Premier League profile 2015/16: Manchester City
After losing the Premier League crown to Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea last season, Manchester City will look to instantly bounce back and again challenge for England’s greatest prize, and are 12/5 with Coral to be champions next May.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Sky Blues began the previous campaign strongly and looked capable of dispatching anyone in their path, but London rivals Chelsea reinstated their dominance, ultimately finishing eight points ahead at the summit.
Once the transfer window rolls around, City are usually one of the country’s big spenders and, despite the apparent limitations of Financial Fair Play, this summer hasn’t been much different.
England international duo Raheem Sterling and Fabian Delph arrived at the Etihad this summer, £49m from Liverpool and £8m from Aston Villa respectively, with Pellegrini boosting his ranks in a bid to return to the top of the table this term.
Many eyebrows were raised over Sterling’s record switch to the blue half of Manchester and questions have been asked whether he the former Liverpool youngster is capable of becoming a regular match-winner (66/1 to finish top scorer).
In pre-season, the 20-year-old showed glimpses of his dazzling attacking talents, but just flashes of brilliance won’t be enough to reclaim the title from a well-oiled winning machine Mourinho has built at Stamford Bridge.
With Eden Dzeko set to follow Stefan Jovetic out the door, Sergio Aguero will once again carry the goalscoring burden, but £49m boy-wonder Sterling will be expected to hit the ground running and help ease the load of his Argentine partner.
Wilfried Bony stuttered on his arrival earlier in the year from Swansea City, but he will need to improve massively if City are to genuinely challenge, with a reliance on key man Aguero a potential danger.
Any injury to Aguero could seriously derail any hopes of regaining the lead in England’s top-tier, but Bony should rediscover the form that eventually earned him a big money move out of Wales. The Ivorian hitman is 25/1 to finish with the Golden Boot this term.
Delph’s sensational U-turn to end up actually joining City caused serious friction among Villa fans, having initially declared he would in the West Midlands, and only an immediate surge in form will prove his worth in new colours.
The England midfielder was brought in to add that extra creativity and balance to the central areas within City’s ranks, meaning Ivory Coast powerhouse Yaya Toure could be set for a more advanced role regularly this term.
Along with playmaker David Silva, and new arrival Sterling, Toure will provide City with a fearful attacking trio behind main man Aguero, with wideman Jesus Navas a superb impact player to have on the bench. Samir Nasri will also have part to play but, with Sterling’s presence, the Frenchman may struggle for appearances throughout the campaign.
City have been tracking Wolfsburg’s Kevin de Bruyne all summer and could be set to arrive as well, incredibly adding even more creative spark to the attack, having been one of Europe’s most dangerous playmakers last term.
At the back, Vincent Kompany must regain the dominant defensive displays that previously made him one of the best centre backs in the country, if City are to improve on last term. Elaquim Mangala and Martin Demichelis are others whose performances need a huge boost, with City’s rear guard looking like their most likely downfall this season.
Even at full back, ageing stars may be overlooked as experienced professionals, with Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna not having many years left in their legs. Joe Hart will obviously take his place between the Etihad sticks, though he may be set for a busy campaign behind a potentially fragile defence.
City will again attempt to become the kings of the Premier League this season but, with the huge pressure and speculation surrounding Pep Guardiola’s future arrival at the club, Pellegrini will need to maintain a steady term to save his job.