Since the arrival of new owners in 2008, talk has been fairly constant over Manchester City’s inevitable dominance in the top flight, due to their almost unlimited spending. Particularly over recent weeks, forums, blogs and articles written not only by humble fans or wannabe journalists, but also by some of the biggest names in the game have suggested that if City are were to clinch the title today, it might signify the start of a new era in the Premier League.
I was almost a complete neutral in the title race. As a Charlton fan, I’ve had my own team’s title to celebrate, and except for a slight preference of Manchester United, the Premier League title carries no significance to me. I am certainly happy enough to suggest that particularly during the run in, United have made mistakes and thrown games away, and City have stepped their game up and almost completed a very successful comeback over the past couple of months.
I will also say that I disagree with the return of Carlos Tevez. Whilst I was not there, and therefore cannot comment on exactly what was said between Mancini and Tevez in Germany, if a manager says that a player will never play again, I believe that it is their duty to stick to what they say. Mancini should never have said it, and Tevez’s return smelt strongly of desperation as City seemed to have fallen away and handed the title to their Red neighbours. Having said this, Tevez has since returned, and been an essential cog in the impressive city of recent weeks. Credit should also go to Mancini for his tactical decisions over the last few weeks. The focus after the Manchester derby fell inevitably at Fergie’s feet, as his decision to leave out both Valencia and Young proved costly, as Manchester City’s midfield overpowered the failing legs of the old guard, Scholes and Giggs.
So with the title now firmly in City’s own hands, everywhere you turn you read about people’s obsession with City buying the title. I agreed last summer. Their enormous wealth dwarfed anything that anyone, even Chelsea could muster. They could buy anyone they wanted, and set about improving their already world-class squad. The truth however, throughout the season, is that Manchester City deserve to win this title as much as anyone else. Let’s not forget that Manchester United hardly kept their purse-strings closed, swooping in early to sign the likes of De Gea, Young and Phil Jones. None of these signings came cheap, but perhaps the fact that two of them are widely believed to be the future of the England side meant that people accepted them with open arms.
Chelsea similarly made some big signings, none more so than Fernando Torres in 2011. The sum, more than any of the signings City made in the summer, has largely failed to deliver, although over recent weeks we have seen ‘Nando perform somewhere close to his capacity, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we would love to see him back at his lethal best.
It is at this point where I want to draw some comparisons with my own club. Uncommon I know, but what Charlton have achieved this season comes from a succession of shrewd signings and good management. Chris Powell, who joined us in January 2011, was given a certain budget in the summer. Utilising his scouts, and based on the vision he wanted to create, he set about signing more than twenty players throughout the summer. This squad gelled almost immediately, and went on to tie the record points tally set by Fulham of 101 points, and go on to clinch the League One title. What makes City any different? Sure their wealth is unparalleled, but irrespective, they took that enormous budget, spent it on players that they thought would improve the squad, and gelled the team into one that looks like it is about to become a title-winning one. Last season, City weren’t good enough to win the title. Yet they spent a huge amount of money that summer too. Now that they’ve won the title, why should everyone’s perspective change and decide that they’re not allowed to spend that money.
It shows that it is not only money that buys the title. Under Mourinho, Chelsea went on to win the Premier League on several occasions. Whilst the owner and potential investment has been there ever since, other managers haven’t managed the dominance that he managed. Surely Mancini therefore deserves similar credit. Whilst he does have almost unlimited resources, he still has to gel the players, and make them perform on the pitch. If anything, the increased pressure that comes with the sudden expectation has made it an even harder task. Truth is that money can always get you more talent. Historically it always has done. Just because this Manchester City team aren’t one of the traditional recent winners of the top league doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it.
Therefore, I don’t think it is fair to discredit City’s triumph this season simply because of their spending. People would also argue that some of the other teams have introduced their own youngsters too. Sturridge at Chelsea, Welbeck at United, Spearing at Liverpool and Wiltshire at Arsenal. These teams have signed, nurtured or brought youngsters through their youth set ups, and imparted them into a squad that has also invested. So what? Who’s to say City won’t do the same in the future. This era of Manchester City is only just beginning, and if in ten or fifteen years as a result of the investment put in today, we start to see a new school of British talent, will we still be criticising the system? I have also heard lots of people saying that the League shouldn’t be bought, and that Football deserves to be the winner. I like to think that I’m a purest, and as a result I always enjoy watching Arsenal win when they play in the way we know they’re capable of. However, the majority of their team are foreigners that Wenger has signed and built up. Yes Manchester United have a lot of English talent, and it’s nice to see some of our best products strutting their stuff on the biggest stage, but we must remember that the foreign quality helps us to build up the Premier League that has become one of the best leagues in the world.
I started by saying that I’d lent slightly towards United winning the title, but honestly City’s win is completely deserved. Through the season, Champions League being a prime example, we’ve seen that money doesn’t necessarily buy complete success. Madrid and City have both spent heavily over the past couple of seasons, and the most prestigious trophy in club football has alluded them both for another year. Barcelona and Arsenal, from a completely different football world, focusing on developing and improving young talent have also fallen away. Instead, an ageing Chelsea team, who spent the first half of a somewhat dysfunctional season being slated by the press, have the chance to complete an unbelievable cup double. City still have a long way to go to become a truly great team, but there is nothing they have done that means they don’t deserve it.
Every team utilises the budget available to them. As I said, Charlton (on I would imagine a fairly shoestring budget), signed wisely and won League One. David Moyes works with almost no money, yet has established Everton into a very dangerous Premier League squad. He deserves a huge amount of praise, but it doesn’t mean he deserves the title. In fact, Wenger’s determination to largely dismiss big money signings looks to have been a downfall of Arsenal.
If we look carefully throughout Premier League history, every team has their long term servants, their youth products, their big signings and their natural winners. Whilst the ratio’s of all the above often fluctuate, and different generations come and go, they’re always there. Joe Hart, now England’s number one, was at Shrewsbury until 2006, so even amongst City’s millions we see those young English talents that have been developed slowly and carefully. Mancini deserves a huge amount of credit for using the money wisely, assembling a very balanced squad, and most importantly managing them into a title winning squad. I for one, look forward to seeing the response of the other big name teams throughout the summer.
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