It might sound like a crazy suggestion and despite the millions that are available to Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, strengthening his current squad may prove easier said than done. After all, City are top of the league, have cover for practically every position in the form of world class international footballers and bringing in yet more superstars into a team of notably well paid egos might turn out to be more trouble than it’s worth. Imagine Cristiano Ronaldo or Robinho lining up alongside the likes of Mario Balotelli at the Etihad. Mancini and City have enjoyed a successful first half of the season and the supporters could be forgiven for thinking, why rock the boat? And the answer is, it is crucial to strengthen while you’re in a position of strength. If you want to finish the job that is.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup clash with Manchester United, Mancini voiced his belief that there are three teams in the title race this season: City, United and Tottenham. It’s hard to argue with that, particularly as a Spurs win against Everton at White Hart Lane next week will mean just three points separate the top three. And in spite of Sir Alex Ferguson and Harry Redknapp claiming no knowledge of any transfer dealings during just about every window, they won’t be wanting City to run away with the title so United and Spurs are likely to strengthen their respective outfits this month. Equally, City will not want to allow their rivals to catch them so Mancini is likely to be looking to add to his squad. Particularly with one of his most influential players heading off to play in the Africa Cup of Nations.
City are facing the prospect of playing without Toure Yaya for as many as five Premier League games, as well as the FA Cup tie against United. Glancing over Mancini’s squad, you’d think there are plenty of players who could replace Toure. Few would doubt the abilities of Owen Hargreaves, Nigel De Jong, Gareth Barry, James Milner or Samir Nasri – none of whom have been playing as many minutes as Toure and would be glad of the game time. But if Mancini was convinced they could do the same job as Yaya, they’d have played more this season. Losing one of your best players for a prolonged period can unbalance your side and with only a three point cushion, it shouldn’t take a monumental Manchester City collapse to allow Spurs or United to capitalise.
Mancini has also hinted that City could be in the market for another striker. With Sergio Aguero seemingly first choice, either Mario Balotelli or Edin Dzeko can partner the Argentine international. 32 league goals between them so far is strong enough, surely? Perhaps not. City have demonstrated with their considerable spending that they are clearly intent on claiming more silverware. To be in with a good chance of winning multiple trophies, four top quality strikers is what you need. Aguero can’t be relied upon to score all the goals for City, particularly as he rarely completes 90 minutes. Dzeko has done well, but despite netting 10 league goals this season, he has not scored since early November. And Mancini clearly doesn’t intend for Balotelli to be utilised in every game – he probably couldn’t with all the suspensions anyway! You need to allow for for injuries and also be prepared for even your best strikers to go through the odd barren spell (look at Fernando Torres). Carlos Tevez has not been in contention for most of the season and could well be offloaded this month (who the hell even knows!). City could do with another predatory front man/goalscoring midfielder to share the burden.
Yes, Manchester City’s squad is comfortable. But they can’t afford to allow their rivals to close in on them. One or two quality additions should ensure they reach the finish line in the Premier League, while they will also remain in contention for the FA Cup, Carling Cup and Europa League. Having come this far, it’s time to finish the job. It’s not as if money is an issue after all.