For every kind of reason the next 30 days will decide Manchester City’s season. On the pitch, they will face Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona. Off it, there is the Wilfried Bony transfer to finalise, a relationship with Frank Lampard and the fans of New York City to smooth over.
Sunday saw reports that the activities of Manchester City’s subsidiary companies are being examined by Uefa in case they breached the financial fair play regulations that have hamstrung the club this season.
Should Manchester City come through that lot unscathed, it will be a triumph. At virtually every press conference he has given this season, their manager, Manuel Pellegrini, has expressed his frustration at the restrictions financial fair play has imposed on him. He would not welcome another 12 months of it.
In the wake of a memorable, brutally exciting 1-1 draw at Everton, Pellegrini refused to answer questions on Lampard’s contract, which contrary to what most people, including the player, appeared to believe, was with Manchester and not New York City.
Pellegrini did, however, add that he expected James Milner, a footballer deeply admired by both Everton and Liverpool managers, to sign a new contract “in the next few days”. This contract will presumably be with Manchester City Football Club Limited as will the one Bony is likely to sign after a £28m fee was agreed with Swansea yesterday.
City have actually coped well without Sergio Aguero, who injured himself in the 1-0 win over Everton in early December and returned two thirds of the way through the return fixture. The man they have really missed is Vincent Kompany who surely would have been able to cope with Romelu Lukaku better than Eliaquim Mangala. Pellegrini has pointed out that, because of injury, Aguero was not the pivotal force behind their winning the title last season that he had been in 2012.
Here, he missed the 2-0 win over Roma, which probably counts as Manchester City’s finest display of the season, and six other fixtures of which City won five and drew the other, scoring 14 times in the process.
Nevertheless, the return of Aguero represents a significant psychological fillip at a critical time – had he played from the start at Goodison Park, City would surely have turned at least one of the lovely touches on the edge of the Everton area into a goal.
“Aguero’s presence is important because he can always make a difference,” said Pellegrini. “He can train for the whole week now so I am sure he can regain his level of performance. You always need good players and we need Yaya Touré [who like Bony is at the African Cup of Nations], Edin Dzeko [who is still injured] and Aguero.
“Here, we played the players who were available, we created the chances but we could not score and we finished badly but we were very impressive in the rest of our play.”
A glance at some Opta statistics suggest why Manchester City would want Bony even with Aguero coming back to full fitness. City have scored more goals from open play than any other Premier League club this season but they have the fewest from set plays. At Swansea, Bony has proved himself lethally dangerous in the air.
When Pellegrini won the title, it was thanks in the main to a strong second half of the season and he would back his squad for a repetition.
“We are happy with the way we are playing but with our players back we will be stronger in he second half of the season and this team always believes in what they do.”Reuse content