Opposition Report: Manchester City by Graham MacAree @MacAree

Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Note: The intent was to have opposition supporters write these opposition guides. After all, they know their teams better than Chelsea supporters do, and it’s always good to give pleasant writers the chance to talk to a higher-quality audience than they’re used to. If you click ahead you’ll find that both Manchester United and Arsenal have indeed been previewed by their own fans. This is not the case for last year’s runners-up, Manchester City.

It’s not that we didn’t want to have a City fan write this preview. We just couldn’t get one to do it. People were busy, apparently. There was only one conclusion we could come to: nobody on the Internet will admit to being a City fan in writing. And so one of us would have to pretend to be one. Welcome, therefore, to Definitely A Manchester City Fan Graham MacAree’s* preview of the club he definitely supports, Manchester City.

*He’s like normal Graham, but probably less talented. Certainly less handsome.

Manchester City have taken over their cross-town rivals’ position as the most consistently good team in the Premier League. While United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool have all experienced their wobbles over the past four years, City have been serene throughout, fighting their way to a pair of titles and finishing runners-up twice. The reason for their success is obviously the vast amount of money that’s been injected into their squad, and they mostly appear to be coasting along on their old core of Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, David Silva and Sergio Agüero.

Which is some core to be coasting on, in fairness. There are signs, however, that the first era of their new-look team is coming to a close. Vincent Kompany was off for most of last season, and Yaya Toure was nothing like his dominant self following the horrific cake incident that he survived in summer 2014. They’ve clearly been the Premier League’s top side over the last half-decade, but those spells can’t last forever, and they’ve done nothing like enough to refresh their creaking squad, preferring to add supporting talent rather than to pull in and develop young stars.

Perhaps, however, the tide is turning. While the transfer fee paid to Liverpool to acquire Raheem Sterling seems excessive, investing in the next generation of talent is what City need to do in order to sustain their position at or near the top of the English game. Their previous attempts to do this, however, involved signing Stevan Jovetic and Eliaquim Mangala, neither of which have worked out exactly as the club’s hierarchy might have liked.

While their transfers seem to be focused on the youth movement, Manuel Pellegrini will be doing his best to squeeze even more production from the veterans. It hardly seems plausible that the defence will be as calamitously disorganised as it was last year, although the presence of Mangala and Martin Demichelis (an expert in causing problems that then get blamed on everyone around him) doesn’t bode well for Joe Hart’s mental health.

In midfield, City have lost out on James Milner, the human equivalent of sliced bread, replacing him with Aston Villa’s extremely loyal Fabian Delph. That’s a money-saving downgrade if there ever was one — Milner is essentially irreplaceable as Pellegrini’s utility knife. Their depth behind Fernando and Fernandinho is unimpressive, as indeed is the starting pairing. They’re reliant on Yaya Toure to dominate the entire midfield corridor, and if the big Ivorian isn’t up for it, their midfielders have trouble screening the defenders who have trouble screening their goalkeeper who has trouble not being sad.

It’s up front where City are most potent. David Silva is as brilliant as ever, while Samir Nasri’s form is sneaking back up to the level a player of his obvious talent should be. And Sterling, this summer’s big signing, gives them a major boost on the right. Going from a Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge-less Liverpool to a top side (not to mention escaping Brendan "You Are Definitely A Wing Back" Rodgers) should allow him to be more expressive in the attack, adding an injection of flair and quality that will provide a welcome change of pace from Jesus Navas’ more rote displays.

And then there’s Sergio Agüero, who is a defence-shattering menace whom the football gods have seen fit to curse with an Achilles heel. When healthy, he’s comfortably the best striker in England and could batter his way into the starting lineup of any club in the world. He’s quick, agile, clever and a lethal finisher, and despite being injured all the time scores like a madman. Unfortunately, he is in fact injured all the time, and City’s backup options are far less frightening.

Add this all together and what do you get? Probably the dreaded ‘T’ word. Transition. City are having to switch from an older core that’s starting to creak to a new and not-quite-collected-yet younger generation. They started this process a little too late, suffered for it last season, and haven’t looked this vulnerable in a long time. If there was ever a season in which you might expect them to be knocked out of their comfortable perch in the top two, this is it.


We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.