As in 2013, Manchester City didn’t make a very good go of defending their Premier League title. Manuel Pellegrini’s job appeared to be under threat at one point and they once again failed to challenge Barcelona in the Champions League. A revolution seemed likely but only two players have come in so far, albeit one of impeccable talent. It might be win or bust for Pellegrini this season with Guardiola rumours increasing all the time.
Last Season: Premier League (2nd)
Manager: Manuel Pellegrini
GKs: Joe Hart, Willy Caballero, Richard Wright
DFs: Bacary Sagna, Vincent Kompany, Pablo Zabaleta, Aleksandar Kolarov, Eliaquim Mangala, Gael Clichy, Martin Demichelis, Jason Denayer
MFs: Fernando, Samir Nasri, Jesus Navas, Fabian Delph, David Silva, Fernandinho, Bruno Zuculini, Yaya Toure, Marcos Lopes, Patrick Roberts, Brandon Barker, George Evans
FWs: Raheem Sterling, Wilfried Bony, Sergio Aguero, Kelechi Iheanacho, Jose Pozo
In: Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Enes Unal (Bursaspor), Patrick Roberts (Fulham)
Out: Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Matija Nastasic (Schalke), Micah Richards (Aston Villa), Scott Sinclair (Aston Villa), Frank Lampard (New York City), James Milner (Liverpool), Alvaro Negredo (Valencia), John Guidetti (Celta Vigo), Karim Rekik (PSV), Martin Samuelson (West Ham United), Jordy Hiwula (Huddersfield Town), Stevan Jovetic (Inter Milan – Loan), Angelino (New York City – Loan), Enes Unal (Genk – Loan)
First Six: West Brom (A), Chelsea (H), Everton (A), Watford (H), Crystal Palace (A), West Ham United (H)
Likely Lineup: (4-3-3) Hart – Sagna, Kompany, Mangala, Kolarov – Fernandinho, Delph, Toure – Silva, Aguero, Sterling
A word from…Willie Donachie
On his time at Maine Road It was fantastic. I think, just getting the opportunity was great, all the talk now is about youngsters not getting a game but back then young people got a chance.
Everyone had homegrown players, it was a great time for me because Man City were one of the top teams in the country at that time, we had a great team. There’s something about City that has never changed, the unpredictability. I loved the way we played then and I love the way they play now, everybody respects that attacking philosophy.
In 1968 when we won the league it was 4-2 away at Newcastle, that wouldn’t happen now, it would be 1-0 up and park the bus! It’s the British way to be positive though and that’s always been City’s way.
On the City legends The first thing is players like Franny Lee and Colin Bell were great people too. Nobody was earning a fortune, it was about playing together, getting to know each other, we had Tony Book as a real leader as well as people like Mike Summerbee too.
They’d do well in the game today too, they’d still be greats. They were all fantastic people, fantastic players and we had a great time together, they’d all be worth fortunes now! The place was such a positive place under managers like Malcolm Allison, everything he worked on was positive. If it didn’t work, he’d try something new. We’d use to eat steaks before a game and he was the first to bring in pasta before matches, he was ahead of his time!
Joe Mercer had unbelievable respect because of what he’d done in the game and Tony Book was player of the year well into his thirties, he commended that respect too. But like the players, they were great people and all massively positive about the club, it was a joy to be there.
On the big changes Society has changed, the club has changed too. They’ve kept prices down for the fans, Manchester people who care about the club. I still feel when you go it’s Manchester people who care and I hope they can keep that feeling over the next few years.
It’s real fans who will give every last penny to the club, the players have to understand that, even though a lot of them are rich they are playing for people who would give anything to follow their club.
On recruitment They definitely need to strengthen, when Liverpool had their long-term success they’d buy a couple of big names every season. They’d take gambles too, Ian Rush came from Wrexham and you’ve always got to evolve or get better.
Malcolm used to say you either get better or you get worse, there’s no standing still. It’s difficult because there’s fewer and fewer good players in Britain now to be honest. Kids don’t play as much anymore, some go abroad and you get players coming in who don’t understand the philosophy of the club. Every player you buy now is a gamble because so much money is involved.
The money invested in the academy looks good, if they can build up homegrown players that would be ideal. But you don’t know how they’ll develop. To me, it’s ridiculous that players can be bought when they’re 5 or 6 years old and managers don’t have time for that. Southampton’s policy is to have 50% homegrown players in their club but Man City’s priorities are a bit different from theirs, but it should be an aim to have more homegrown players as well as big stars.
On Pellegrini Sadly, managers are under pressure because that’s the way football is. I really hope he does well but personally I think we’ve been a bit too open defensively.
When they’re good, they’re a joy to watch going forward but they need to tighten up defensively and as we’ve said, keep strengthening the team. But I like Pellegrini and I really do hope he succeeds again this season.
The Offside Rule Podcast Prediction: It’s hard to see City challenging given the lack of top class defender and a Paul Pogba in midfield. Pre-season hasn’t been great but the front three looks superb on paper. The creativity of Silva, the pace of Sterling and the devastating talents of Sergio Aguero could give them a chance but they need another player or two.
Key Player: Sergio Aguero – Despite injuries, Aguero was in superb form last season and if he plays every week, he could get 30 in the Premier League, he’s that good. There’s not much more to say on a player the world knows inside out.
One to Watch: Fabian Delph – Whilst all eyes will be on Raheem Sterling, Delph could be a shrewd purchase at just £8m. Homegrown, he will play much more than people imagine if Pellegrini goes with a 4-3-3 formation and he could flourish around top quality players.