It has, so far, been a quiet summer for Manchester City, perhaps the most low-profile since 2006. Back then Stuart Pearce was manager, their chief targets were Dietmar Hamann and Hatem Trabelsi, and the best that City fans could hope for was that the club would be able to attract enough investment to relieve the slow decline of the post-Keegan years, or that it would at least do enough to avoid having to contemplate the horrors of relegation.
In the summers and winters since, an untold amount has been spent on the team, and now a combination of Financial Fair Play restrictions and the fact that the club no longer need such an extensive recruitment drive to fill holes in the squad has made for one of the least eventful summers in terms of transfers for some time.
There has, of course, been the prolonged and hopefully now aborted pursuit of Arsenal’s Robin van Persie. There was a lot about the idea of signing the Dutchman that did not make much sense, and in spite of him being a very good player who City could do without playing for Manchester United, there is plenty to cheer about missing out on his services. He has, after all, had one very good season, is not a young man in footballing terms any longer, and has had a fairly appalling injury record during his time at Arsenal.
Added to this, a striker seems to be the one thing City do not require at present, particularly with the re-emergence of Carlos Tevez, the coming of age of Mario Balotelli at this summer’s European Championship, and the prospect of Sergio Aguero a year older and better than when he signed last summer. Only if City sold Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz and Edin Dzeko would the purchase of another striker make any sort of sense, and even then, Napoli’s Edinson Cavani must surely be a better bet.
That is not to say that new signings are not required. Scott Sinclair of Swansea City has been mentioned in dispatches as a player who would give a little more pace and width than Adam Johnson has been able to provide in recent times. The more pressing concern, however, must be that just as last season, the African Cup of Nations will deprive City of the Toure brothers at the turn of the year. Though Jack Rodwell has been picked up from Everton and can play both at centre-back and in the centre of midfield, he seems to have been recruited with the possible departure of Nigel de Jong in mind, a player Mancini admires but has come to see as relatively limited. Without Yaya marauding around in City’s midfield last January, their form suffered and their initiative and lead over Manchester United at the top of the league began to slip; they would be wise to guard against this happening again.
If de Jong does leave – though he has been offered a new contract, he is yet to sign it – and the board do not sanction the purchase of another established defensive midfielder, Nir Biton might be signed on a longer-term deal to support Gareth Barry and James Milner during the depths of winter. The young Israeli impressed during pre-season, though he must first acquire a work permit before he can be considered, and a six-month deal in January for a more established player, as seen with the loan of David Pizarro from Roma last season, might be more likely.
Though he has been somewhat out of favour over the last eighteen months, the absence of Kolo Toure, thanks to Vincent Kompany’s simultaneous suspension after Christmas, was also keenly felt. There has been a lot of talk of Daniel Agger arriving, which makes sense as he is one of the best central defenders in the Premier League, is more accomplished than Joleon Lescott, and would improve City’s chances of progress in this season’s Champions League. Like Van Persie however, the fact that he is prone to injury, now in his late twenties, and that his parent club want at least £20 million for him, must ring alarm bells.
For all that he says he does not want to leave Merseyside, there is a sense that if Liverpool accepted a bid Agger would be willing to sign for another club, though perhaps City should approach with some caution. Liverpool might consider replacing him with Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid or Montpellier’s Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, who may both be available for less than £10 million, but there would be nothing to stop City enquiring after these players’ services instead. Agger will provide the club with little or no re-sale value once he reaches the end of his contract, so one wonders whether they might be better served spending their money on players with more time on their side.