As a rather unconvincing title retention challenge draws to a close, it's time to take stock of the current squad and which direction the club now takes in order to move forward and to close the gap on cross city rivals United, who have blown apart the rest of the league with unforeseeable efficiency and professionalism. With the installation of Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano upstairs, the pair will have a plan for summer, and having worked miracles at Barcelona, will be digging into the Sheikh's pockets and looking to bring in fresh faces and wipe away memories of an unsuccessful close season last time around. In their capable hands, deals will be done earlier than before with contracts being made around bonuses, rather than high salaries.
It is undoubted that changes are necessary to move forward rather than another step sideways, and that will mean increasing the quality, and the size of the current squad. Myths are plentiful about the size of squad available to Roberto Mancini, and this season's injury problems and suspensions have highlighted the weaknesses of the understudies to the first eleven. Fortunately, the money sucking deadwood of the Hughes era will be out of contract and out the door come June, with the likes of Wayne Bridge et al moving to pastures new, freeing up potentially over a million pounds p/w in salary if you were to include the lately departed Mario Balotelli.
This will allow the club more freedom, especially under supposed restraints of incoming FFP regulations, although one suspects those obstacles will be overcome via sponsorships etc... Take a look at United's recent sponsorship dealings and the transatlantic fixture between City and Chelsea, all in place to loosen the shackles of UEFA's latest attempts to stop big spenders. Personally, I think there are 5 deals, realistic deals that could swing the Premier League Pendulum back to the blue side of Manchester, 5 ins, and 5 outs.
My first suggestion to the new Spanish duo, would be young James McCarthy from fellow FA Cup finalists Wigan Athletic. The number 4 has impressed throughout the season and in his last outing against City, he ran the game, and often made fools of both Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry with his tenacity and positioning both on and off the ball. Whisper it quietly, but he often reminded me of a young Roy Keane, and I'd rather have a player of his calibre and with his potential on our side, than the other side. In the same way, investing in youth is a huge part of the former Barcelona execs and so I would suggest Christian Benteke. Nominated for YPOTY, the Belgian monster has almost single-handedly given Aston Villa a chance of staying in England's top division with his brute force and exquisite finishing. Should another striker leave, I believe Benteke would add both an aerial threat as well as a different option for the team who currently lack a threatening plan B. Obviously, should the opportunity arise to bring in Cavani, this deal may be completely unnecessary.
If I were to stray into fantasy land, I'd be begging the Sheikhs to break the bank for Bale and Suarez, but I will stay grounded and be as realistic as possible. If rumours are to be believed, Mancini has had an eye on Malaga playmaker Isco for quite some time. His talent has been for all to see during Malaga's Champions League campaign and would add some more flair to the side, in a way not too dissimilar to David Silva. The thought of Yaya Toure being joined by Marouane Fellaini is just too terrifying to ignore. Should Everton fail to reach Europe this season, Fellaini may have his head turned by offers to move elsewhere. The big haired Belgian would make City's midfield utterly frightful if he were to partner the Ivorian marauder and should Yaya go away to the AFCON once more in seasons to come, Fellaini could fulfil his role more than competently.
Marco Reus. The skilful German midfielder has played a huge part in Dortmund's recent rise to one of Europe's greatest teams, and with the much talked about departure of Samir Nasri, the addition of Reus would be incredible. Scoring against City in the 1-1 draw at the Etihad earlier this season, Reus made a usually solid sky blue midfield look like lost children with his tortuous technical ability, and signing such a player would boost the teams attacking outlet tenfold. Obviously for any, never mind all of these deals to be done, deadwood will need to see the exit door. Though impressing in recent games, strangely since being linked to French superpower PSG, Samir Nasri has not cut the mustard at City. His unwillingness to defend and sometimes complete lack of sharpness, passing accuracy and carefree approach has seen City fans fall out of love with him by the game. His departure would allow for a big name replacement and one who could properly satisfy the attacking midfielder role as well as his Spanish counterpart David Silva. Alexander Kolarov with his left foot like a traction engine and a touch of an elephant. His crossing is often sent from above, and just as often absolutely awful. He is just not cut out for the high standards set by Mancini, and the high expectations of the City faithful. NEXT.
This next departure is a sad one. Contributing wholeheartedly to City's title win of last year, Joleon Lescott has found himself benched due to the incredible rise of young Matija Nastasic who has become a first name on the team-sheet. I believe that the lack of first team football will leave him with little choice, as he isn't getting any younger and NEEDS to play. Scott Sinclair. What a shame for the young 'starlet' who promised so much at Swansea. It is baffling why the move ever went through when it is quite obvious that Mancini would rather play with 10 men than include him in most games and needs to leave to start to rebuild what was quite the prosperous career. And last but not least, Maicon. The Brazilian full back went missing half way through the season after fending off Spurs fans jibes and keeping Gareth Bale deep inside his back pocket for 10 minutes of that encounter. Lacking his old pace and power, and with the recovery of Richards underneath the Godlike Zabaleta, his services are not needed.
Will any of the above players find themselves playing in the famous sky blue next season? Your guess is as good as mine.