BY WASIM PARKAR – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
As the ink is yet to dry on Fernandinho’s recently signed bumper contract at the Etihad Stadium, fans of Manchester City can start to look at next season with renewed optimism. The hierarchy at the top seem determined not to repeat the shenanigans of last summer’s transfer window, and are ready to spend big amounts on higher quality of players.
Matija Nastasic turned out to be a brilliant signing last year, and the displays of the young Serb suggest he is going to be one of the leading central defenders of the next generation. While I think Roberto Mancini deserved the sack, I do agree that he was short-handed with some of the signings. If Jack Rodwell overcomes his injury problems, he might yet grow into a midfield lynchpin for Manchester City. However, the purchases of Scott Sinclair and Javi Garcia were extremely underwhelming, resulting in a title-winning squad stagnating rather than improving. To compound matters, all of City’s transfers last year were completed at the eleventh hour.
Already this offseason City are rectifying both mistakes in the transfer market. Jesus Navas and Fernandinho have both signed on with pre-season training still a month away. There were no protracted negotiations or unnecessary bargaining. The 17 million pounds for Navas is about the right price, and while some would balk at the 30 million paid for Fernandinho, I think in due course the Brazilian will prove to be a significant upgrade on the current options City possess in the middle of the park.
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Navas has always been one of the most exciting players to watch in La Liga, and while he probably should have scored more goals for such an attacking player at this stage of his career, his assists and consistent ability to beat the opposing full-back will be an added attacking dimension that City can utilize in the new season. Even if Navas is to be used primarily from the bench, it gives a different context to the forward play of the team, which for all its guile, was simply too narrow on most occasions last season.
On paper, Fernandinho might not seem to be a stellar signing, but the central midfielder will certainly play an important role for the team. For one, his addition will liberate Yaya Toure even more. His tackling is of exceptional quality, and his ability to break up play and act as a pivot between defence and attack will ensure that City have better overall possession of the ball. Finally any signing from Shakhtar Donetsk will have an ingrained winning mentality, a team that has won the Ukrainian League four years in a row, won the UEFA Cup, and have had consistent runs to the knockout stages of the Champions League.
Most significantly however, it is quite evident that between Txiki Begiristain, Ferran Soriano and new incoming manager Manuel Pellegrini, the new players will fit into a clearly defined style and tactical system. Tactics are Pellegrini’s greatest strength, and a key facet of his excellence at different clubs has been finding the right players to fulfil their tactical roles even at the expense of stars. The gifted Malaga playmaker Isco is rumoured to be the next arrival at the Etihad, another player well suited to Pellegrini’s style.
Pellegrini is known as a gentleman, but he doesn’t tolerate his players hiding in big games. With increased quality coming in to the squad, City’s stalwarts can no longer take their places in the starting eleven for granted if they don’t perform to the standard expected by the Chilean engineer.
Manchester City must be hurting that the title they won in such dramatic style was so easily reclaimed by hated rivals Manchester United. Along with the return of Jose Mourinho as manager of Chelsea, the Citizens know the battle to reclaim top spot is going to be harder than ever. However, by concluding transfers earlier in the summer and also simultaneously upgrading the quality and increasing competition in the squad, City are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring that they at least start the new season on sound footing.