City can put last season's hiccups behind them

Manchester City's Yaya Toure (right) celebrates with Bacary Sagna after scoring his second goal in the 3-0 victory over West Bromwich on Monday.
Manchester City's Yaya Toure (right) celebrates with Bacary Sagna after scoring his second goal in the 3-0 victory over West Bromwich on Monday.PHOTO, EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • The early-season warnings will feel even more ominous when Sergio Aguero is fully fit and Manchester City strengthen with the likely arrival of Kevin de Bruyne from Wolfsburg.

They were the most impressive of the title contenders of the English Premier League's opening round when, led by Yaya Toure, they swept aside West Bromwich Albion 3-0 at The Hawthorns on Monday.

The question now, though, is whether they can sustain it. After a season of inconsistency and disappointment last term, when they were laboured and lacking in urgency, are City now the finished product?

City trailed Chelsea for almost the entirety of last season and now they have a chance to beat the champions on Sunday at home.

Manuel Pellegrini, the City manager, downplayed the significance of gaining an early advantage in the title race but did emphasise the psychological boost that it would bring.

While Chelsea still have business to do in the transfer market in their pursuit of two defenders, there is a sense that City, who have spent £60 million (S$131 million) in the close season, have addressed their pressing issues in signing Raheem Sterling to provide pace and width and the potential arrival of de Bruyne, rejected by Chelsea, to add flair and creativity.


The return to form of captain Vincent Kompany and Toure is hugely important. At his best, Kompany brings a sense of calm, authority and leadership from the back, making it inexplicable how error-prone he was as he struggled with injury problems last season.

After the death of his brother, Toure appeared moody and wanting to be elsewhere.

With his immediate future settled, he was imperious and controlled on Monday, albeit against lesser opposition.

"We are fully focused this year," the Ivorian said, suggesting that City were anything but in trying to retain their title last term.


His arrival adds another dimension to the attack while potentially creating more space for David Silva to operate in his favoured position behind the striker and run the game, as the Spaniard showed against West Brom.

Early evidence suggests that Sterling will be the target for plenty of through-balls, but his finishing needs to improve - especially when it matters.


This was one of City's Achilles' heels last season, as Sam Allardyce, the former West Ham United manager, was quick to illustrate when he exploited the gaps and uncertainty in a 2-1 victory for his men at Upton Park.

The defensive axis of Fernandinho and Toure comfortably handled West Brom's attacks but Chelsea are a stiffer test on Sunday.

Fernandinho, Fernando and Toure were wayward at times last season but they might respond positively to the arrival of Fabian Delph.


Samir Nasri has plenty of talent but has gone missing too often and Wilfried Bony will need to step up to the plate when called upon.


Another centre-back and left-back would be beneficial and de Bruyne may be the final attacking piece because he solves a slight issue on the right flank and should also provide ammunition for Aguero or Bony after topping the assists charts in Europe last season.

Silva and Toure created most chances for City last season, but their tally was only the league's seventh highest. De Bruyne would add to Pellegrini's tactical options.

The City manager started this season as he ended the last, playing a 4-2-3-1 formation. He has experimented with 4-3-3 in pre-season and has a liking for 4-4-2.

There are so many possibilities, but Pellegrini needs to find the right blend.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'City can put last season's hiccups behind them'. Print Edition | Subscribe