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Manchester City progress report: The story so far for the big spenders

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07 Oct 2009 12:56:17

Manchester City progress report: The story so far for the big spenders

After a summer of flashing the cash, Monday's draw with Aston Villa brought the curtain down on the dramatic, and at times controversial, opening seven Premier League games of the season for Manchester City. Fine victories over the likes of Arsenal were tempered by a stinging last-gasp defeat at Old Trafford, but Mark Hughes' men have certainly given us plenty to talk about. Five wins in seven games isn't bad but can City's start be described as a success? Sportsmail studies the evidence.... ExpectationsMake no bones about it, behind the guarded phrasing of chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, it is obvious that the men running City are aiming for the big prizes this year. The Premier League - maybe,  Champions League football - certainly. Extra ammunition: South American strikers Santa Cruz (left) and Tevez Why? Summer signings to the tune of £118million says so. The arrival of Carlos Tevez, Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz, among others, made it clear that the Abu Dhabi-based owners wanted to replicate the success Chelsea enjoyed after the arrival of Roman Abramovich and his money in 2003. Performance Sixteen points from seven games is not a bad return in what has been, for all clubs, an unpredictable start to the season. Three victories at home, including a stunning 4-2 win over Arsenal, have given City real belief. What a result: Adebayor seemed rather pleased to score against Arsenal The defeat away at Manchester United was difficult to take, given that they had already come from behind three times, and most 'top-four' teams will leave Villa Park happy with a point this season.  What is undisputed is that Hughes' side has only one thing in mind - attack. The XI that finished the game with Villa had six forward-looking players in it so it's no surprise that City have become a joy to watch.  Signings Adebayor scored in all four of City's opening Premier League matches but his stamp on Robin van Persie's face and pitch-length sprint to celebrate in front of the Arsenal fans soured what had been a superb start to the season. Adebayor earned a three-match ban for the stamp and a suspended two-match ban for the celebration. Hand it to him: Goalkeeper Given has been a star performer for City this season Tevez has been, well, Tevez. Full of energy, as ever, it was his harassment of Ben Foster that won the ball back for City and levelled the game with United. His celebration after scoring against former club West Ham was a lesson in restraint for Adebayor.   Barry has been influential, pulling the strings behind the array of talent sent out to demolish teams, but the centre-back pairing of Kolo Toure and Joleon Lescott have seemed a little disjointed at times and Hughes will be worried about the number of chances opposing teams carve out. Arguably the most crucial displays have come from two men signed in January - Craig Bellamy and Shay Given. Team spirit With so many huge egos in the City dressing room it would seem inevitable that a bust-up of some sort would never be too far away, but it's so far, so good for Hughes. Little and large: Bellamy and Adebayor seem to be getting along fine and it bodes well that neither of the pair has ever, ever fallen out with team-mates in the past... The problems may begin if City suffer a run of poor form or some of the more hot-headed individuals (okay, Bellamy and Adebayor) are left out. Manager Hughes' every move is now under intense scrutiny but the ex-United player has certainly held his own in exchanges with former boss Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie seems somewhat irked by the events going on at Eastlands and he described City's billboard poster welcoming Tevez to Manchester as 'arrogant'. Hughes' response was simple yet to the point: 'For a number of years, City haven't really affected the thinking of Manchester United to any great extent. Possibly that's changed now.' He has also earned particular praise for sticking to an almost unchanged side. There's no rotation, yet, to bruise the ever burgeoning gang of egos. Fans' reaction It has come as no surprise that after 33 years without a trophy, the arrival of Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his piles of cash was greeted with open arms. The long-suffering City fans have had to endure more than most over the past few years and their dalliance with the third tier of English football still fresh in their minds, it's no wonder they have unfurled a huge banner in the ground saying 'Manchester thanks you Sheikh Mansour'. City slickers: Supporters were quick to embrace the new regime But it isn't just the improvement on the pitch that has impressed the fans - the club is committed to retaining roots in the community with charity initiatives, including help towards a new children's hospital and actively encouraging more involvement from former players. Targets City have already proved this season that they can mix it with the big boys and we can be sure they will entertain. But they look shaky in defence. Their saving grace may be that United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all look vulnerable at the back too. What Hughes' side do lack is Chelsea's ability to self combust, Liverpool's internal squabbling, Arsenal's foetal squad and United's reliance on players in their mid-thirties. Magnificent seven: Five wins, one draw and a defeat will do for now City have the talent to achieve a Champions League spot, of that there is no doubt. If Hughes can keep a lid the egos and plug the gaps in defence, the ultimate prize is also a real possibility. Hughes certainly agrees. 'We are pleased with our return at this stage of the season. We were looking to get a certain amount of points at this stage and we have surpassed it.'     Ukraine v England live! Sign up to watch the match with MailOnlineAdebayor reveals he is haunted by his stamp on former team-mate Van PersieManchester City eye Lyon's £5m Bosnia wonderkid Miralem PjanicMan City bad boy Ade helps snatch point at Villa after Dunne stunnerFan-tastic Dunne had too much respect for Man City supporters to celebrate Aston Villa 1 Man City 1: That's rich! Bellamy nips in to steal Dunne thunder Adebayor finds love in the end at Manchester CityVermaelen: Arsenal have sent a 'big message' to Premier League rivalsMANCHESTER CITY FC


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