For the past few years, people from around the world are more than satisfied to put a surefire bet on the either of the “Traditional Big 4” -Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.
But during the past 2 seasons, two teams have emerged from the shadows to show that they are more than capable of challenging the “Big 4” and constitute a new “Super 6”.
Powered by an almost unlimited supply of funds, Manchester City have formed a team which draws comparisons with their more “large scale” investors Real Madrid. New signings and dishing out of jaw dropping wages to star players, it has been almost inconceivable that City already haven’t managed to make a breakthrough.
The other team, Tottenham Hotspur, has created a strong foundation in a relatively different way. Harry Redknapp has been instrumental in creating a team capable of matching the standards set by the Big 4. Intelligent signings, strong tactics and a new found eagerness to attack, the Spurs are capable of creating more upsets in the next season, than they have in the last 3 seasons combined. We take a look at both these teams, and do a detailed breakdown on the squads, the tactics and what they might need to boost their chances.
Since the time the Dubai influence arrived in Eastlands, life has been truly “Duty Free”. From day one, where they cheekily hijacked Chelsea’s efforts to sign Brazilian enigma Robinho on the last day of the transfer window, splurging on top rated players hasn’t been a problem at all for the now cash laden City.
Roque Santa Cruz, Robinho, Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, Nigel De Jong, David Silva, Yaya Toure, Kolo Toure, Patrick Viera… the list goes on and on. With an eye popping salary of 200,000 pounds a week to Yaya Toure, marquee players are getting increasingly interested for a move to the gold mine.
With glittering talent everywhere and a sly tactician in Roberto Mancini, things could get devastatingly better for the City boys, who could give their illustrious neighbours, Manchester United, a run for their money. With the quick and creative David Silva, and the man mountain Yaya Toure joining the ranks, and with an already impressive line up, a chance to upstage either of the Big 4 could be on the cards. Unless of course, they do a Real Madrid.
With great power comes great responsibility, with great stars, comes great ego. A team filled with superstars will lead to a clash of egos, which sometimes spills on to the field. A lack of synchronization, plus an urge to go solo in order to cement your place in team becomes a natural and dangerous possibility. Mancini must know when to say “That’s it” and “I need no more” rather than act like a kid who finds a 10 pound bill stuck to his underwear.
Last season, Robinho and Craig Bellamy showed individually to be open cans of kerosene, easily inflammable at the slightest sparks. All Mancini needs to do, after all this shopping, is to instill a sense of teamwork and togetherness in the squad. If the team realizes they need to work together to get to a common goal, then the team is more than capable of putting in performances like the 4-2 win over the defending champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge last season.
But as they say, everything in football hangs on a knife’s edge, so do City’s prospects of a top 4 finish. But one thing is for sure, if Mancini dives into the market again, the other team managers will need to buy artificial nails to chew on.
David Silva: Fantastic player, with a blessed left foot and God given ability to produce the killer ball. While at Valencia, Silva was accustomed to playing with two very different strikers, one David Villa, one of the best centre forwards in the world and the other, Serbian international Nikola Zigic, one of the tallest strikers in the world.
Both required different styles of deliveries, while one loved to get defense slitting passes which could be finished with accuracy and precision, the other preferred aerial service, in the form of long diagonal passes and crosses. This made Silva, a superb all round technical player and perhaps the best signing up to this point by any team in the Premier League.
At Manchester City, he will have the options of playing with more variety up front, with a strike force consisting of Emmanuel Adebayor, Carlos Tevez, Roque Santa Cruz and the mercurial Craig Bellamy.
Yaya Toure: Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can sure make misery a lot easier to live with. Another top class signing, Yaya Toure has already shown he is no pushover(literally). A midfielder with a defensive mentality, who often helps out in attack as well as an astute passer with the ability to keep possession, he will be a vital addition to the squad.
But with already at least 3 defensive midfielders in the squad, namely, Vincent Kompany, Nigel de Jong and Patrick Veira, Yaya Toure will have to be a more regular contributor to City’s attacking options if he is to keep his place in the starting line up. The added incentive of playing in the same team as his brother, might conjure up a few flashes of unexpected magic.
Jerome Boateng: Young German international, who had an indifferent World Cup. Although he looked good in the match against Ghana (largely contributed to the fact he was playing against his own brother), he was replaced in the matches to follow by Marcell Jansen.
A handy left back with speed to burn, he is like a younger version of Liverpool right back Glen Johnson, a very good attacking full back, but poor at tracking back as was so explicitly clear in the quarter final match against Argentina, where he was caught out of position at will by Angel Di Maria.. But everyone learns with experience, and undoubtedly, he will too. He will face stiff competition from Wayne Bridge for the left back role, and that will ensure he will be like wine, he’ll only get better with time.
Transfer requirements?: Yes that’s a stupid question. One can only rack their brains to think what a team like City might need, after buying their own starting eleven in the last 2 years. Perhaps Torres? Or a 150 million pound bid for Xavi? Their only woes came from their midfield, where Martin Petrov and Stephen Ireland performed a little more quietly than they did when they first arrived in England. City just need to look at a way to exploit the full potential of their squad. No more signings required.
Another contender for “steal the limelight” award, they can make a major impact if they play the kind of football their players are capable of. Looking at the squad on paper, one wonders why they sometimes just royally fail, like they did against Wolves last season, in the 1-0 defeat. They have 4 top class strikers in Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe, both superb finishers on their day, Peter Crouch, who provides the aerial threat with his 6’7 frame and Roman Pavlyuchenko, the strong Russian with superb strength and finishing capabilities. The immensely talented Croatian International, Luka Modric, who even though is one of the shortest players in the Premier League at 5’4, more than makes up for it with his beautiful distribution and vision.
Defensively, Gareth Bale, the left back, is unstoppable when he gets his mood right, and Jonathan Woodgate in the centre of defense will be a tough nut to crack. There are many players who deserve a mention and are capable of changing the way a game pans out, Niko Kranjkar, Wilson Palacios and Tom Huddlestone all capable of being instrumental cogs in the engine room.
The only concern stems from the defense, with Ledley King looking slower and fatigued. Questions will be raised on his ability to last even till the hour mark, leave alone the full 90 minutes, and he probably will have to be 3rd choice after Jonathan Woodgate and Michael Dawson become fit to start alongside Sebastien Bassong.
Harry Redknapp must strengthen his team as a defensive unit, and an efficient support striker would help exploit the bags of attacking talent in the team. Spur fans will be hoping to see Robbie Keane fire on all cylinders, just like the days when he played alongside Dimitar Berbatov.
Sandro: young Brazilian youngster from Internacional, he plays as a defensive midfielder. 21 years old and a formidable presence at 6’2, he is well known for his ball retention abilities. He might be the “bread winner” for the Spurs in their midfield in the years to come. But considering Wilson Palacios is already a given to start in the starting eleven, Sandro will have to wait his turn before he gets a run in the team.
Transfer requirements?: The club’s pursuit of Raul could be a blessing in disguise, a change of scenery and working environment will probably bring out the goals in the Spanish legend. But otherwise, Tottenham look formidable, speed is almost a trademark of the team now, and all that needs to be done is the polishing.
Although someone to replace David Bentley could have been a tempting option, but the return of Aaron Lennon, who was out for most part of the last leg of the season, will compensate. Nothing though, must be left on fate and maybe a player in the centre of the park would be a good addition. Tom Huddlestone is often left to try from distance when he’s frustrated, and Luka Modric with a small frame can be physically intimidated and roughed up.
A player like Sami Khedira with an exquisite range of passing would have been excellent but Tottenham neither have the luxury of affording him nor have the financial prowess to face Real Madrid who are also in his pursuit. Another option could be Slovakian captain Marek Hamsik from Napoli, although he would be tough to get. A deal for either of the Everton playmakers Mikel Arteta or Steven Piennar would be more than satisfactory, and could be the ingredients to the perfect recipe.