Robin Sainty: Linking ambition to spending power is risky business for City fans
PUBLISHED: 06:00 15 February 2020
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It’s only six months since that sticky early August evening at Anfield when City kicked off their season but as they prepare for the return fixture all the hopes and dreams we took with us that day have largely evaporated.
Despite the encouraging second half performance that match was, in retrospect, an early indicator of what was to come with City failing to convert chances with the game in the balance and conceding sloppy goals.
With all the blind optimism that early season brings it was easy to believe that City would not be facing such ruthless opponents every week and that the confident passing moves that won Daniel Farke's team the respect of Jurgen Klopp would prove too much for lesser Premier League teams, just as they had in the Championship.
Whilst the 3-1 demolition of Newcastle in the first home game and that remarkable 3-2 victory over Manchester City with a side held together by sticking plaster gave us belief I fear that those two failings, which have been repeated so often since that opening game, will consign City to a swift return to from whence they came.
Inevitably with no football last week the opportunity was taken by columnists to air a wide range of views about whether City should have spent more, the possibility of new investment and the current regime's approach to building a squad for the long term, most of which has been both well-informed and well-argued by people who genuinely have the club at heart.
Ultimately I think that the majority of us would love to be able to square the circle of City having the funds to be able to compete more strongly in the transfer market while still encouraging Stuart Webber to unearth hidden gems like Emi Buendia and keeping the caring family atmosphere that makes it such a special and unique club.
The question that none of us can answer is how exactly to do it, and it was interesting to read last week's Metro newspaper interview with Les Ferdinand, director of football at QPR, whose majority shareholder Tony Fernandes was being touted as the man to make City financially competitive 10 years ago.
Under Fernandes QPR certainly went for it with a wage bill which represented 195pc of turnover while winning promotion which eventually resulted in them having to pay a settlement of £42million to the Football League. Since then they have had to follow an even more impecunious path than City, so it was interesting to compare Ferdinand's views to those of Webber and Farke.
Two particular comments resonated. One was: "For a club like QPR to be sustainable every now and again we've got to sell an asset. Some supporters see that, but we live in an instant success society." The second was: "If you aren't spending £20million on a player you're not considered to be competing."
Both of those themes are likely to resurface at City in the summer. I don't think anyone doubts that players will be sold, although the number may be considerably lower than some expect, but it's what happens next that is key.
Given it has been consistently made clear that the possibility, or even probability, of relegation had been built into the long-term plan City will not be facing the usual financial black hole typical of a boom and bust cycle, and should be in a strong financial position.
That said I don't think we'll see huge amounts spent on any individual player so inevitably the "lack of ambition" accusations will fly from some quarters, but Webber's approach of seeking young and hungry players has worked well in the past.
However, these are issues for the future and the present is all about City facing an apparently invincible Liverpool tonight. As in the Manchester City game no-one will give them a chance, but remember how that one turned out...