Manchester City are constantly tortured by the idea that they should be better.
This is despite the fact that they haven’t finished below second place since the 2010-11 season and they’ve won two titles in the past four years. And yet, whether it’s lack of accomplishment in the Champions League, or the sheer amount of money at work behind the scenes, or the collection of stars that money has brought, somehow City just seem like they’re underwhelming, even when they keep putting up results.
This year they sit third in the Premier League, just three points off Leicester City and one behind Arsenal, whom they play on Monday. The argument against Manchester City is basically that if the squad were better built, if they really and truly got value for all those petrol dollars they spent, the team would be running away with the league.
That argument goes hand in hand with the feeling that somehow the team is stale. David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany have been the squad’s backbone for their run at the top of the league table. So how exactly is it that Manchester City can keep spending like they do, and yet continue to rely on the same guys year after year?
It’s tempting to look at all that City spending and call them a failure for not evolving the team. It’s easy to look at an aging Toure, and an ever-more-brittle Aguero, Silva and Kompany and think City missed the boat by not bringing in more big-name players to carry the load.
The fact that they didn’t, though, is part of why they’ve won so much over the past half decade. They already had the stars, and instead they brought in a host of role players to fill out the team around them. Those role players gave the team the depth and endurance to prosper over the course of a long Premier League season. It’s easy to want more stars now, but take away those role players and City’s accomplishments over the past few years look very different.
When Manuel Pellegrini took over for Roberto Mancini ahead of the 2013-14 season, Manchester City spent big to welcome their new manager. Jesus Navas, Martin Demichelis, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic arrived during the transfer window. Of those five, only Jovetic was under the age of 27. And sure enough, all four of them were in the top 12 for minutes played that season as Manchester City won the title. Only Jovetic was a bit player that season.
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