At the start of the 2014-15 season, Manchester City and Chelsea appeared to have the strongest squads in the division. It was about more than just the quality of the players, these clubs seemed to have the most balanced squads of any club in the league. Hence, it is a little surprising to find that City finished eight points short of Chelsea, who were crowned as Premier League champions with a comfortable three games to spare. The gap could have been even bigger had it not been for Chelsea stepping off the gas in the last few weeks. Several players in the City squad are facing an uncertain future; Betfair backs City at 3/1 in the Premier League 2015/16 odds for this reason.
Two players have been largely blamed for the inconsistencies that City suffered last season – Vincent Kompany and Yaya Touré. Kompany has widely been seen as one of the best central defenders in the world over the last few seasons. Yet, injuries and poor form meant that he was nowhere near his best. He started just 23 league matches and failed to score a single goal. Admittedly, central defenders are not measured by the goals that they score, but it can often serve as a silent gauge.
Kompany has shown excellent leadership skills since his City career began in 2008 after a move from Hamburg. His seventh season at the club can be dismissed as an exception rather than the example. Yet, there are several other names in the City team who could have done much better for the quality at their disposal.
Several fingers will be pointed at Yaya Touré, who finished the season with 10 goals in 29 Premier League outings. It is an acceptable figure for a central midfielder, but most of these goals came when the player was going through a purple patch during November and December. For the remaining eight months of the season, Touré was a passenger with constant media speculation around him. Inter Milan have been quite vocal – presumably motivated by Toure’s agent Dimitri Seluk – about their interest in the Ivory Coast international.
A break in the middle of the campaign due to the Africa Cup of Nations may not be an excuse for eight months of mediocrity. After making a huge furore about the celebrations – or the lack of – for the player’s 31st birthday last summer, Seluk has now gone on to say that his client will be staying at the Etihad Stadium. His comments come after Toure reportedly received a £720,000 cheque from the club as a bonus for the season that just concluded. This is on top of the £220,000 per week wages that already makes him the best paid player in the league.
Yaya Touré is completely worth this figure since there is little that the opposition can do to stop the Ivory Coast international when he is on song. He is one of the few midfielders to have scored 20 league goals in a season. Yet, the overwhelming inconsistencies in his game coupled with the ‘will-he-or-won’t-he’ debate provide too much of a distraction for City. At 32 years of age, Touré may realistically have a couple of seasons at the top and this may be a good time to part company.
The club, with its massive financial potential after having just seen UEFA relax the FFP rules, could be in a position to just do away with Touré and bring in another world-class midfielder as his replacement. Seluk appears to be clearly aware of the powers shifting in favour of the club. This has seen him change his stance from being almost sure of an exit to suggesting that Touré could see out his City contract which still has two years to run.
FFP is about to be made easier for clubs with rich benefactors who are willing to invest in the club without expecting much in return. There are already signs that City are ready to flex their muscles since this change in stance from UEFA.
The club have been linked with a £40 million move for Raheem Sterling, who will be useful not just in providing more quality, but also filling up the homegrown quota of players. City’s contingent of English players will reduce following the departure of Frank Lampard and the imminent exit of James Milner.
A lot of changes can be expected at the Etihad Stadium in the summer. Yet, the uncertainty with regard to the existing players sees City backed at 3/1 for the Premier League title in 2015/16 by Betfair, while United are third favourites at odds of 9/2. There can be no doubt that these odds will definitely shorten if City make some headlines signings in the transfer window.