Compared to their rivals, EPL reigning champs Manchester City didn’t do all that much to tinker with a squad that scored 102 goals in league play last season. City signed Fernando — a defensive midfielder from Porto, Willy Caballero — a keeper to challenge Joe Hart and Eliaquim Mangala — a young French defender for the future. Hey, why mess with success, right?
City essentially added a new player in Montenegrin forward Stevan Jovetic, who came over from Fiorentina in 2013 but only played in two matches last season. Jovetic scored twice vs. Liverpool Monday in City’s 3-1 win — giving Manuel Pellegrini’s team yet another option to use in attack. Calling him a new signing is a little misleading, however, since Jovetic’s spent far more than 365 days at the club and received ample playing time during the club’s summer U.S. tour. He might be new to Premier League action, but the City players know how he operates and vice versa – part of the reason he’s looked so dangerous in the first two games of the season compared to other newcomers.
Jovetic is a thoroughly modern striker, a player who can drop deeper to start movements and then finish with precision in the box. The second goal from Jovetic is a frightening prospect going forward for the rest of the EPL, as City’s backroom staff manifested by ex-Barcelona executives manifests itself pass after pass (19 to be specific in the build-up).
Fittingly when Edin Dzeko — City’s “other” forward — had to come off, Kun Agüero scored on his first touch within 23 seconds of entering the match to make it 3-0. Absurd.
In any given match Pellegrini can now use Dzeko, Agüero or Jovetic to lead the line. The Chilean manager has no qualms about starting two at the same time either, even if the tried-and-true 4-4-2 formation has fallen out of vogue. When Alvaro Negredo is healthy, City will have four first-choice worthy strikers — a luxury no one else in the Premier League can claim, saying nothing of whatever Yaya Toure (a 20+ goal scorer in 2013-14) contributes this season. City’s depth across the entire field sets the club up well for the Champions League and what figures to be a year-long pursuit of Chelsea in the EPL. It helps, too, that David Silva’s temporary dip in form looks like a thing of the distant past.
And right now, that’s what sets City and Chelsea apart from everyone else in England: depth. There is an “embarassment of riches” and then there is these clubs ability to bring players likes of Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Willian and Ramires off the bench during this round of matches, as the situation dictates.
Coincidentally the only spot in the field where either City or Chelsea don’t have a like-for-like standby replacement is centerback, should either club captain Vincent Kompany or John Terry miss games. (Admittedly, Chelsea could be in some trouble if Diego Costa spent any time on the sidelines.)
Arsenal, meanwhile, would be in serious trouble should either Aaron Ramsey or Olivier Giroud miss an extended period of time. Liverpool? We’ll have to wait-and-see what impact the Mario Balotelli move will have at Anfield. It certainly could bolster the Reds’ attack but does little to address the club’s penchant for allowing goals. During the City match defenders Alberto Moreno, Martin Skrtel and Glenn Johnson each picked up injuries late on.
The 38-match, 10-match march to the Premier League title is often a game of attrition. Both Pellegrini and Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho know this and have stocked up for the long grind to May.