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Can Man City (finally) Replicate Chelsea's Success?

Manchester City's owner Sheik Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan (L) waves with chief executive Garry Cook ahead of their English Premier League soccer match against Liverpool at the City of Manchester stadium in Manchester, northern England, August 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: SPORT SOCCER BUSINESS) NO ONLINE/INTERNET USAGE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE ++44 (0)
As the teams take to the pitch in Eastlands on Saturday two teams will meet who have a very similar ownership structure and transfer policy. Whilst Chelsea have stopped their mega-spending they did attempt to assemble a squad of the best players at any cost after their initial take over, Manchester City have had to continue to try to ‘buy’ success. As these teams meet Chelsea sit atop the Premier League following a blistering start to the season, Manchester City meanwhile sit 7 points behind in 4th place. Man City have finished their second year under their mega-rich owners and the question remains can they follow Chelsea’s – literal – lead?

In June 2003, Chelsea were sold to Billionaire Russian Roman Abramovich in a move that rocked football. This was one of the largest buy-outs in football history and Abramovich set about by allowing his Manager, then Claudio Ranieri, to spend as he liked in the transfer market. Chelsea improved from 4th to 2nd behind Arsenal in their ‘Unbeatables’ season. Ranieri also took them to the semi-final of the Champions League but bizarrely lost out to Monaco. A change in manager soon followed as the eventual European Champion that year was chosen to take Chelsea to the next level. We are all aware of what happened next as Chelsea went on to win the league and established themselves as perennial title contenders.

In August 2008 Manchester City were bought by Abu Dhabi United Group whose total capital dwarfs that of Abramovich they stated their intent by purchasing Robinho from under the noses of their London opponents. Unfortunately for the club the ownership change arrived too late in the transfer window to allow City to set-up for the season coming a situation that was not rectified until the following summer as they outlaid £100m on new talent. The improvement from 10th to 5th was not enough to keep Mark Hughes in a job. City narrowly missed out on the Champions League and returned to spending this summer with the belief that this investment would make them contenders not just for a Champions League spot but a title run was possible.

The difference between these two stories is, at first glance, the almost instant success at Chelsea after replacing the incumbent manager has not been replicated at Manchester City but to draw your conclusion from that is not accurate as both teams did not start on equal footing. At Chelsea Abramovich had acquired a Champions League team whom he set about improving. They already had recognised stars in Frank Lampard, John Terry and William Gallas. The same could not be said for Manchester City as the new owners took a look at their squad, the excitement around City had been around the potential of players such as Richards, Johnson and Ireland rather than the top class calibre that Chelsea has. Also as alluded to above Chelsea were bought in June allowing Ranieri to improve upon his squad all over the summer, City were hampered in this regard. Finally, the draw of Champions League football was key in Chelsea’s recruitment drive, Manchester City can only offer the potential of the competition in this regard.

Chelsea were the model to follow in regards to ‘buying’ success, Abramovich took a top 4 club and gave them the funds to buy the players necessary to be title winners. Stability has been key to this success it is no surprise that in their least successful season since takeover Chelsea changed their manager in mid-season (Mourinho left relatively early the previous season). Still to call a FA cup and a CL semi-final as ‘unsuccessful’ shows how far Chelsea have come. The core spine of Drogba, Lampard, Terry and Cech were the key to this success and in this regard Manchester City are starting to show improvement their spine of Hart, Kompany, Barry and Tevez may not be title contenders just yet but if they keep those players together they could base their success around it. On the wings Chelsea initially found success with a young pairing of Damien Duff and Arjen Robben. Adam Johnson is the equal of Duff at that stage in his career and David Silva would hope to emulate Robben’s eventual rise to prominance despite his slow start. Full-backs were an issue for Chelsea early on and the same seems true for City. Much like Asier Del Horno (remember him) Kolorov has not adapted to the English game as the club may have liked, it took a tapping up charge for Chelsea to settle one of their full-backs let’s hope City can avoid that route.

Manchester City are starting to show the roots that made Chelsea the team they are today. A win on Saturday could reignite optimism around the club a defeat and the nay-sayers will be calling for unnecessary change. Having started with a weaker hand than Chelsea did instant success was unrealistic, the move to Mancini has not been heralded as a complete success but his style mimics that of Mourinho. Mourinho had the comfort of having a strong team to begin with and therefore had the ability to stay unbeaten until an early season loss (their only loss) to – yep – Man City. Mancini is now in the year where this type of success needs to be replicated. Mourinho did so on the basis of a strong defence, his winning detracted from accusations of boring football. Mancini’s record cannot provide this shield just yet.

Really, Manchester City’s expectations for the rest of the season depend on their result on Saturday if they play for and achieve a draw it is a tacit acceptance of Chelsea’s superiority if they lose then even in September the title looks lost but if they win they could be beginning the season that finally sets them in the Premier League elite and officially confirm them as Chelsea’s (only) bogey team.

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  1. Goal Addict

    September 25, 2010 at 7:21 am

    I don’t think Chelsea were a top four club already before Abramovic but they were in a better position than City are in now. The main difference is that Chelsea played their money so much better than City. The squad planning for City has been awful whereas for Chelsea it was so much better. The manager selections as well haven’t been befitting of a team that wants to be at the top. Mancini and Hughes? No offence but they don’t quite come close to Mourinho do they.

  2. 1fingerwillie

    September 24, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    “Kolorov has not adapted to the English game as the club may have liked”

    Kolorov has played exactly 45 minutes in the English game. He was injured in the opening match against the Spurs. May be a tad bit early to make this statement.

  3. RomaChelsea-American

    September 24, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    I just hope for a great match. Something similar to the United-City tilt last September works

  4. pacificStyle

    September 24, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    @ Husker:
    Yo dawg… that’s what the author’s trying to say in the first place!

  5. Husker Blu

    September 24, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Though the comparisons between the two clubs are inevitable, and in some ways fair on some levels. What needs remembering is, that on Chelsea’s takeover by Roman, they were already a top four side with a half decent squad and some success following Matthew Hardings’ (RIP) time at the helm.

    City by comparison were in the mire, not just financially, but team wise… expect City to gain the success Chelsea did in the same timescale is an unfair expectation to have of them. Success will come at City, what’s needed now is stability and time for the manager and the squad to settle and become a team….as a season ticket holder since 1983, and used to all the drama etc through the year, I will be more than happy with a good run in Europe, and hopefully a top four finish for this settling period…..the big prizes are for the future….

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