FEATURE: Do Manchester City Need a Squad Overhaul?

As Manchester City’s stuttering title defence reaches it’s almost inevitable conclusion, many rumours have circulated around who will be on the receiving end of Sheikh Mansour’s wielded axe come this summer. While Blues around the world will be disappointed by what has been, to a large extent, a frustrating campaign, they must empathise with Roberto Mancini after he failed to receive the backing of then Football Administrator Brian Marwood during the summer transfer window.

With speculation that a huge squad over-haul will commence this summer, key players such as Carlos Tevez, Edin Džeko and Samir Nasri could find themselves somewhere else this September. Mancini is also supposedly attempting to cut his losses, with last summer’s recruits – Javi Garcia, Maicon and Scott Sinclair – set to follow them out of the door.

And a squad over-haul is exactly what City need.

It is evident that this Manchester City side bears too much deadwood: players who are certainly not to the standard of a team with domestic and European aspirations. Scott Sinclair has no place here while Javi Garcia and Maicon have not yet asserted themselves. The blame of these transfers can be placed at Mancini’s door, though he will be quick (rightly) to point the finger at Brian Marwood who failed to back him with the transfers, he felt, would help move City forward. Never has the phrase “Standing still in the Premier League is the same as walking backwards” seemed more appropriate.

Then there are others who are merely squad players, yet are on huge wages, crippling City’s ambition to comply with Financial Fair Play rules for next year. City fans will be thankful that Roque Santa Cruz, Wayne Bridge and Kolo Toure will be out of contract in the summer, trimming a good portion of our monstrous wage bill. But who else goes?

Joleon Lescott has been a tremendous player for City for nearly 4 years, an essential figure in our recent rise but you feel his time is ticking. Nearing 31 and but a year on his contract – which I doubt will be renewed because of the unlikely, yet brilliant, success of the young Matija Nastasic.

Another possible victim of this summer would be Samir Nasri. He enjoyed a promising debut season at City with 6 goals and 9 assists but his form/progress has stalled and was last week publicly criticised by Roberto Mancini who questioned his ambition. A player, in my opinion, too content on being a passenger during games. Often passive or invisible, combined with his poor work-rate, Nasri has reaped huge pressure on David Silva to be the prime creator of chances (nearly 80 this season) in this City team. Attracting interest from clubs such as Monaco, Nasri can expect to be moved on if he doesn’t improve vastly.

Tevez’s possible departure has sparked the most discussion amongst blues, being a key figure in the squad, yet used by Mancini as a bit part player. Famously dubbed as Terrier-Like, Carlitos understands the rise of the Blue Moon more than most players but whether he cares is another matter. His work-rate, dribbling and vibrant harrying of defenders is unmatched and would be an excellent asset to any squad in Europe. However with Tevez nearing 30 and on filthy wages reported to be in excess of 200K a week it would be understandable to move him on. Tevez will also have just 1 year left on his contract this summer and quick-fire sale would do wonders to our wage bill..

As you would suspect, many players have now been linked to City such as Cavani, Falcao, Neymar, Isco and Victor Wanyama. A world-class, ruthless striker never hurts anyone and if Cavani or Falcao were to join City I would be over the moon. However, you would expect Aguero to drop deep in the hole to take up the ‘Tevez’ position.

Wanyama, a player I greatly admire, would slot perfectly into our team but there are no places for him. With Barry maintaining his consistently excellent performances and Yaya marauding through defences, he would struggle to hold down a place here. All that and not even considering the young and improving Jack Rodwell vying for a place there.

Also another center back and a more prominent role for the highly rated academy product Karim Rekik would be welcomed. Many also seem to forget we have our own young striking gem – John Guidetti. John, now 21, scored an astonishing 20 goals in 23 appearances on loan at Feyernoord last season and has been rightfully confirmed as our 4th striker.

What is certain is that while Mancini’s City are capable of Premier League domination, they lack an identity in Europe. Bobby Manc’s criticised European tactics have failed to impress Blues because of its similarity to his domestic one. Mancini’s style revolves around possession around the box, utilising the intricate short passing and dribbling attributes of Silva, Aguero and Tevez. The idea is that Mancini’s fullbacks (aka *wingers*) stretch play wide to the corner flag to drag defenders out of position to free up space for our attackers, who interchange positions brilliantly around the box. If all fails then Mancini usually releases the Kracken (Yaya) up forward, a position where he sparkles. When these tactics are correctly used, the effects can be devastating.

While effective in the league, this style of play has been thwarted by better defensively organised teams, or worse – teams who press high up the pitch effectively – Roberto’s Achilles heel. Too often teams from all around Europe have stifled our style of play so simply – from Borussia Dortmund to Ajax and even Southampton.

Our lack of specificity in our style of play in Europe can also hurt us. If you look, the top teams on the big stage are either possession-based like Bayern Munich or Barcelona or counter-attacking styled like Real Madrid or Juventus. Even Celtic and the Italian teams rely on their ability to get numbers behind the ball and hold a lead. We seem to be a mix of everything; which does not suffice in the modern game.

This City team still boasts a youthful look and has plenty of time to fulfill its potential with few players over 30 and an average squad age of less than 26; but marquee signings and tactical changes are important if Mancini wishes to transform a team that was built to challenge for the league. Change is now essential if Roberto wishes to compete in Europe and ultimately keep his job.

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