Five key off-season questions

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 23: Carlos Tevez of Manchester City waves to the fans during the Manchester City FA Cup Winners Parade at the City of Manchester stadium on May 23, 2011 in Manchester, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)

The dust may have barely begun to settle on the 2010/11 season and despite the club being well placed on the back of the most successful season in the Premier League era, as they head into new territory next season with participation in the Champions League and the expectation that there is a genuine opportunity to mount a challenge for the title there are some key areas that need to be addressed in preparation for 2011/12.

The Carlos Tevez situation

Without a World Cup or European Championships to provide a distraction, the smart money is on Carlos Tevez being the main talking point this summer as discussions around his future look set to be both protracted and tedious in equal measure.

With his absence from the side towards the end of the season through injury, there were suggestions - more perhaps trying to assuage the impact of an impending departure - that the side can function happily without him. Whilst the side was effective without him - and with a fully assimilated Edin Dzeko likely ready to step up next season - the hole that Tevez would leave should he move on will be huge and extremely difficult to fill.

In reality, there are very few clubs who can provide the transfer fee it will take for City to pull the trigger on a deal, the wage structure Tevez will command and - something that is often overlooked - the level of competition (ie, a side competing for titles and offering Champions League football) that he now has on offer at City. For all the talk of Tevez's willingness to leave (which would fit in with his nomadic career thus far), there has to be clubs out there who share that willingness to bring him in.

The list is by no means endless and the above is of course subject to the assumption Tevez does want to leave. We know of his December transfer request, but perhaps a summer spent back in Argentina will provide a period of reflection that brings him to the conclusion that he is currently in the best possible situation.

Captaincy

A question that will be easily answered should Tevez leave. It was telling that during the FA Cup parade that Tevez shared the stage with Vincent Kompany who deputised during his spell on the sidelines. Such has been Kompany's influence not only as a player, but in the status and command he holds as a member of the squad that there is a growing movement that feels that he should be named captain regardless of Tevez's future.

The issue of captaincy in football is often given too much weight given the very limited effect that a captain has on the side. Looking through the City side, players like Joe Hart, Nigel de Jong and Yaya Toure are all strong figures and there need for a galvanising figure is not there as it may be at some other clubs.

The decision to hand the armband to Tevez in the first place was a contentious one, although the reasons for doing so were understandable in trying to acclimate and integrate Tevez into the squad further, but also provide a level of responsibility that would see him thrive.

A decision to therefore to remove Tevez as captain could have an equally negative impact and a tough decision for Roberto Mancini awaits. He may well decide to maintain the status quo.

How the side will handle the added workload of the Champions League

Looking back over the 2010/11 season, the noticeable dip in City's form came at the turn of 2011, when the side was fighting on three fronts: Premier League, the beginning of the FA Cup campaign and the Europa League. Coinciding with a number of injuries, this period was undoubtedly City's worst period of the season and serves as a stark warning for next season. Not only will the side be contending with a debut Champions League campaign, but they will also be expected to mount a serious tilt at the Premier League title: no easy  feat in itself.

We saw at close hand this season the struggles of Tottenham in trying to juggle the two competitions and this is the reason why Mancini has been making noises about strengthening the squad depth so considerably. A one and done season in the Champions League is not something the club - nor Mancini himself - can afford on any level.

A positive in this regard though is the lack of international tournaments this summer. No World Cup, European Championships or Confederations Cup are being staged, with the participation of both Carlos Tevez (although this may not ultimately be relevant) and/or Pablo Zabaleta in the Copa America is still to be determined. With a free summer, the squad (although the same is true of others) should avoid hitting the 'wall' as we have often seen with other sides.

Financial Fair Play

Khaldoon says a couple, Mancini 10-15. Reinforcements are undoubtedly needed, as to what scale we are yet to find out and reports this week in the press suggest this is likely to be a contentious issue.

Regardless of the numbers that do (or don't ) arrive, what will need to happen though is for the club to be able to offload the wages (and try to recoup at least some of the inflated outlay) of the likes of Bellamy, Santa Cruz, Adebayor, Jo Wright-Phillips and Bridge - all players who at this point appear to have little or no future.

The additional Champions League income will now arrive and the club received a healthy sum from Premier League broadcasting revenue over the course of 2010/11, in addition to forecasted extra revenue through sponsorship etc but wage levels simply have to come down. To get to the position the club are now in, the journey that was undertaken had to be accelerated: spend big to get there and deal with the issue once it arrives.

That time has no come as the spectre of the FFP begins to loom large over clubs and their transfer strategies.

Expectations

I wrote at various points this season that hope had given way to expectation and that by achieving a top four finish and lifting the FA Cup was the fulfilment of that expectation.

The monkey may now be off the back but it has given those connected with the club a taste. The highest finish in the Premier League era (only nine points off the top) was attained, which has only served to heighten expectation and increase demand for success. Top four was the order this season, a genuine shot at the title is now the minimum expectation. If Mancini was under pressure this season, next season this will be magnified further.

For those who observe the club and see the side week in week out the transformation in terms of mentality and approach has been plain to see. Players such as Kompany, de Jong, Yaya Toure, Tevez and Silva possess the traits and characteristics that resulted in this seasons achievements. Confidence will have been boosted but the squad cannot rest on their laurels. The demand now is for further trophies to be added and continued success to be achieved.

Mancini will have to ensure that not only do new arrivals possess the qualities for this, but also to ensure that the incumbents in the squad have the hunger and desire to continue to grow and not merely be satisfied with what they achieved thus far.

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