Manchester City: Contenders
Big name signings rarely ever materialise in January, and most clubs, unless in real danger of relegation, save the big bids for the summer. Yet From Berbatov to Anelka, from Crouch absurdly to Ronaldhino, media speculation has reached fever pitch over who Frank and Sven will next bring to Fortress Eastlands.
I am not alone in hoping that the club will continue to not be held to ransom for superstar mercenary signatures. City must pursue the policy which has served us so well this season of bringing young and hungry talent into our increasingly exciting squad to play alongside our Academy graduates.
However, something is sure to give at City within a week or two. It could well be that the club finding itself with a settled side in fourth position with a fantastic and now realistic opportunity of European qualification, could lead to big money being released in order to help reach that unbelievable goal.
What really grates on my old style MCFC pin badge covered heart is the constant lazy journalism meted out this season whereby City are relentlessly referred to as 'Sven's foreign legion' and rival managers like Coppell dish out the mantra that City spent massive amounts of money last summer. In relative Premier League terms, that's not the case. We spent less than Sunderland did for starters and nowhere near the amounts our top four rivals have done on individual players in recent seasons.
All the more remarkable then that we have had such a brilliant season to date. No sports hack has yet acknowledged what Sven has got out of the existing players he took on when he arrived, or how many of them he regularly fields.
I digress. The fact is, any signings have to be right for a clearly unified squad. You only have to witness the way the whole team celebrate a goal to know that there is a tremendous team spirit and a will to win. The way I see it, we've come through an inconsistent phase of performances yet kept picking up points and are starting to click again. That's always the sign of a good side.
I predict City will give someone a right pasting sooner rather than later. Indeed, one of our astute MCFC Vital regulars, Craig Cain has gone on record as predicting a 'Ballet On Ice 2' before too long and I for one wholly agree with him. Svennis and Hans Backe have got the momentum and the mix just right.
That's why any squad additions have to blend in with what has been built so far. We have no room for potential boat rockers.
Looking to what we have on board right now, the news within the club is immensely encouraging. It could be taxi's for certainly Samaras, Isaksson and Dabo this month. Credit to Sven, he gave them all a chance.
Easily the most inspiring news of the week is that Daniel Sturridge and Valeri Bojinov are closing in on a return to full fitness. Both strong and powerful, they could lead any attacking line with aplomb.
Essentially, City's 2007-2008 season is at a crossroads. Should Sven continue with the strikers we have including El Diablo Castillo and gamble on Sturridge and Bojinov handling those late winter pitches to bolster our attack?
- Or should he bring in a big name striker? If he does so, he won't be able to play them all when fully fit and that could lead to some discord balanced against a healthy competition for places.
I'm more and more in favour of holding on and continuing as we are up front, strengthening elsewhere as cover for the end of season run in. Save the big bucks for the next chapter in the Sven Revolution.
One look at our Vital Man of The Match Awards, an excellent indicator of the City team's progress shows that Elano, Petrov, Dunne and Corluka have all shone repeatedly, but where's the in depth cover?
We have a relatively small squad and have been generally fortunate where injuries and suspensions are concerned. There's still a long way to go and the intensity of the games will increase.
I rate attacking midfielders Samir Nasri of Olympique Marseille and Pascal Feindouno of Saint Etienne highly. I would have pushed for Bayern Munich's leader and City's missed opportunity Daniel Van Buyten but for Micah Richards continued progress. Again, we have Corluka and Ball available and ready to deputise for Richards and Dunne.
That said, we must not become downhearted if City do not buy big up front this month. It could well be that fine tuning is all that's required and for all the debate, Sven has admirably kept his Panini football cards close to his chest.
Led by our Captain and FIC* Richard Dunne, Johnson, Richards, Elano and Petrov are all names beginning to be feared by Premier League sides and our next opponents, Euro rivals Everton will have to be on their toes following their Oldham humiliation.
Whatever happens from here on, enjoy it. One year ago this weekend we played out a dreadful 0-0 draw at Bolton, lest we forget.
Manchester City are now contenders.
*Future Ireland Captain