Man City line-up?
With Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic having arrived in a spending spree of almost £90million, Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini has decisions to make. Peter Fraser looks at the possible new first XI
By Peter Fraser - Follow me on Twitter @SkySportsPeteF
Last Updated: 09/08/13 12:17pm
How could Manchester City be lining up in the 2013/14 campaign? New manager Manuel Pellegrini has been spending big in a bid to assemble an attacking squad who are capable of reclaiming the title from Manchester United but will he be able to fit in all the acquisitions or will rotation be the key? We assess how the first XI might look.
England and Manchester City's goalkeeper may have had his critics last season after a few errors but he remains one of the best in the world and still saved 112 of the on-target shots he faced in 2012/13's Premier League. Hart will be intent on proving that ability and earning the faith of Pellegrini after having his fair share of run-ins with former boss Roberto Mancini. Hart is athletic, strong and has good reflexes, although there is room for improvement with his kicking distribution. Richard Wright may have signed a one-year contract extension but he remains very much a squad man behind Hart's back-up, Costel Pantilimon.
The Argentine was the best right-back in the Premier League in the eyes of many last season having also had a fine campaign when City won the title in 2011/12. Zabaleta's combination of positional awareness and quick tackling saw him attempt a club-high of 113 challenges last season and he will continue to impress. He is certain to keep his place, despite Pellegrini having shown some faith in Micah Richards in pre-season. Zabaleta, who did commit the most Premier League fouls of any City player last season with 45, will be offered a greater opportunity to get forward under Pellegrini. The defender will also be on a mission to make amends after his red card in City's defeat by Wigan Athletic in the 2013 FA Cup final. At the same time, the end of Maicon's miserable spell at City decreases competition for places.
In his last, injury-plagued season, City's captain and best defender did not manage to replicate his imperious form of 2011/12 but he is still a class act. Kompany will remain the on-field leader under Pellegrini as he demonstrates all the commanding, communicative and dominant characteristics required to skipper the side from centre-back. There will be a greater defensive dependency on Kompany, who completed City's most clearances last season with 177, in a side who are going to be designed to attack. But the Belgium international is also quick on his feet and brilliant in the air to mean he possess a goal threat to the opposition.
With the classy Matija Nastasic having been ruled out for up to six weeks with the ankle injury he sustained in pre-season, Lescott could be given a chance to impress at the start of the campaign. The England international fell out of favour under Mancini, despite being a mainstay of the previous title-winning campaign and having been City's best blocker with 18 in the last season. Lescott does have the advantage of already possessing the foundations of a good relationship with Kompany but concerns remain about his tendency to commit mistakes. Meanwhile, it would be a surprise if City do not sign a new centre-back before the end of the transfer window and Pellegrini's former Real Madrid colleague, Pepe, continues to be the most obvious target.
The former Arsenal left-back has convinced his critics he can be a dependable presence and, last season, he was City's best player in terms of interceptions after making 68. He will keep his first-team place under Pellegrini. Clichy has had to fight for the position along with Aleksandar Kolarov. However, rumours linking Kolarov with a move this summer have been taken as indicators of Clichy being told he is Pellegrini's preferred choice. Like Zabaleta, Clichy will be given the mandate to attack whenever possible and the Frenchman will relish the opportunity.
The £30m summer arrival from Shakhtar Donetsk will give City's central midfield some additional youth, creativity and energy. Fernandinho is set to replace Gareth Barry, who could yet leave before transfer deadline day, while his arrival is also not the best news for Javi Garcia and Jack Rodwell. Brazilian Fernandinho shot to prominence with Shakhtar, where his ability to run from box-to-box drew comparisons with his compatriot, Ramires of Chelsea. Fernandinho will likely start alongside Yaya Toure in the centre of the field but, as the younger player by two years, he could also be given the greater opportunity to get forward. Fernandinho's ability to time his runs is one of his key strengths and he could be a star of the new Premier League season.
Toure remains one of the most feared central midfielders in the world given his combination of explosive running and non-stop energy and he was missed by City during the Africa Cup of Nations. The Ivory Coast international epitomises the modern Premier League midfielder but he may have to demonstrate greater responsibility in City's new-look side. Pellegrini would be foolish to attempt to completely shackle Toure but, playing alongside Fernandinho, there will be a need for defensive awareness. Toure has already played in that role with success at Barcelona and, having last season attempted more than 2,500 passes, he will continue to make City tick.
City chronically lacked width last season and it was one of the greatest criticisms angled at the Mancini era. Spanish speedster Navas, a £15.9m summer arrival from Sevilla, will therefore be an important new ingredient. His pace and accurate crossing will be tasked with supplying the ammunition for Sergio Aguero from wide areas. Navas is not a player who is always looking to cut in from his flank and so will operate on the right. James Milner and Samir Nasri, despite the Frenchman having City's best Premier League passing accuracy in 2012/13 with 90.8 per cent, could consequently find opportunities limited.
Along with Kompany and Toure, Silva was last season unable to reach the sublime level of performances which saw him light up the Premier League en route to the title in 2012. That was a main factor in City finishing as 2013's runners-up to United but much is expected of Silva in the coming campaign. The Spaniard was often pushed wide by Mancini but should be given the chance to operate centrally behind the forwards with a freedom to roam in Pellegrini's line-up. Silva, along with the now-sold Carlos Tevez, produced City's highest total of goal assists - eight - last season and he will be expected to reach double figures in 2013/14. Silva could well be the most important player in Pellegrini's attack-focused team.
The two-footed Montenegrin looks set to operate on the left of City's advanced trio following his £22m move from Fiorentina. Jovetic's ability to use either foot mixed with his dribbling skill, despite being a tall man, mean he would be capable of crossing from wide areas or cutting in to shoot at goal. An eye for a pass and fine technique mean Jovetic could be one of the most exciting summer arrivals for the Premier League and, like Navas, he underpins City's new attacking formation. An extremely serious knee injury wrecked Jovetic's 2010/11 season but there can be no fears over his fitness after he scored 13 goals in 31 Serie A games in the last campaign. The 23-year-old has years in front of him and his arrival is just one of the reasons Scott Sinclair's City nightmare appears close to the end.
City's main man, Aguero, will have the responsibility of leading the attack as the club's established striker following Tevez's move to Juventus. Edin Dzeko with 14 goals scored two more than Aguero, who is fit again after a knee injury disrupted his pre-season, in the last Premier League campaign and the Bosnia and Herzegovina international has also had an excellent pre-season. But Dzeko is still likely to be behind Aguero in Pellegrini's plans. Aguero's subtle ability to finish from long and short range combined with his dribbling ability mean he offers a range of threats. The power and physical presence of Alvaro Negredo, another £20.6m summer signing from Sevilla, may also be used as a different option to Aguero when a more direct plan of attack is required.
What do you make of the team we have picked? Will Manuel Pellegrini have similar ideas or are some of our selections way off the mark? Let us know your thoughts and pick your own Manchester City team for the new season by filling in the feedback form below?