This evening finally sees the return of football in Manchester as City take on Premier League new boys Swansea City. After a successful campaign last season, Roberto Mancini is under increasing pressure to turn his Champions League qualifying squad into serious title contenders. It is however, a feat hampered by the painstakingly slow transfer of Samir Nasri from Arsenal, a deal which Mancini is evidently frustrated by. The City manager is adamant that his side cannot be seen as title challengers until he has completed his squad and, after a successful pre-season in which the only glitches were the controversies of Mario Balotelli and the Charity Shield defeat last weekend, it seems transfers are the only thing that have not gone to plan. The dissatisfaction emanating from Mancini at last Friday’s press conference showed that at this stage of pre-season, days before the start of the new campaign, he had hoped the ongoing Carlos Tévez saga and the protracted transfer of Nasri would have been finalised and that he would have completed his squad, this however is not the case.
It became clear last season that what City lacked, particularly in midfield, was pace and Samir Nasri would add that. Nasri would also inject more creativity and take some of the huge pressure off the shoulders of David Silva – currently City’s best passer of the ball. The speed of Manchester United’s passing and the glorious one-touch football which tore through City’s usually tight defence last week in the Charity Shield showed just how much City are lacking in that department. If City are to become serious challengers for the league title then they must retain possession better than they did last weekend at Wembley. It may only have been a pre-season friendly but it showed that United were better with possession and better at keeping it. The game last weekend was lost because of City’s midfield – or lack of it. Mancini must address this glaring problem of an absent midfield immediately, starting this evening against Swansea City and for that one of the first names on the team sheet ought to be Gareth Barry. He may have his critics but City’s midfield looks stronger with him in the side than when he is not, his ability and often his game goes unnoticed – except when he gives away a trademark free-kick yards away from the penalty area – but he must start against Swansea tonight.
The game against Swansea is one which City should expect to win given the gulf in class between the two teams, but it certainly will not be an easy game. It is imperative for teams challenging for the title that they win their home games. With Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool all drawing and Tottenham’s game being postponed it gives City a chance to go clear at the top alongside the (very) early leaders Manchester United and Bolton. Tonight’s game gives us a first glimpse at how Mancini will approach the season. Often criticised last year for being too cautious it is the perfect opportunity to show that City this season mean business and a ruthless display is what’s needed. Chances have to be taken and with Aguero and Tévez unlikely to feature – the former expected to be named on the bench – it gives Edin Dzeko and Mario Balotelli the break they may need to prove that the millions spent on bringing them to the Etihad Stadium was worthwhile.
Swansea showed last season that they are a good side and will cause some problems for City’s defence particularly with wingers Scott Sinclair and Wayne Routledge. Debutant Gael Clichy, who is expected to start ahead of Aleksandar Kolarov, and Micah Richards will have to play well to nullify Swansea’s danger men. Newly-named captain Vincent Kompany and defensive partner Joleon Lescott will also have to contend with strikers Danny Graham and Leroy Lita. It promises to be an intriguing night and a great game. The Premier League is back.
Across the road at Old Trafford, David De Gea has had an interesting start to life at Manchester United. There’s no doubting that he has potential but perhaps at 20 years old he is too young to carry the burden of being the goalkeeper for the Champions. At present he looks like a young boy wearing his dad’s goalkeeper shirt. It just doesn’t seem to fit, his lack of confidence leads to nervousness in a defence which is normally solid. Over the last few seasons on the occasions when the United defence was breached, Edwin Van Der Sar was there to clean up, De Gea doesn’t have that presence…yet. Still, he is only young and we should expect him to be considerably larger in size by Christmas once he’s adapted to the English game.
Last week in the Charity Shield Yaya Toure was largely absent, expect him to start slow as he builds up his fitness and see the rewards towards the second half of the season mirroring last year. It may also take Sergio Aguero time to settle like it did Tévez, but there is no doubt that he really is one to watch for this season and the future.
Staying in the north-west, the first managerial casualty in the Premier League this season will be Steve Kean. The Blackburn boss appears to be living in cloud cuckoo land, first claiming that new signing David Goodwillie is a ‘young Wayne Rooney’ and then stating that last season, had the game’s finished at the end of the first half Blackburn would’ve been in the top 6. The man is deluded and will be out of a job by December.