After last nights defeat in Naples Manchester City appear likely to be playing Europa League football in early 2012. It is not what Sheikh Mansour and company expected and wanted but could prove to be crucial for their development as a force in World football.
The club’s expectations have been realistic considering the huge sums of money invested in the club. They have accepted steady progress and playing in Europe’s lesser tournament will stand them in good stead for another assault on the continents most sought after competition next season. The club are making a mockery of the Premier League at this current moment but have not managed to replicate this in Europe, this time.
In time it could prove to be a blessing in disguise as it will give them the platform to learn how to approach big European ties next time around. Last season’s FA Cup triumph appears to have given the squad and the manager more belief in the project and a possible Premier League title will only further this. To go straight into the Champions League only to be drawn against Bayern Munich, Napoli and Villarreal was unlucky but will have taught them much.
It seems unlikely to me that any of the other British sides would have emerged from this group and for a neutral it has actually made the tedium of the group stages watchable. Whilst glancing at the group leaders last week it was immensely predictable and also rather dull. This group has been fascinating and could yet still change in a fortnight with the final round of games.
The manner in which City are dominating the English Premier League this season is quite staggering and alarming for the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United. However, they have struggled away from home in Europe; the caveat however being that I don’t think many sides will travel to the Allianz Arena or the Stadio San Paulo and come away with anything. We have seen in previous seasons when expectations were sky high that the club have dealt remarkably well with short-term setbacks and I cannot see any difference with this scenario.
If Manchester City win the Premier League this season and have a successful run in the Europa Cup they will be able to attract almost anyone to the club. The defence is still the weak part for me and will prove to be so once the stakes are raised next year. However, every season the club have strengthened suitably during the summer months to be in a position to tackle the next hurdle the following year.
Although everyone associated with Manchester City may be feeling a little despondent this morning there is still so much reason for joy. The club have progressed at an incredible rate and they will be back stronger, hungrier and more determined next season, which is worrying for everyone.