Roberto Mancini will not spend too long wondering where it all went wrong for his side this season.
With their tepid defence of the title over by April as rivals Manchester United secured their 20th league championship, not to mention another disappointing display in Europe, Mancini’s last hope of success is in next week’s FA Cup final against Wigan.
City are overwhelming favourites (2/5 to win), but in current form, Roberto Martinez’s resurgent side cannot be discounted, at 7/1. Whatever the result, one can be sure that City’s boss, supported by those who sign the cheques at the Etihad, will be focusing on one area of recruitment this summer.
Quite frankly, City have not scored enough goals this season. While a back line including Joe Hart, captain Vincent Kompany and the ever-impressive Pablo Zabaleta have put barely a foot wrong this season – conceding only 31 league goals and boasting the best defensive record – their forwards have failed to reproduce the fruits of their title-winning campaign.
With two games remaining, they’ve registered 61 goals, an eye-opening 32 goals fewer than last season. As their latest 0-0 draw with Swansea demonstrated, City’s strikers have struggled. Edin Dzeko, who missed a glaring second half chance on Saturday, has scored 12 while Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez have 11 each.
In comparison, Robin Van Persie leads the scorers charts on 25, Luis Suarez is second on 23, while the likes of Gareth Bale, Christian Benteke and Miguel Michu have all scored more than City’s strikers. In total, there are 12 players with more goals than Dzeko.
And while there’s an argument to be made that Mancini should also expect a bigger return from his midfield department, with Yaya Toure the only one to register more than five league goals this term, his priority is a 20-goal striker.
Following his eye-catching display in Europe, Robert Lewandowski’s profile has rocketed, and his powerful build and strong hold up play would fit the bill should City, as expected, opt to ship out the misfiring Dzeko. The Borussia Dortmund striker is much sought after, however, with Dortmund’s rivals Bayern the favourites to attract the Polish striker.
After another season in which he failed to dislodge Karim Benzema as Real Madrid’s number one striker despite scoring more goals, Gonzalo Higuain is another of Europe’s top poachers linked with a transfer.
With Tevez and Aguero already part of his squad, Higuain might be tempted to join his compatriots and complete a trio of Argentinian attacking talent. It remains to be seen whether Madrid will be willing to part with their back up striker, however.
City might have more success recruiting from within the league. Villa’s Benteke has been a revelation since arriving from Genk, the 22-year-old Belgian the undoubted saviour for Paul Lambert’s relegation-threatened side.
And then there’s Swansea’s Michu, whose killer goalscoring instinct is not in doubt after a stunning debut Premier League season. Unlike Benteke, however, the Spaniard offers more versatility, giving the option of dropping deeper into midfield as well as being capable of performing the role of the typical targetman.
The downside to their cup and league success this season is that Swansea fans will be forced to endure a summer of rumour, linking their manager and star player to inevitable moves away. Desperate for an injection of goals, expect Mancini to be among those looking to make the latter go from rumour to reality.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.