2011/12 Campaign (1st in the Premier League)
From 2004 through 2010 Chelsea were accountable for 14% of the Premier League’s total expenditure on wages. In over 36 years’ of database statistics for over 100 top-flight clubs never has their been such a large share of total wage expenditure. In simple terms the average Premier League side should contribute with 5% of the total league wage expenditure – Chelsea’s nearly tripled that and it is thus no surprise that they won the title the joint most times during this period. However, in 2010, their financial dominance was being shrunk. Manchester City were rapidly growing, as was their wage bill. By the end of 2010, City’s wage expenditure was at 10% of the Premier League’s total wage bill. By 2012 they had the largest wage bill in the league and, as proven over 37 years, wage expenditure is the greatest correlation to league position and therefore it was no real surprise Manchester City won their first title since 1968.
It, perhaps most importantly on a tribal fan level, spelled the end of Manchester United’s dominance over City. Ironically a year within being labeled as nothing more than “noisy neighbours” by Manchester’s chief landlord Sir Alex Ferguson. Now, however, the unwritten tenants’ agreement has been ripped up, Manchester City have moved into to the top spot and United are now like the crestfallen local political party begging desperately hard for votes in an attempt to quickly become re-elected. In Sir Alex Ferguson, Mancini has the stiffest of competition: no manager has won the Premier League title as many times as he has and, arguably, the Scot has faced tougher challenges, twice winning the title when Chelsea were dwarfing United in terms of wage expenditure and transfer expenditure.
It was City’s home record that in large part contributed to their incredible success: their away record wasn’t bad either – 2nd place, only bettered by their strongest rivals Manchester United. At home, however, City found a fortress in the Etihad not losing once. In fact, it could be put down to their impeccable home record that they won the title. United’s own home record saw them pick up 8 fewer points than their “noisy neighbours” with a goal difference ten smaller. In the end it had simply come down to goal difference and City’s was eight goals greater, making their dominance over United in the 6-1 derby triumph all the more poignant.
Uncharacteristically, given their expenditure in the past four seasons, Manchester City are yet to start their annual summer spending extravaganza. Whilst Greg Cunningham has departed for Bristol City on a free transfer, Owen Hargreaves has been released alongside Gunnar Nielsen and Stuart Taylor and Wayne Bridge has been sent out on loan to Brighton & Hove Albion, the movement into The Etihad has been no greater than the six players on Euro 2012 duty returning. They have had their fair share of transfer headlines, but when a club can literally afford every player on the planet, it is easy for the press to make tenuous and often tedious links. One thing that is certain, though, is that with their rivals spending vast amounts (Chelsea have already spent £65.5m) City will be in the hunt for yet another big-name signing in the next three weeks, or face the challenge of holding their own against improved opposition: “It is important (to get players quickly) because, after what we did last year, it is important we continue to win. This year will not be easy. It will be harder than last year and for this reason, we need to improve our team.”
The list of names linked with a move to Manchester City is both illustrious and long; some of which have already concluded deals elsewhere. Thiago Silva was one of the first names linked with a move to Manchester City, however, that deal was twice buffered: firstly, the dominant Brazilian centre-back penned a new contract at the San Siro with AC Milan and secondly, suggesting the first reason was rather invalid, he signed for PSG alongside teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Since then, the strongest rumour was that of Arsenal striker Robin van Persie. A total of 27 different media outlets suggested he was going to be joining the firepower of Manchester City: however, Mancini denied the Dutchman would be joining, categorically: “”Van Persie? No, I don’t think he will come here.”
Their first preseason outing finished in defeat for City, losing 1-0 to Al Hilal, with only 4 first team starters in the line-up. That defeat was quickly followed up by a six-game unbeaten streak, drawing one and winning five, in that order. Furthermore, in that unbeaten streak, City have only conceded once and only twice all summer. Carlos Tevez is also a notable inclusion in each and every game, seemingly fully forgiven for last season’s bizarre happenings which acted as a subplot to most of City’s season. If a partnership can be struck up between City’s two Argentine strikers, it may provide another option just as good as a new signing.
Roberto Mancini has made his viewpoint clear, “we need to improve our team.” His words are wise enough for us to predict that at current City are perhaps not best equipped to win the title back-to-back given the improvements their contenders are making. Their apparent interest in both Thiago Silva and Robin van Persie suggest they are in the market for a centre-back and a striker, but given their relatively young squad – an average age of 26.6 – evolution rather than revolution could serve City better: growing as a team rather than changing the team. This notion may point towards fewer transfers this summer, instead vying for small improvements rather than mass change. Either way, if the desire if there, City can purchase who they wish.
Their rivals – Arsenal, Chelsea, United and perhaps Tottenham – have all started spending. Arsenal have purchased two international strikers at the top of their game in Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud, as well as Andrei Arshavin returning from loan. Chelsea have spent over £60m on the likes of Brazilian attacking midfielder Oscar, the two Hazard brothers and Marko Marin. Manchester United are supposedly closing deals for Robin van Persie and Lucas Moura, as well as reigniting their interest in Pole Roberto Lewandowski, having already bought his former teammate Shinji Kagawa and Crewe’s Nick Powell. Tottenham, under the new management of Andre Villas Boas, are “trying to put together a squad that makes us compete for the title,” according to the Portuguese gaffer, and the men to do so are so far an Vertonghen from Ajax for £10.5m and Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson, who spent last season at Swansea.
With their immediate rivals already tens of millions ahead of them in investment for next season, Manchester City’s agenda for next season is either stable growth and evolution of the current squad, or a risky late start to the season, with players still coming in as the season gets underway. With a Champions League run on the cards and potentially divided opinions on how to best go for both, this season could prove far more interesting for the casual spectator than last, as Roberto Mancini faces the challenge of defending a title.
Prediction: 2nd place