FOX Soccer Exclusive
Will City repeat as BPL champions?
Manchester City, welcome amongst the giants of soccer.
For years, the outfit from the north of England was merely the lovable loser neighbors of English titans Manchester United. But since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan took over the club in 2008, he invested over a billion dollars to convert the club into a winning organization – transforming the facilities for players and fans, getting top level coaches including manager Robert Mancini, and most notably, buying top level talent and paying them top level wages.
The formula was simple: Win at all costs.
And they have. City comes into the 2012-13 campaign as winners of back-to-back trophies (FA cup in 2011, Premier League championship in 2012). But just because they won their first championship since 1967-68 and added to their trophy case after years of lying bare, it doesn’t mean expectations have been met – if anything, it’s increased them as fans can finally remember (or get to know for the first time) what it’s like to be winners.
Hopefully City has enjoyed the title celebration, because it’s time to win another one.
And you better believe upper management knows the pressure is on.
Despite the money that has been spent in recent years, Mancini has openly complained about not having big names arrive during the summer months – while watching rivals Manchester United and Chelsea stock up on talent, including one-time City targets (Eden Hazard for Chelsea, Robin van Persie at United).
“I’m not happy but I won’t say anything at the moment,” Mancini said at a press conference less than two weeks before the start of the new season.
“I’m confident with my players. We won the last championship because we deserved to win…in my opinion we have a good team but we built this team two years ago. I think that it is impossible that two years ago you did everything perfect. You still need to improve.”
Shortly after that statement, he labeled United as the favorites entering the new campaign.
So is it time to take the crown off the champions head already? Hardly.
Despite the “Woe-is-me” approach Mancini is taking into the new season, it’s worth noting that two top bookmakers in Great Britain, Ladbrokes and William Hill, have installed City as the favorites to win the championship.
One reason for that is that City may not have added any pieces, but they aren’t losing any either.
It starts with one-time castaway/want-away Carlos Tevez. Last November, it looked like he had played his last game in City blue, yet he returned after a drawn-out saga and was integral in the team’s championship run. Not only is the Argentine returning, but he performed well in the offseason and looks to be a leader of the attack once again.
Then, you’ve got Mario Balotelli. The Italian also looked set to leave the club after several falling-outs with management because of on and off the field antics. Not only is he back, despite reported interest of several big-name clubs, but with the success he had during the Euro 2012 tournament with Italy (where he scored three times, including two in the semifinal versus Germany), he looks to be in form to start the season.
He’s also a year older – which hopefully means a year wiser for what it’s worth.
Throw in stars like David Silva and Sergio Aguero, who have been rumored to be on the wish list for other teams, and you start to get the feeling that Mancini already has a stocked team and is just trying to tamper expectations – just as he did last season during the title run, proclaiming the championship was United’s until the season was over.
Oh, by the way, the wheeling and dealing isn’t necessarily finished yet. Although the season begins this weekend, clubs have until August 31 to complete deals, so anything could happen.
It’s the dawn of a new era at Manchester City. With their recent success, they have made their made themselves one of the giants in the Barclays Premier League. Now it’s time to prove they belong.