The second edition of Opposition View this week comes from Ric, who is representing bluemoon-mcfc.co.uk.
1. Roberto Mancini left in the summer. What is your opinion on this and was it good for the club?
Mancini had a good relationship with the fans and many were disappointed to see him lose his job at the end of the season. I’m eternally grateful to him, as he delivered the first silverware in my lifetime (I was born in 1977, a year after we won our last trophy) but there were clearly problems at the club last season. Our title defence was poor, to say the least, and we failed in Europe once more. He had also alienated many senior players by publicly criticising them so I think a change was inevitable. Our new Director of Football, Txiki Begiristain, wanted to implement a new style of play throughout the club (the much derided ‘holistic’ approach) and Pellegrini was deemed to be better equipped to take the club forward.
2. Manuel Pellegrini was appointed as Roberto’s successor. What are your first impressions of him and was he your first choice?
Pellegrini has impressed me so far. It has taken a while for him to implement his style of football but we are beginning to see his attacking philosophy: the last three games alone have yielded 12 goals, with just one conceded. He is less personable and emotional than Mancini but has a calm, assured authority about him. Much was made of his lack of silverware in Spain but that can be put down to the Barca/Real duopoly (his one season at Real saw him get their record points total, only to be pipped by Guardiola’s brilliant Barcelona team). He is a very highly regarded coach on the continent and, while perhaps not everyone’s first choice, is quickly winning over any sceptics amongst the fans.
3. You spent around £100 million on transfers in the summer. Do you feel you strengthened in all the areas that required attention?
The key problem last year with the squad was a lack of pace and width; when teams put ten men behind the ball we struggled to break them down. Jesus Navas, in particular, addresses this problem whilst Stevan Jovetic looks like a sublime talent from what little we’ve seen so far. Alvaro Negredo offers a greater physical presence up front and Fernandinho gives us more mobility in midfield, allowing Yaya Toure to push forward. The only concern from the transfer window was the failure to add an additional centre-half. We look vulnerable at the back when Vincent Kompany is injured and although Martin Demichelis could be important over the course of the season, at 32 he is only a stop gap measure for what is a pressing issue.
4. Who was the best signing from those transfers?
We’re obviously in a very fortunate position, being able to add four players of such quality, and it’s difficult to pick out any of them as being more important than the others. At a push, I’d go for Navas, simply because we have lacked a genuine wide player for a while now. He provides an option that we didn’t previously have.
5. Do you have any youth players we should look out for in the upcoming seasons?
Marco Lopes, a skillful attacking midfielder with an eye for goal, is perhaps the best prospect. He made his full first team debut against Wigan in the League Cup on Tuesday (having scored as a substitute in the F.A. Cup last season) and is very highly regarded at the club. John Guidetti showed great promise but has been beset by injury, whilst Karim Rekik is impressing on loan at PSV Eindhoven.
6. What would you consider a successful season?
It’s difficult to predict who will win the league as there are perhaps five genuine contenders this season. I expect City to finish in the top two, however, because of our strength in depth. Progress from the group stage of the Champions League is essential.
7. With so many management changes in the summer, including Sir Alex leaving your rivals United, do you think this gives you the upper hand over them?
It’s an unprecedented situation to have the top three clubs change managers at the same time, which is why I think the league is hard to call this season. As we’re one of those teams, I don’t think it gives us in particular the upper hand. Ferguson will obviously be a big loss to United and it remains to be seen whether or not Moyes is a suitable replacement. Mourinho seems a little more subdued this time but his Chelsea side will be difficult to beat, as always. Pellegrini is the unknown quantity but the early signs are promising.
8. What is your impression of Aston Villa and its supporters?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Villa. They’re a big club with great support but have struggled for success of late, a bit like us prior to the takeover. It’s a shame for Villa fans that Financial Fair Play Regulations mean that such a transformation for Villa is virtually impossible (credit to your club for seeing the obvious self-interest of the clubs in favour and opposing the rules). A lot of people seem to think FFPR will level the playing field but, clearly, the opposite is true. Fortunately, we got in just before the gate slammed shut but fans of Villa, Newcastle, Everton and so on are destined to see their clubs mired in mid-table for the foreseeable future. Even if a wealthy benefactor wanted to invest in those clubs, they wouldn’t be able to. Such stifling of competition is not healthy for the league.
9. If you could sign any one player from Aston Villa, who would it be and why?
It’s an obvious answer but it would have to be Benteke. He has all the attributes to be a complete centre forward and was a shrewd acquisition by Lambert. I was glad you were able to hold on to him in the transfer window.
10. what are your predictions regarding the line up and score?
Hart, Zabaleta, Kompany, Nastasic, Clichy, Navas, Toure, Fernandinho, Nasri, Aguero, Negredo.
Villa 1 City 2