Mancini: City fourth favorites
Manager Roberto Mancini has made the astonishing claim that Manchester City should be regarded as low as fourth favourites for the Premier League this season.
Despite landing their first title for 44 years with virtually the last kick of the campaign, Mancini has been frustrated in his efforts to strengthen City’s squad.
Long-time target Robin van Persie looks set to join Manchester United, Eden Hazard opted for Sunday’s Community Shield opponents Chelsea, whilst Daniel Agger, Daniele de Rossi and Scott Sinclair also remain elusive despite being on City’s radar.
"United start as favourites this year," said Mancini, ahead of Sunday’s Community Shield showdown with Chelsea at Villa Park.
"We are maybe in second, third or fourth position."
Mancini’s irritation is obvious and even though he largely kept a lid on his frustration, the target is equally clear; sporting director Brian Marwood.
"I don’t know what I should say in this situation because after three months, four months, I don’t know," said Mancini.
"You have to speak to our sporting director, not me.
"I am not happy but I won’t say anything at the moment."
Mancini’s philosophy is simple.
Following last season’s heart-stopping triumph, City were in the perfect position to reinforce. Instead, he fears they are standing still.
"When you win something it is important to improve," he said.
"But you should not buy new players 10 days from the end of the window. It should be two months.
"The championship finished on May 13. You needed to buy players before now.
"Now it is difficult because there are some teams who can’t sell their players because they don’t have time to buy anyone else.
"The next 20 days is very difficult in the market."
Mancini added that any newcomers have missed out on pre-season work with their new team-mates, although that could also be levelled at Van Persie if he ends up at Old Trafford.
"If United buy Van Persie it is better for them," said Mancini.
"They need a player like Van Persie. He could play for any team because he is a top player."
If there is any club who got it right, it is Chelsea, who moved early for Hazard.
"I am not surprised how much Chelsea have spent," said Mancini.
"Probably they needed to buy new players because they lost Drogba, who was an important player for them."
Yet the situation is not as straightforward as Mancini would like to believe.
It is fairly obvious City have the finances to fund any deal. However, Marwood is having to juggle the demands of meeting UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations.
That is already going to be difficult given the vast sums City have spent. But with high earners like Emmanuel Adebayor proving hard to shift, Marwood will not sanction further outlay.
What makes it worse for Mancini that there has been interest in members of his squad that he does not want to lose – namely Mario Balotelli, who earned such praise for his performances at Euro 2012.
"This summer, we had a lot of requests for him," said Mancini.
"Many important teams wanted Mario. Four or five from Italy. Another from France. This is a sign that he is a top player.
"I didn’t think about saying yes because he is young and we are sure he can improve and be an important player for the club."
Mancini does not believe one tournament alone will be enough to persuade Balotelli to curb his excesses.
However, he does feel his achievements in Poland and Ukraine may help Balotelli realise how much is at risk if he fails to fulfil his promise.
"It is true Mario had a fantastic European Championship," said Mancini.
"I don’t think he can change his behaviour just because he played very well at the Euros but it can help him.
"If he understands he has all this quality it will be important for him to improve his behaviour."
As Balotelli and David Silva only returned to training six days ago, they are unlikely to start against Chelsea.
In addition, Gareth Barry and Micah Richards have been ruled out with abdominal and ankle complaints respectively.
The good news for City is that skipper Vincent Kompany is expected to shrug off a calf complaint that forced him to fly home from his club’s Far East tour.