x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Man City's spending and high hopes

As Manchester City's unprecedented acquisition spree continues, Richard Jolly assesses its potential impact.

Emmanuel Adebayor takes on the New York Red Bulls defence during Manchester City's 2-1 defeat.
Emmanuel Adebayor takes on the New York Red Bulls defence during Manchester City's 2-1 defeat.

The United States has assumed a position as the global home of capitalism. It is, then, perhaps the ideal venue for Manchester City's pre-season tour. Displays of enormous wealth abound Stateside and, for a couple of weeks, their numbers have been augmented by the Premier League's leading purveyors of largesse.

While in the US, City have secured the signature of Aleksandar Kolarov, the Lazio left-back. A reported £17 million (Dh96m) price tag should impress even those accustomed to dealing with real estate in Manhattan. The Serb completes a quartet of expensive summer arrivals with Jerome Boateng, Yaya Toure and David Silva. The latter pair, Champions League and World Cup winner respectively, hint at the pedigree the recruitment campaign has produced.

So does their combined cost. City have spent around £80m; to put it in context, that is double the combined outlay of their seven immediate rivals: Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Liverpool and Everton. Roberto Mancini has argued that each of the others have paid sizeable fees over the past decade. "There isn't a difference," he said. There is, though. City splashed out more than £100m last summer. Should James Milner and Mario Balotelli arrive, as appears likely, that figure will be closer to £130m this year.

Mancini has argued that his career in Italy has been pressurised, but this confers an added pressure nonetheless. Much as it irritates big spenders, the chain between expenditure and expectation is unbreakable. Whatever the internal demands, City's foes will be swift to say the title is an imperative. Perceived wisdom suggests title-winning teams are built upon central defenders and strikers. It is notable, then, that City's most recent additions include neither. Should Balotelli join Silva at Eastlands, it would mean the addition of two world-class wide men (and point towards a 4-3-3 formation); if Carlos Tevez can produce another 29-goal season and Emmanuel Adebayor can display his considerable talent more consistently, another centre-forward may not be required. That said, Fernando Torres remains a target - as Mancini admitted on Sunday - and one who could swell the spending towards £200m.

The greater concern is at the other end. Defences tend to be built on strong foundations and City's were too shaky last year. They have addressed the outbuildings, but the main structure itself requires fortification. They conceded on 17 more occasions than Manchester United. Improvement is required and the troublesome full-back positions have been addressed; Kolarov and Boateng each enjoyed fine World Cups.

Yet uncertainty spread from the centre. Because, while Vincent Kompany proved more dependable, the partnership of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott lacked conviction and understanding too frequently. While essentially a midfielder, it may prove significant that Yaya Toure operated in defence in the 2009 Champions League final against Manchester United. The Ivorian's importance could be psychological as well as sporting if he can enable Kolo, his older brother, to recapture his Arsenal form.

Another potential acquisition may have a greater tactical significance. The balance between attack and defence proved problematic, with a contingent of central midfielders who were essentially unambitious. Should he sign, Milner would prove the exception, capable of advancing fluently and chipping in with goals as well as his duties in his own half. By the standards of a club who coveted Kaka 18 months ago, there is no galactico among the arrivals, though Torres would change that. But what City do possess is enviable strength in depth. Even taking into account the Premier League's new 25-man squad rule (which could spell the end for the misfits Robinho and Jo and endanger Roque Santa Cruz, Stephen Ireland and Nedum Onuoha), they will have two players in every position.

Buying in bulk is another concept their American hosts ought to understand. rjolly@thenational.ae