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EPL Season Preview: Manchester City

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Team Name: Manchester City Football Club

Nicknames: Citizens, City, Citeh (their supporters do not particularly care for this one.)

Location: Machester, England

Ground: City of Manchester Stadium AKA Eastlands (Capacity: 47,726)

Manager: Roberto Mancini came to Manchester City midway through last season from Italy, with a distinguished playing career (most notably with Sampdoria) and managerial stints at Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter Milan. His stints at Fiorentina and Lazio were made difficult by the severe financial difficulties being faced by the clubs, but he was able to maintain respectability at Fiorentina and achieved some success at Lazio despite the dire conditions. Mancini's greatest success came at Inter Milan, leading the Nerazzurri to three consecutive Serie A titles, including a record-breaking 2006-07 campaign during which Inter ran off a string of 17 consecutive victories and a Serie A record 97 points in the table. Mancini's undoing was Inter's lack of European success, and he was sacked at the end of the 2007-08 season.

Mancini spent the next year and a half out of football until taking over for Mark Hughes in December of 2009. Mancini guided Manchester City to a 5th place finish in the Premier League, and while their finishing place was seen as something of a disappointment their form over the last few months would be difficult to fault. Mancini enters the season in a somewhat unenviable position; while City have amassed an impressive collection of talent of which most clubs worldwide would be envious, any failing will most likely, in the eyes of ownership, be down to him. If everything goes well, he's a legend; if not, he's a disaster.

Last Year's Record:

Premier League: 5th Position

League Cup: Semi-Final Round, lost to Manchester United 4-3 on aggregate.

F.A. Cup: Fifth Round, lost to Stoke City in a replay.

Brief History: Manchester City were founded in 1880 as St. Mark's, joining the Football League in 1892 and reformed after financial difficulties in 1894 under their current name. Manchester City's first period of success came in the 1930s, losing to Everton in the F.A. Cup final in 1933, winning the F.A. Cup over Portsmouth in 1934 and winning the First Division title in 1937. City bounced between division for the next several years until again reaching back-to-back F.A. Cup finals in 1955 and 1956, once again losing in their first attempt in defeating Birmingham City in their second.

The club again decline after their F.A. Cup success, but returned to prominence in the late 1960s, winning the top flight in 1967-68, the F.A. Cup in 1969 and the European Cup Winner's Cup in 1970, to date their only European trophy. City remained competitive until the late 1970s, but this period of success was again followed by decline and by 1998 the club found themselves in Division Two, the third tier of English football. By 2002 Manchester City were back in the Premier League to stay, but it was not until 2008 that the current era of the club would begin with their purchase by Abu Dhabi International Group.

Newcomers to English football sometimes have difficulty understanding the level of distaste held for Manchester City by the supporters of nearly every other club in England, but a quick recap of the club's recent transfer spending will generally suffice as an explanation. Since the takeover by current ownership, City have spent over £200 million on player acquisitions. And it's not just the amount of spending that rubs many the wrong way; the club not only like to acquire talented players, they like to acquire flashy, big-name players. Critics of the team's approach to roster construction often liken it to a video gamer assembling a virtual dream team, and the comparison is fairly apt. Most clubs (even big ones, with plenty of money to spare) target lesser-known talents to add depth to their squads; Manchester City target players like James Milner. The list of players added to the stable since April 2008 is staggering; Robinho, Gareth Barry, Emmanuel Adabayor, Carlos Tevez, Jerome Boateng, Yaya Toure, David Silva, Aleksandar Kolarov. City seemingloy will not rest until a player of star-quality is entrenched at every position on the pitch.

Manchester City enter the season as reasonable contenders, at least on paper, for the Premier League title,  both domestic trophies and Europa League success. If the squad are able to find the chemistry that was often lacking in 2009-10, it is difficult to see them being stopped. If not, well, it will be pretty hilarious.

Players to Watch:

All of them. Seriously. I know this might seem like a cop-out, but Manchester City are at this point an all-star team. Shay Given might be the best keeper in the Premier League. Carlos Tevez might be a better player than he is ugly. David Silva is a thrilling presence on the wing or at center-forward and he's just now entering what should be a tremendous prime. Hell, I can't even decide which Toure you should be paying more attention to. 

It might sound trite, but the key is not the play of any individual piece. The collection of talent is unquestioned. The key will be how the pieces fit together. Manchester City may not be shy about spending money, but they don't really seem to have a cohesive plan for their acquisitions. It's a bit like going grocery shopping and purchasing Beluga Caviar, a pound of truffles, a bottle of Goldschlager, pasta made out of platinum and an entire Kobe beef cow and trying to make soup. I mean, you could probably do it and if it works it could be incredible, but it seems like a bit more thought could have been put into the menu.

A Villa Fan Says..."You can buy Milner if you want, but we'll use your money on something neat and when you ruin him by letting him rot on the bench all of England will hate you even more."