Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyanhas has finally this week seized complete control of Manchester City after his company completed the purchase of the remaining 10% of shares in the club and Mark Hughes would be well advised to similarly take total control of the team.
It is fair to say that City have probably been the most talked about club in England over the past few months, primarily due to their transfer activity. A solid start to the season meant they remained in the spotlight and then back-to-back games against Arsenal and their city rivals, United were always destined to produce headlines. Unfortunately for Hughes, the actions of certain players have ensured that not all press coverage has been positive. Emmanuel Adebayor’s antics against Arsenal have been well documented, as has Craig Bellamy’s ‘incident’ at Old Trafford, both of which overshadowed excellent individual performances. After a lacklustre performance midweek against Fulham and with seven goals conceded in their last three games, a solid performance and convincing victory is exactly what is needed to underline the Citizen’s genuine challenge to the top four.
Who better to face then than West Ham at home? Struggling to find their form with only four points from five games, Hughes will be hopeful of a repeat of the 3-0 scoreline in the corresponding fixture last season. Only Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland and Martin Petrov remain in the City squad from that match but now is definitely a good opportunity to put the all the comings and goings and media circus behind them, consolidate and build on the great start to the season. Discounting a tricky away game at Villa Park, Monday’s game is the first of six very winnable matches before City’s next test against the top four at Anfield on November 21. If the manager can enforce some stricter discipline and help the £38m defensive pairing of Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure rediscover the knack of defending crossed balls, then City could easily find themselves in a lofty league position in the lead up to Christmas.
Notwithstanding the obvious weaknesses shown against their closest rivals last weekend, the defence effectively picks itself for the upcoming game. Richards, who was rested for the Carling Cup will come back in for Zabaleta at right-back with Wayne Bridge continuing on the left and the ever reliable Shay Given organising from behind. Up front, Adebayor continues to serve his suspension and Robinho is still unavailable due to his ankle injury but Hughes’ striking options are boosted by the return of £17m summer signing Roque Santa Cruz. Hughes confirmed earlier in the week that he expects the Paraguayan to feature having only just recovered from a persistent knee injury, however he will likely have to wait a little longer for his City debut and make do with a spot on the bench.
Neither the FA nor Greater Manchester Police are going to take any further action against Bellamy for his indiscretion during the Manchester derby so he is once again available for selection – his two excellent goals in that game alone will surely still merit his selection. Partnering him in attack in a slightly more offensive 4-4-2 line up will be another ex-hammer, Carlos Tevez. The perennial fan’s favourite can expect a warmer reception than he received at Old Trafford but will still be aiming to open his Premier League account for his new club.
The one new injury concern following the cup tie on Wednesday was the young midfield dynamo, Stephen Ireland. He was substituted with 15 minutes of normal time remaining against Fulham, and according to a statement on the club’s website, was rushed to hospital “for precautionary checks after complaining of dizziness and feeling unwell.” Thankfully – given his great start to the season – he was subsequently given the all clear and will be back in training before the visit of West Ham. The extra 48 hours until the Monday night game will certainly give him more chance of playing, however Hughes may decide to freshen things up in any case.
After the Fulham game he commented: “There was a lot of physical and emotional effort at the weekend. At times we looked drained because of that.” Thirty minutes extra time can not have helped the fatigue levels, therefore it would not be a surprise to see a first start of the season handed to Martin Petrov. After an injury plagued 2008/09 season, the Bulgarian will be looking to recapture his form from 2007/08 when he scored five times in 32 Premier League appearances and contributed countless assists.
Manchester City Club Focus
E.A. sports both sides of his game against Arsenal – September 15
City travel across town £100m-worth of talent lighter – September 18
Error-strewn defence to blame for derby-day heartbreak – September 22
Perfect opportunity to consolidate – September 25