MANCHESTER // The theme may be evolution rather than revolution, but Etihad Stadium is witnessing significant changes, nonetheless.
Having reshaped and restyled his team by signing Sergio Aguero and then Samir Nasri, Roberto Mancini has confirmed a third major alteration to his Manchester City side.
"The captain is Vincent Kompany," he said.
Carlos Tevez's demotion to the ranks has been officially ratified.
The unsettled Argentine faces a battle to reclaim his place but, when he does, he will be serving under the Belgian.
"The reason is simple," Mancini said. "Carlos wanted to leave the club for family reasons. I respect his opinion, but I decided in the summer that Vinnie is captain."
A more loyal leader seems to form part of Mancini's blueprint but, to the frustration of the Italian, he must present another draft sketch against Wigan Athletic today - the full picture is not complete as City is struggling to find fit central midfielders.
A foot problem has sidelined Nigel de Jong since he was substituted an hour into the opening league game, the 4-0 victory over Swansea. City are unsure when the influential Dutchman will return. An ankle injury means that Gareth Barry makes a doubt, and Owen Hargreaves, Mancini's deadline-day addition, is unlikely to figure for another two weeks.
However, Mancini has high hopes for the midfielder who cost Manchester United £18 million (Dh105.4m) four years ago and was England's player of the 2006 World Cup.
"I think Hargreaves will be fit in two weeks, and he can play always," Mancini said. "He is 30 years old, so he is young, and he was very unlucky [with injuries] in the last two years."
The rationale for his recruitment was simple, he said. "Hargreaves was a free transfer. We needed a midfielder, and we thought this could be good for us because he was a fantastic player."
When Hargreaves does debut, it could coincide with Kolo Toure's second coming as a City player.
The former Arsenal defender has completed a six-month suspension for taking a diet pill that contained banned substances and is eligible again. But he, too, is short of match fitness after such a long time on the sidelines.
"He is fit, but he needs to play," Mancini said.
While he is happy with the players he has acquired, the City manager has different feelings about two men the club failed to offload.
Although his departure is still likely, Nedum Onuoha will be permitted to train with the first-team squad again and, should enough defenders be sidelined, could make a first-team return.
Wayne Bridge has no such hope.
"Onuoha stays with us because he is home-grown, although he knows it is difficult to play often," his manager said. "It is better Bridge finds a solution in the Championship."
The transfer window reopens to permit loans to lower-division clubs, and the left-back, who rejected a move to Celtic, has been advised to pursue first-team football there.
"I think he should be disappointed because every player should want to play," Mancini said diplomatically. Tevez's desire to start has rarely been questioned.
One theory about the Argentine's career, however, is that he gets fully fit by playing matches.
Mancini, refuting the argument the striker is a poor trainer, has no such concerns.
While Tevez remains one of Manchester's more divisive figures, though, there is rare harmony in the city.
"But now, I think, United are two or three yards ahead of us."
FIVE GAMES TO WATCH
ARSENAL v SWANSEA CITY
With a draw and two losses, Arsene Wenger is hoping that Mikel Arteta can help kick start Arsenal’s season as they look for their first league win today against Swansea. Arteta, the Spanish midfielder, reportedly took a pay cut to join the London side in a £10 million (Dh58.2m) deal in the transfer window and Wenger said: “For us, basically, it is a new start. We start now and want to win a strong way. 6PM UAE TIME, ABU DHABI SPORTS 4
BOLTON WANDERERS v MANCHESTER UNITED
Sir Alex Ferguson has credited Patrice Evra for being the unsung hero behind Ashley Young’s impressive start at Manchester United. An £18m summer purchase from Aston Villa, Young has scored two goals in three games. Ferguson was keen to credit Evra, and said that Young “is getting great support from Evra on the left-hand side”. Added Ferguson: “The great experience Patrice brings is very important for a player coming to our club.” 8.30PM, ABU DHABI SPORTS 3 & 5
STOKE CITY v LIVERPOOL
Luis Suarez believes a togetherness within the Liverpool squad has helped get the club off to an unbeaten start. The Uruguay international was named the Reds’ player of the month, but he believes it has been a team effort. Ahead of today’s trip to Stoke, he said: “All of the new lads that have come in are helping us greatly, while at the same time getting on well with the rest of the squad. That’s important, not only for the whole team but for the fans as well.” 6PM, ABU DHABI SPORTS 6
SUNDERLAND v CHELSEA
Steve Bruce is backing Nicklas Bendtner to make an immediate impact for Sunderland after joining on loan from Arsenal. The Dane is in line to make his debut up front today against Chelsea, and Bruce is delighted to have him in his ranks, having worked with him previously when he was at Birmingham. “He’s a fantastic talent, a very, very good player,” he said. “I hope he can flourish in the surroundings in which he finds himself, and I think he will.” 6PM, ABU DHABI SPORTS 5
WOLVERHAMPTON v TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
Scott Parker has acknowledged that his desire to be in contention to play for England at Euro 2012 was behind his £5m move to Tottenham in the Premier League from the relegated West Ham United. Parker, who will make his debut for Tottenham today at Wolves, said: “To get into the squad for the Euros would be massive for me and my career. With the way it’s gone for me over the last year, I felt like I needed to be playing in the Premier League.” 6PM, ABU DHABI SPORTS 7