Our pal Brian Phillips of The Run of Play described Manchester City today as “the footballing version of the devastating forest fire that leads to new growth.”
That’s perhaps just a bit nicer than what Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho, among others, have been saying about Man City lately. It seems everyone is looking at Sheikh Mansour splashing his oil millions around like they’re going out of style — the club has spent more than £300 million on transfer fees alone since his arrival at Eastlands — and suggesting that the club has simply adopted its business strategy from South Park’s underpants gnomes. Sure, City can collect players, but how is it going to keep all those egos happy?
Of course, this completely ignores the one thing England has been complaining about for the last three or four World Cup cycles — fixture congestion. Our boys play too many games! They get tired out too quickly! We must do something!
Guess what, folks? ol’ Sheikh Mansour and Roberto Mancini are doing something. They are attacking the problem of fixture congestion with what might be the obvious solution — depth.
- Only four players started both games.
- Neither lineup sucked.
Mancini’s summer spending spree seems geared toward creating two different sides — a “league side” that can compete in the Premier League, and a “cup side” that can compete in European and cup ties. Players like Carlos Tevez, James Milner and Gareth Barry, who are perhaps more suited to the English game, might never see the pitch in a non-league match. Mancini can swap them out and bring in Emmanuel Adebayor, David Silva and Patrick Vieira, who might be more suited to a European style of play, for every other tie. Similar rotations could happen all across City’s lineup.
There’s no shortage of action for the cup side players, either. Between now and December 16, City has six Europa League matches and, if they win them, 3 Carling Cup ties. That’s 9 games to go along with 15 league games over the same span. Some cup side players might get into league games against certain opponents, but the end result is that just about every player has a role, and more importantly, players don’t wear down between now and Boxing Day.
Of course, not everyone at Eastlands will buy into this concept. Adebayor wants out. Shay Given won’t be too thrilled playing just cup ties, now that Joe Hart’s snatched away his starting spot at goalkeeper. Robinho… well, he’s a completely different headache. Other players, however, might be just fine with never having to worry about cup ties and focusing on winning an all-important Champions League bid in the Premier League.
There’s also the general lunacy of spending £25 million on David Silva and only using him on the “cup squad,” but hey, Sheikh Mansour isn’t telling me how to spend my money.
Man City has bought a deep squad, but as Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy famously said, “depth is great until you have to use it.” In this case, though, Mancini might have figured out a way to use City’s depth to great advantage. He’ll have to work hard, however, to keep all these egomaniacs happy. The only way to do that? Win. A lot. Even a Carling Cup will settle the riff-raff down, even if leads some pundits to ask, “You spent £300 million for that?”