Quality counts now for City
TEAMtalk's James Marshment says Manchester City still have reasons to be cheerful despite hitting the last hurdle in the race for the top four. All the back pages, column inches and TEAMtalk message boards are quite rightly being filled today with praise for Tottenham after they clinched a place in next season's Champions League. Before we go any further, I'd also like to offer my congratulations to Spurs, who fully deserve their place among the elite after a fantastic season. But what of the team they outpaced to finish in the top four - Manchester City. The free-spending Blues have invested over £100million in a bid to join the top table of European football, and although they have ultimately fallen just short, I think the club have plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The Blues have come a long way in a short space of time and if you'd said just three years ago they'd be one of English football's finest teams and biggest spenders, most fans would have been pinching themselves in disbelief. The first thing I believe the club must do is simple: don't panic. OK, so Roberto Mancini's brief when he took over from Mark Hughes was to qualify for the top four. And yes, whilst he has failed, four league defeats since he took over suggests the club are moving in the right direction. The 4-2 win at champions-elect Chelsea was probably the highlight but wins such as this prove they can compete with the more established heavyweights. The second thing they must do is keep hold of their best players, namely one Carlos Tevez. There have been rumblings suggesting the Argentinian may move on in the summer, but I don't see that happening just yet and I think he can be a key figure for them again next term. Twenty-nine goals this term is an impressive haul. And despite criticism from certain quarters, I also believe they must keep hold of Craig Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Roque Santa Cruz. You'd struggle to find four better strike options anywhere else in the country. Defensively, City probably need better cover in the centre-half positions and in hindsight, the decision to sell Richard Dunne was a big mistake. Joleon Lescott has struggled on occasions to live up to his enormous fee, and while Kolo Toure has been good, he could do with more competition for his place in the heart of the defence. The other area I think City need to focus on is in central midfield where for me, Nigel de Jong, Gareth Barry, Vincent Kompany (when deployed there) and Patrick Vieira are all a bit too 'samey'. The latter, sadly, looks a shadow of his former, energetic, long-striding self. Much like Lotus in F1, it's a big name, but ultimately they cannot compete at the same levels as their rivals. It's quality, not quantity that counts this summer for City and if they can get these two positions correct I see no reason why they can't be challenging for the top prizes next season. And whilst fans will obviously be gutted this morning at their Champions League failure, who is to say that this time next year the club won't be saying it was the best thing that could have happened to them. I don't think a title challenge is too far beyond them next season. The lack of Champions League football (the Europa League just doesn't command the same respect, attention or energies of players) could yet be the best blessing in disguise ever. The 2010/11 season promises to be an even more open affair, but in the meantime, I hope the inquest into City's narrow failure this term begins and ends with the following statement: We weren't quite good enough - this time.
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