When Manchester City hits the pitch on August 14th against Tottenham, they will have one thing on their mind….breaking into the EPL’s “Big 4″.
With Tottenham’s fourth place finish a season ago, they broke the stranglehold that powerhouses Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal, and Liverpool have had on the EPL’s top 4 spots. With the top 3 heading to Europe to play in the Champions League, and the fourth playing in the UEFA Champions League qualifiers, a spot in the top four means more money and more fame the club can bring in. Which would translate well when the transfer market opens, making the club more appealing to some of the world’s top talent.
Man City just missed out last season, finishing in 5th place with 67 points (18 wins, 13 draws, and 7 losses) three behind Tottenham’s 70. Behind 23 goal scorer Carlos Tevez, hard-nosed Craig Bellamy, and top keeper Shay Given, City returns, essentially, the same team as a year ago. With Robinho’s status up in the air, forwards Shaun Wright-Phillips and Emmanuel Adebayor need to continue to show the promise they have displayed over the past two seasons. Wright-Phillips has the pedigree, coming over from Chelsea a few years ago.
Time, and the season, will tell whether or not Manchester City has what it takes to make that next step into the elite of the English Premier League. With Chelsea returning last year’s championship squad and Arsenal loaded with very talented young players, City’s best chance may lie within their city limits. Their inter-city rivals, Manchester United, continue to ooze red ink and have several players who are either aging, Scholes, Giggs, Van Der Saar, or have missed significant time the past few seasons due to injury, Ferdinand, Owen, Vidic, and Hargreaves. The fall of Man United from the ranks of the World’s best might be coming sooner, rather then later, and Man City appears ready to take that torch. Adding in the fact that Liverpool appears to be in transition, and Tottenham, while they can score, is weak defensively, Manchester City could be primed for a Champions League run.
I still think that Chelsea is the class of the EPL, and should have little trouble securing their second consecutive title. Arsenal is a solid squad and is easily a second or third place team. However, I think the final two “Big 4″ spots are wide open with about three or four teams capable of sliding into them.
Here’s hoping that City is one of them.