For the Premier League champions, Manchester City’s profile has been remarkably low even in their own city. The fuss, the headlines and the spending have all come from United. The frantic hours of transfer-deadline day for City resulted not in the arrival of Radamel Falcao or even Danny Welbeck but the departure of Alvaro Negredo.
These, however, are eight days in which the spotlight will burn fiercely on City. Today they play Arsenal, on Wednesday it is Bayern Munich, then Chelsea on the Sunday. These are precisely the fixtures that the men from Abu Dhabi bought them for but they come at a time when the club finds itself stretched.
Although City were offered Falcao on a permanent deal for around £32m, they passed when a couple of years ago they might have bought the Colombian just to make a point. At the same time, they allowed Negredo to leave for Valencia.
It seemed a risk, although a foot injury would have kept him out of action until the end of next month. A striker was not a priority and Manuel Pellegrini still had three frontline forwards.
Now, with Stevan Jovetic returning from international duty with a hamstring injury, the City manager is down to two strikers with his biggest games squarely on the horizon.
“I didn’t choose Alvaro as the man to be cut,” said Pellegrini. “Alvaro wanted to go so I allowed him to because he couldn’t play in the Champions League and he was injured. It was a good decision for him and for the club to go back to Spain.
The 10 debutants to look out for this weekend
The 10 debutants to look out for this weekend
1/8 Radamel Falcao (Manchester United)
One of four Manchester United players on this list, Falcao's arrival at Manchester United was the biggest surprise of a mad summer. It will be interesting to see where Louis van Gaal decides to play the Colombian hitman - will he start alongside Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, will he replace one of them, or will he start from the bench?
2/8 Luke Shaw (Manchester United)
Brought in on a massive fee, the English teenager has been roundly criticised for failing to get fit in time for the new season. With Ashley Young struggling as Van Gaal's left wing-back Luke Shaw should come in and immediately be an upgrade in the position. United and England fans will certainly be hoping so.
3/8 Marcos Rojo (Manchester United)
Almost a month after arriving at Manchester United, and four games into the season, Argentine defender Marcos Rojo finally has a passport and should play. Louis van Gaal's team have looked porous at the back and the fiesty defender should add some bite to the back-line.
4/8 Daley Blind (Manchester United)
A Louis van Gaal favourite, Daley Blind is a versatile player capable of slotting in across the defence, at wing-back or in central midfield. Classy and composed on the ball, Blind is a clever player - it'll be interesting to see where the Manchester United boss opts to play the utility man.
5/8 Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
Danny Welbeck was brilliant for England in Switzerland, scoring two goals and showing all of the energy and enthusiasm that has made him a manager's favourite. Arsenal were desperately in need of cover after the injury to Olivier Giroud and Gunners fans will be hoping the £16m striker hits the ground running.
6/8 Alex Song (West Ham)
Although he never managed to break into the first team in two years at Barcelona, Alex Song is undoubtedly a top quality player. West Ham needed to add goals and flair to their struggling side and Sam Allardyce will be hoping Song can get close to the 11 assists he provided for Arsenal in the 2011-12 season.
7/8 Abel Hernandez (Hull City)
Steve Bruce has spent the majority of the money he received for the sale of Shane Long on the 24-year-old Hernandez. The Uruguayan had an excellent season in Serie A last year scoring 14 goals for Palermo, but is a bit of a wildcard. The pacey striker will look to develop the same kind of partnership Long enjoyed with Nikica Jelavic last season
8/8 Ricky Alvarez (Sunderland)
Alvarez's signature is a coup for Gus Poyet and Sunderland. The tall Argentina midfielder oozes class and was impressive for Inter Milan last season with four goals and eight assists, before being selected for the World Cup. Sunderland struggled for goals last season and will be hoping Alvarez can provide a spark for their strikers.
“It would have been very difficult for Alvaro to play until the end of October and we couldn’t change a player in our Champions League squad until after December so in this squad [for the group stages] he would be out.”
The Financial Fair Play restrictions have limited City’s room for manoeuvre, not least because as a punishment for breaching them they were restricted to a squad of 21, of which five had to be home-grown.
When asked why the club had not bid for the services of Welbeck, who has the additional advantage of being English, Pellegrini replied: “The squad this year has had very few changes because we could not spend an important amount of money and could not have more than 21 players in the Champions League squad.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to spend a lot of money on a player and then, when he comes here, tell him: ‘You can’t play in the Champions League’.”
There are doubts as to whether Joe Hart, the one constant Englishman in City’s starting line-up, will play all three of these matches. The England goalkeeper was not especially convincing during City’s 1-0 defeat to Stoke City, which was the first time the Potters had managed so much as a Premier League goal at the Etihad.
Hart made two outstanding saves when facing Switzerland on Monday but Pellegrini gave an intriguing answer when asked if he would rotate Hart with new signing Willy Caballero, a keeper he knows well from their time at Malaga.
“I am not waiting for Joe Hart to make a mistake to change him for Willy Caballero,” Pellegrini said. “Willy has all the attributes and a good career behind him.
“It’s important to have competition in every position within the team. Replacing Joe Hart with Willy Caballero should not make a difference just as it shouldn’t with [Pablo] Zabaleta and [Bacary] Sagna, or [Eliaquim] Mangala and [Martin] Demichelis, or [Edin] Dzeko and [Sergio] Aguero. We need a squad if we want to win something.”
Meanwhile Frank Lampard is “ready” to play for City and the former Chelsea midfielder could make his debut against Arsenal today.
Lampard, 36, who is on a six-month loan from City’s affiliate club New York, has been training with the Premier League champions for the last month but is yet to make his debut because of problems with his fitness.
“Frank is ready,” Pellegrini said. “He has worked for about one month and he doesn’t have any problems. Mangala is working normally and is in the squad list also.
“We have to play three games in a week so we will see if they play in these games. Both of them are ready to do it but I can’t say which games they will play – or if they will play.”Reuse content