So, this week, I understand fully what New York Yankees, New England Patriots and LA Lakers fans must be going through. To be so close to a trophy and have it slip from you (especially when you have a cabinet full) stings especially the way it did last Sunday. But, nonetheless, hats off to a Manchester City side that really did show what it meant to be a determined team hungry for a chance to win something that they haven’t had in over forty years.
Yesterday marked the end to a topsy turvy season and, as many have put it, one of the most remarkable seasons in years. For Manchester United, when you go into a game expecting others to do you favors, you will be disappointed. Sure, a lot of us were disappointed but as I had written in an earlier blog post, Manchester United was not at its strongest this season so this loss will be the one that stings but also a benchmark on what needs to improve for next season.
But, let’s look at Manchester City. They finally know that taste of victory that many other teams have known for years. But what must happen for City to do this again?
Let’s take a look at some of the basics:
1. Minimize the Drama
Let’s give Roberto Mancini credit. Going all the way back to Mario Balotelli’s antics during the international friendlies last summer and then through the season coupled with the Carlos Tevez saga that lasted a good portion of this season, City did manage to stay in good form all the way through where most teams would have been undone. However in my opinion, if City wants to repeat next season, that drama has to be minimized if not removed completely from the team. Many can still speculate if this season’s result would have been different had Tevez been dealt away during January’s transfer as he has been a key to City’s resurgence after smoothing things over with Mancini. Same goes with Balotelli as Mancini may have to have a firmer hand with Balotelli’s off field antics.
No team that is at the top can afford to have distractions of this type and still expect to win and although City played through them, next season could bode ill if persistent prima donna issues prevail. There has been some speculation that Balotelli could go to Inter or AC Milan for a reported 20 million but that remains to be seen. If he is sold, that’s one less problem for City. Carlos Tevez also has been linked to a move to AC Milan as even this week Adriano Galliani reported that they will make a bid for him (see report). So, if these two are gone by August, how will City replace this talent up front?
2. Get RVP or an MVP Up Front
If Balotelli and Tevez do leave or even if one leaves, City still needs talent up front especially to support Sergio Aguero.
City is taking a huge step by qualifying once again for the Champions League and they need players that can help them excel in that tournament. Robin van Persie would be the man to do it. The rumors (thus far unreliable at best) have already begun circulating that City may make a move for him, as well as Eden Hazard from Lille. You have seen the stats and we all know what van Persie can do as even through the last day he cemented his resume as a top striker in Europe.
Although Arsenal went through their own ups and downs to qualify for next season, what will it take for them to keep the top player of the year? Arsene Wenger was quoted by the National as saying, “Will Champions League football help to keep Van Persie? It makes it easier to attract good players and keep them.” The question is will the sheiks of City open up that purse, splash the cash and load that team up if they expect to compete with the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea to win next season? If they expect to keep the limelight on themselves they should and the first piece could begin with van Persie. I suspect however, van Persie may stay with Arsenal or at worst make a move to Serie A, but that still won’t stop City from looking elsewhere for talent.
Some other names that have been linked are Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuan and even Luka Modric of Tottenham. I would like to hear from City supporters on who they think would be a good fit for their side this off-season especially if they disagree with the RVP assessment.
3. Stay In Competition to Stay Relevant
Shockingly neither United nor City went as far in the Champions League, Europa League, FA Cup, or the Carling Cup as many predicted and should have gone this season. Even when City tumbled out of the Champions League into the Europa League, after soundly beating Porto, they were expected to dominate over Sporting Lisbon but were simply beaten because they underestimated the competition and were eliminated. If City wants to stay a relevant champion, they have to stack the silverware. They have proven that they could do it with an FA Cup win in 2011, but City will have to stay relevant in all levels of competitive play in order to start building a legacy that teams like Manchester United and Liverpool have rested on for years. This means not falling in the early rounds of the CL and if somehow they do, plan and execute well in the Europa League as well as all the other Cup competitions. Not only that, even if they don’t finish well in other competitions, City cannot allow themselves to become complacent and finish poorly in the EPL either. Anything below a top four finish next season is out of the question if City wants to build upon this season.
As City basks in the glow of their historic win, the pressure and spotlight is now on. The target has been painted on their backs for all to see and August can’t get here fast enough for teams to start taking their shots to see if City are really worthy champions or whether this was a once in a lifetime thing. City supporters surely don’t want to wait another 40 years for a big win and it all starts with decisions made today. While I am sure there are other keys that City needs to stay on top, what I have mentioned hopefully is enough to start the conversation.
Congratulations Manchester City. August can’t get here fast enough.