City head to Wolves looking for a winning start
It has largely been a summer of discontent for the many Blues who take to Twitter to voice their displeasure at what has been perceived as a lack of activity in the transfer market. With the expected departure of Leroy Sané, who headed back to Germany to join Bayern, and the move to pastures new for club legend David Silva, many expected the club to go big and hard in the transfer window this summer, with an alleged £300 million war chest being muted by some. The club began brightly, securing the captures of Ferran Torres and Nathan Aké within days of each other. Then there was the long running and very public courtship with arguably the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, which left fans salivating with expectation. Despite the mercurial Argentinian making it clear he wanted to end his long-term marriage to Barcelona and head for pastures new, a likely reunion with Pep, internal politics and contract wrangles mean the end result is he will now see out his final year at the Camp Nou.
Since then, many expected the floodgates to open as the money earmarked to fund Messi’s huge financial demands would instead be invested elsewhere, but despite the very long running speculation around Kalidou Koulibaly among others, has yet to materialise any more new faces. Perhaps it is the pursuit of the 29 year old central defender that sums up the problem most. With media scrutiny on every move, there is even a conflict between outlets around whether an actual bid even existed as of yet. And with Pep heading into the final year of his contract, there seems to be a certain inevitability about it all. All this just seems to add to the frustration of the fans, with other clubs seeming to go about their business with far more efficiency and success, from the outside at least. Then there’s the City tax, which has once again been proven as clearly evident in some of the fees paid by other clubs this window.
On to the positives, however, it is perhaps largely unfair that the above has overshadowed the 2 new arrivals, both who have the potential and promise to add something to the already talented squad Pep has at his disposal, though for how much longer time will tell. Ferran Torres is an exciting young winger, who became the first millennial to feature in La Liga when he broke into the Valencia first team back in 2017. Since then he became a mainstay in the Valencia team, making more senior appearances year on year, and also becoming their youngest ever Champions League goalscorer when he netted against Lille. Since his arrival in Manchester, where he will don the number 21 shirt made famous by his fellow countryman David Silva, he has graduated to the Spanish national team, appearing against Germany and Ukraine, and netting his first international goal against the latter.
Fellow new arrival Aké is no stranger to these shores, having originally arrived to the Chelsea youth set up back in 2010. Since then, after shining on a number of loan spells, he eventually signed permanently for Bournemouth for a fee believed to be around £20 million. He immediately became a key cornerstone of a Bournemouth team who were largely respected for their intention to play football the right way. A fully fledged Dutch International, Aké made over 100 Premier League appearances for Bournemouth before their relegation at the end of last season. The fee of £40 million appears good business in the current climate, for a player who should hit the ground running. His natural ability and versatility, along with his calmness in possession, earmark him as a perfect Pep player who should fit right in and flourish at his new club.
The key difficulty coming into the opening fixture, for me at least, is preparation, or lack of it. Bar those players who featured for their respective countries in the last round of International fixtures, the team have not played since crashing out of Champions League against Lyon, a huge disappointment for all involved. That, combined with the lack of any meaningful pre-season and what is already a confusingly condensed fixture list for the new season, and it further blurs the lines between pre-season, postseason and the season proper. Added to that Wolves, who proved to be a thorn in City’s side last season, have already played 2 competitive games, underlines why I think it will be another tough fixture here. City have already been dealt a further blow in their preparations for the coming season with news that Riyad Mahrez and Aymeric Laporte both tested positive for Covid-19, meaning Laporte, at least, is unlikely to feature against Wolves, while talismanic striker Sergio Agüero is still on the road to recovery following the knee injury he picked up against Burnley during project restart. On the plus, however, during the back end of last season Foden was more frequently involved, showing his undoubted talent, while João Cancelo also seems to be showing more of the ability that we all know he has, as he becomes more settled to life in Manchester and the Premier League.
For their part, Wolves opened the season with an impressive 2-0 win away at Sheffield United last Monday evening, both goals coming in the opening 6 minutes of the game, before then crashing out of the Carabou Cup in a 1-0 defeat at home to Stoke City with a massively changed line-up. In the transfer market, they’ve added to their ever growing Portuguese contingent with the arrival of highly rated wonderkid Fábio Silva from Porto, while fellow compatriot Vitinha also made the switch on loan. Marçal, who featured for Lyon in that quarter-final victory against City in the Champions League has also joined. Perhaps more worryingly, Adama Traoré, constant thorn in the City side, remains with the club, although there is speculation around further departures in the transfer window, notably Dioga Jota potentially heading to Anfield.
City will hope to get their campaign to reclaim the title off to a winning start in the clash at Molineux on Monday night, which will again sadly be in front of an empty house, while Wolves will be hoping to continue their form against the Blues from last season, where they won 2-0 on the road and secured a dramatic 3-2 victory at home with City being reduced to 10-men. Being of the old school though, where typical City is (and always will be) still a thing for me, when the club tweets things like this I am left with a sudden feeling of inevitability about it all.
It’s been a decade since we’ve not won on the opening day… 🤯
Here’s all the stats and good omens ahead of our opening game on Monday night: https://t.co/dy1R2WvwAi
— Manchester City (@ManCity) September 17, 2020
Regardless of the outcome, I am glad the Blues are finally back in action (despite last season feeling a stone’s throw away). Less excited and enthusiastic than previous years, in large due to the current pandemic sadly blighting the world and the impact that is therefore having on everything, not just spectator sport, but happy nonetheless. A winning start would be the perfect tonic to get the new season underway, with hopefully some positives and form to take into the return to football at the Etihad 3 days later, when we begin our defence of the Carabou Cup against Bournemouth, the fixture gods throwing up a tie that will make Nathan Aké almost immediately face his former club, as can often happen in football. Whatever happens though, stay positive blues. There are some things more important that football, although I know it doesn’t feel like that many a time, and the season is long and hard and the dynamics in theory should be shifted even further this year due to the competition and scheduling changes, so although a poor start would not be ideal, at this stage it would be far from detrimental as perhaps in some seasons.Share this: