Premier League Preview - Manchester City
MANAGER: Roberto Mancini
STADIUM: Etihad Stadium (47726)
LAST SEASON: 1ST
Get the world's greatest script writers together, sit them down and get them to pen the greatest season ever told. They won't even begin to describe the conclusion to the 2011-12 campaign, an experience I can say I was privileged to witness, even if it cost me a handy amount on a bet. City were out of the race, 'City's Cracking Up', cried the United supporters as the blue half of Manchester saw the title slipping through their hands.
It happened several times over, throughout the season. The title jumped across the city more times than Carlos Tevez on a pogo stick and even up until that final moment there was drama, there was that doubt, but there was also that hope 'We'll fight to the end' cried the City fans until their final gasping breath as Sergio Aguero rifled home the winner, the climax, the season finale.
IN: Jack Rodwell (Everton, £12m)
OUT: Vladimir Weiss (Pescara, undisclosed), Greg Cunningham (Bristol City, free), Owen Hargreaves (released), Gunnar Nielsen (released), Stuart Taylor (released), Wayne Bridge (Brighton, loan)
City have strengthened in the form of Rodwell from Everton, a shrewd signing, but certainly not electrifying by many standards. Then again, looking around the elite, the cash has been splashed in the main by Chelsea - their near rivals United have yet to truly lay their cards on the table. Pre-season has been positive and perhaps the consistency in keeping the squad together could be beneficial for a defence of their first Premier League title.
United will most likely be City's closest rivals for the 2012-13 crown, but nevertheless the experience of gaining a title will be invaluable for the squad. There would be little problem in retaining their key players given their success, but success in Europe will be craved by the owners and could potentially leave them thinner than anticipated in domestic action.
KEY PLAYER: Carlos Tevez
One way or another, Carlos Tevez will be a player to keep an eye on this season - whether it be for his on field prowess or off-field shenanigans. Last season marked the return of many, Scholes for United, Henry for Arsenal - but Tevez's return was arguably most important in terms of the title race. Key performances late on helped City to the title and both he and Aguero will certainly be a handful once more this season.
Tevez is a controversial figure - coming first to West Ham United via a third party ownership, a deal that relegated sides complained bitterly about, giving the Hammers an unfair advantage in the run in. He then signed for Manchester United before ultimately leaving and moving across the City to sign for rivals Man City.
City certainly have enough about them to retain their status as champions. Combine that flair and steely discipline with the aforementioned title experience and it will certainly stand them in good stead for a successful defence. None of their rivals appear to be making an assault on the market to track them down, so providing they don't rest on their laurels, City will be the force once more.