only City and we have beaten them already this term” mentality, they attacked for 15 to 20 mi nutes than City was in the asscendency and deserved to WIN….. so all the reds get used to the NOISY neighbours cos they are getting louder and Better……

    • Ctizien From the land says:

      I salute to oyur anylesis My friend.
      all of those who commented up are just scared of the blue moon that is rising

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