Can Man City follow Chelsea?

As long as the owners of Manchester City continue to back their manager, the club will be champions fairly quickly as long as the manager is good enough. Ordinarily spending guarantees little, but spending when everyone else is saving looks a far more potent tactic.

Whether Roberto Mancini is good enough in this division remains to be seen. Rafa Benitez was able to win titles in Spain but not England, Phil Scolari was a world beater outside England and so on - pedigree in other countries provides no guarantee. So a heavy defeat of a Liverpool team in transition (not necessarily decline) proves little in that respect. With so many players looking to force their way into the team it would be more surprising if City had played with less obvious verve.

But given economic realities, it is a case of when and not if City will be champions. Based on the Chelsea model from Roman Abramovich's takeover in 2003 then it seems reasonable to suggest that City will be expecting to move up a couple of places this season - before another change of manager yields the title in 2011/12.

When Roman Abramovich bought out Chelsea in 2003, he took over a team that had edged past Liverpool on the final day of the season to finish fourth under the Italian manager Claudio Ranieri. Much of the upsurge in Chelsea's fortunes over the previous decade had been debt financed and this was dealt with in the £140m purchase. Abramovich's largesse in the summer of 2003 ran to further transfer spending of about £120m on eight players. Damien Duff for a then club record £17 million, English youngsters Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole, and Glen Johnson, Argentine pair Juan Sebastián Verón (£15m even after a poor time in Manchester) and Hernán Crespo, Frenchman Claude Makélélé and Romanian star Adrian Mutu.

In many ways the Chelsea situation in 2003 can be equated to Manchester City in 2010. In both cases previous transfer debts were dealt with and that left a squad that looked like a solid top six team - but a further £120m or so transfer spending spree turned them into a team capable of being champions.

Many people have since equated the summer 2003 Chelsea situation to the summer of 2009 when Mark Hughes was manager at City, but given Chelsea's higher squad start point a more appropriate connection can be made to this year. In 2008/9 City finished in 10th place - so it would be inappropriate to compare a mid-table team to a top four team.

In Chelsea's case Ranieri took Chelsea into the Champions' League semi-final and into second place in the league in 2003/4. It was clear that he was going to be sacked even before the league season had finished - and it must have been hard on Ranieri knowing that his team was still improving when it was already at such a high base. Jose Mourinho arrived and spent another large chunk in making Chelsea the dominant domestic club for a couple of years and providing a high baseline that other have benefited from.

So in all probability the long Manchester City trophy drought is nearly over, with belts still being tightened domestically it must be an odds-on shot that City will be champions in the next three years. Although there is a possibility of the title this season, I suspect more strengthening from the higher ground of a Champions' League qualification next summer will deliver the title in 2012.

So will City be champions this year or next year or will they fall short... or will it be Manchester United or Chelsea again?


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