Ahead of the new season, we got all of our writers together to bring you the thoughts and feelings of everybody here at Typical City HQ. So here’s myself, David Mooney, Rob Toole, Alex Timperley, Ciaran Murray and Richard Burns answering a few questions about our title defence.
Where will City finish?
MOONEY: I’m feeling fairly confident as I feel like City has made some astute signings this summer and that the chief exec and director of football has been improving areas that needed attention last year. However, I’m concerned Chelsea have also strengthened well, so I feel those will be the top two next season. Hopefully it’ll be City out on top.
POLLARD: It’s tough to call, particularly with the window still open, but as it stands today Chelsea appear favourites. They’ve spent well and have a manager who, though risible, is very good at getting results.
I’ll back City but Chelsea will give us one hell of a fight.
TOOLE: 1st. Why not, eh? We have a great squad and have added strength in depth this summer. If you think of all the silly points we threw away at the beginning of last season we should have walked the league last season. Hopefully this time around there won’t be the teething problems we had last year and can steal a march on our rivals. The tough start we have could work in our favour.
TIMPERLEY: Champions again. We’ve learnt our lessons from the last time we were in this position. I trust the players and have faith in the management and so have no problem predicting we will retain our hard won crown.
BURNS: I’ll be optimistic and say this will be a successful title defence. Chelsea should provide very tough competition and there are elements of the unknown about Arsenal, United and Liverpool this season. City and Chelsea look best placed though, and I’ll back our blues to take top spot again.
MURRAY: I don’t know if I can really feel that City are going to retain the title this season, you know. That’s my internal blue-blooded pessimism speaking for me but I think we’ll struggle to a degree. It’s been a gruelling summer for a lot of the key players and title rivals have spent their summers strengthening. I worry about the character of some players after winning the league – will they have enough fight to go again? I think Chelsea will do it and City will come in second. Prove me wrong, Blues. Please.
What do you think of our business so far?
MOONEY: It’s been pretty slick: strengthening previously dodgy areas with good-value buys. Better still, it’s been done early, with plenty of time for the new boys to settle in during pre-season – and that was one of City’s biggest failings the last time they were defending champions.
POLLARD: I think City have done some excellent business. The squad needed padding out with some quality, and Sagna, Caballero and Fernando do that. Fernando, from what I hear, is a right character, never stops running and is a disciplined, tenacious tackler. He sounds like he may well go down a storm at City. Mangala I haven’t seen loads of but we needed a central defender and I back Pellegrini and Begiristain’s judgement, which is a lovely feeling.
TOOLE: Good. There is a bit of a myth that City have great strength in depth just because we have spent lots of money but it was obvious even to the most casual observer that we were light in defensive areas last season. It seems like that has been addressed this summer.
TIMPERLEY: The summer transfer business is very encouraging so far. The long term identification of weaknesses is great. It suggests that the club won’t ever repeat the scattergun approach from a few years back which landed us with Maicon and Scott Sinclair amongst others…
BURNS: It looks good to me. I can’t lie and say and I’ve seen a whole lot of Fernando or Mangala but I’ve read around them and I’m excited to see what they add. Sagna on a free is shrewd business. We can’t keep asking Zabaleta to play as much as he has been doing for two seasons so it’ll be good to rotate there. It looks like small but significant improvements than any major surgery, which is exactly what was needed.
MURRAY: I’m pretty happy with City’s business this summer, overall. I find the whole Frank Lampard thing mental but the audacity of it makes my face do a cheeky grin. Delighted with Sagna as a back up to Zabaleta who must surely be about to collapse with the games he’s played in the last few seasons. I’ve been impressed with Zuculini (although I’m not sure what his terms are); Fernando looks like he’ll ignore everyone else in the team to focus on getting his own job done, in turn benefitting the team, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the fuss is about with Mangala. Any departures will be sad to see happen but understandable and it looks like City again have sought balance as opposed to out and out marquee signings which, at this stage, is what we need to be doing.
Can we improve our European performance?
MOONEY: Definitely – there’s always room for improvement. I think Pellegrini will have learnt a few lessons from last season, specifically that he needs to be a little more flexible. For instance, it was painfully obvious his 4-4-2 wasn’t working at home to Bayern Munich and it took him too long to change it. Hopefully the draw will be kind and he’ll do the sums well – even if nobody else realised at the time either.
POLLARD: Yeah, I think we can. I think that Barcelona tie last season was great for us. We showed them way too much respect and my bet is the players look back on that as a massive opportunity missed. We need to learn the lessons of the past and start believing we’re good enough to make the latter stages because we definitely are.
TOOLE: I think so. I would imagine we would have a better ranking because of our performance last year and an easier group this season, as a result. We have the players to go far, I just question whether they have the collective belief that they can really compete with the likes of Barca, Madrid, Bayern, etc.
TIMPERLEY: Yes. I’d say not only that we can improve on it, but we absolutely must. We’ve got the players, we’ve got the experience, we’ve got a manager who knows his way around European competition. If this coming campaign becomes another abortive failure, serious questions have to be asked even considering the squad cap which we’ve been handed.
BURNS: Yes. The team have leaned a bit more about what the Champions League is about and the experience of playing in the knock-out rounds can only help. We were naive in the home leg against Barcelona but City proved at the Nou Camp and in Munich that they can hurt very good teams. I think progression to the semi-final stage is very achievable, then beyond that who knows what might happen?
MURRAY: I’d like to think so, yes. I don’t understand pots and balls and seeding and all that but we’re bound to have been there long enough now to get a kind group that we could win? That should make progression beyond the last 16 a little easier. I’m not really hugely fussed though, lads. Not at the minute. I’d rather City were *thee* dominant force in England first. Champions League success would obviously be amazing and is evidently the target for Pellegrini but I don’t think we’re ready yet. I’d be delighted to slowly but surely be making progress so Quarter Finals this season would satisfy me.
What did you make of Pellegrini’s first season?
MOONEY: Not too bad! I think a domestic double in his first year isn’t a bad way to begin. That said, he was somewhat naive at times and made some odd choices – like prioritising the almost unwinnable Barcelona game over the very winnable Wigan game and going out of the FA Cup. Equally, he played the end of the season perfectly and the title was won in a very calm and controlled manner.
POLLARD: Pellegrini did a magnificent job. Two trophies and the best football we’ve played in my lifetime. He brought a real freedom and happiness to the club and it paid off in the end. The fact that Aguero, Toure, Kompany and Silva were rarely ever on the pitch at the same time and we still won two trophies says everything you need to know about his first year in charge.
TOOLE: Incredible. The best season of my lifetime. Two titles, loads of goals, beautiful football. What more could you ask for? If I was nitpicking, I was disappointed with the way we limped out of the FA Cup especially given that it was really there for the taking.
TIMPERLEY: A mixture of competence and naivety against the big teams (Chelsea, Barcelona etc). The good thing about the mistakes Pellegrini made is that they are easily identifiable and, therefore, fixable which is infinitely preferable to the alternative.
BURNS: Excellent. What else can you say? He won two major trophies and we saw some glorious football. He screwed up in the FA Cup with his team selection against Wigan, and arguably showed Barcelona too much respect but hopefully those will be lessons learned for his second season. I like him a lot and see no reason why this campaign can’t be more of the same.
MURRAY: Loved it. What a dignified man and what a fantastic trophy haul for a first season in charge. Think of the coverage Moyes would have got if he’d achieved half of what Pellegrini did… But that’s exactly it. He’s brought a kind of quiet, peaceful, almost boring tranquility to proceedings and it’s very hard for journalists to concoct any fluff on City now. He let his football philosophy do the talking and some of what we saw on the pitch this year was breathtaking. I hope now he can use his man-management skills to inspire fire in the bellies of the squad to head into battle again.
Which journalist pissed you off the most last season, and is there one
MOONEY: I don’t really get annoyed by anything like that. I’ve got one or two things on the net MCFC-wise that annoy me, but that’s as much as I’ll say. I hear that David Mooney chap’s pretty good, too.
POLLARD: Neil Custis, obviously. I love Danny Taylor, who continues to prove he’s not just a fabulous writer, but also a well-connected, level-headed man. I also enjoy the work of Stu Brennan and Richard Jolly.
TOOLE: All of them? The Custis brothers probably. They just get so angry about City and it really is rather amusing/tragic/pathetic. That said, there are some diamonds in the rough. Daniel Taylor is probably everyone’s favourite and he is mine as well.
TIMPERLEY: The worst attempt at journalism was David Lynch’s MS Paint expose of some empty seats scattered around the Etihad. It was a masterclass in pettiness.
Daniel Taylor is still the best football journalist around in my opinion. Consistently great writing and journalism. I also want to give a shout out to Hadley Freeman’s World Cup coverage. It was inventive and funny and showed us bits of Brazil and the World Cup we’d never have seen otherwise.
BURNS: I don’t know if this will be popular, but I tend not to get too wound up by journalists. Neil Ashton used to be an irritant because he was happy to be nothing but a wind-up merchant, which is a shame, but he seems to be less prominent than he was. I’ve never been particularly fond of Patrick Barclay either I guess.
Daniel Taylor is, for my money, the best football journalist in the country by a distance. He’s interesting, fair, knowledgeable and informative – what more could you want from a journalist?
MURRAY: Jamie Jackson with his unwavering commitment to using ellipsis in every single tweet… To be fair I warmed to him as the season went on but he didn’t half stir the pot when Joe Hart was SENSATIONALLY DROPPED in November. I’m not one for believing in papers having purely anti-City agendas but I feel Jamie Jackson certainly doesn’t like City that much; it seems to pain him to offer anything by way of a compliment.
Daniel Taylor, on the other hand, is just such a wonderful writer who exudes warmth, wit and an incredibly unbiased and knowledgeable reporting style – whether it’s City or anyone else he’s writing about. I love reading everything he ever writes and drunkenly told him so at half time during the last game of the season. Let’s hope the positive tone he takes when writing about City hasn’t changed after that little episode. Crumbs…
Compiled by Rob Pollard