We’ve already signed Jerome Boateng, David Silva, Yaya Toure, and Aleksandar Kolarov this transfer window, and we could still add a few more — names such as Mario Balotelli, James Milner, Edin Dzeko, and Fernando Torres have all been heavily linked to the club, with at least two of those transfers expected to take place.
However, chances to the rules this season state that no team can assemble a squad of more than 25 players, eight of which must either be English or Welsh, or be "home grown"— that is, they spent three seasons before the age of 21 developing at an English club. Any player under the age of 21 is exempt from being included in the squad.
As it stands currently, we have over 38 players on our books, according to the OS. Admittedly, some of these are youth players, and some will undoubtedly be loaned out to clubs in the Championship or Football Leagues.
Even with this reduction, there are still some big names that are on the cusp of making the squad or not — and some of these players were brought in for big money under Mark Hughes less than 18 months ago. Players like Wayne Bridge and Roque Santa Cruz are no certainties to make the final 25.
Bear in mind though that this 25-man squad is only in force for Premier League fixtures — any player outside of this can be named in an FA Cup or Carling Cup match. There is also a separate 25-man squad for UEFA fixtures, which may or may not include the same players as the Premier League squad.
Some tough decisions need to be made this summer, and the biggest is to cut one, or both, of Ireland and Johnson.
Stevie’s issues have been well-documented, in the media and on this very website. Mancini, and Ireland himself, has to decide whether the real Stephen Ireland is the one that we saw during that 2008-09 season, where he was by some distant our player of the year — or the one that struggled to impart himself on any match last season.
Ireland has always blown hot and cold. He is definitely capable of some sheer brilliance, such as the last-gasp volley against Reading in the 2007-08 season, or a handful of goals in his breakthrough year two seasons ago. However, unless he is played in his exact preferred position of in the hole behind the strikers, he has little to no impact on the game, and has gone missing on many occasions.
But in modern football, players have to be versatile and play different positions if the game suggests. Jerome Boateng may be a right-back or centre-half, but during the World Cup for Germany, he found himself playing left-back, where he was exemplary. Steven Gerrard often plays on the wing for England, when Lampard and Barry play in his usual position in the centre of midfield.
The fact is that Ireland is almost 24 — around the same age as James Milner and David Silva. He’s no longer a kid. On his day, he is as good, or in fact better, than either of those two players. But how often is it "his day"? City are no longer in a position where we can carry a player in the hope that he comes good.
As it stands, Ireland is my 25th player picked — but if we do sign Milner, then I’m afraid it’s time to let go of the Emerald Prince.
Michael Johnson is another City product that has been touted as "the next best thing" for City, even earning comparisons to the great Colin Bell. However, these comparisons were made when he first broke through to the first team in the 2007-08 season. Since then, he has lurched from injury to injury. He won’t be fit until December at the earliest — but even that’s an optimistic prognosis.
Johnson was perhaps a good young player for the places we wanted to go three years ago. But with hardly any first team football in that time, combined with the increase in City’s ambitions, I don’t believe that Johnson does, nor should, have a future at the club.
We all love to see academy products go on to achieve wonderful things but there comes a time when we need to accept that they just aren't going to be good enough to achieve the goals we’re aiming for.
Craig Bellamy has been linked with a move away from the club ever since Hughes was sacked, however I fully expect him to be a City player at the start of the season. Despite his brilliant performances for the club in the last 18 months, it must be remembered that he is still 31 years old, with dodgy knees and a chequered history. I can't see too many clubs paying more than £5 million for his services, nor can I see them picking up his wage bill. So why not keep him? I think he still has plenty to offer the club.
Barring any new signings, this is how I’d expect us to shape up for the upcoming season.
Wayne Bridge/Javier Garrido
Nigel De Jong
James Milner/Stephen Ireland
Roque Santa Cruz/Felipe Caicedo/Jo
This means that there are no positions in the squad for: Javier Garrido, one of Felipe Caicedo, Jo or Roque Santa Cruz, Kelvin Etuhu, Michael Johnson, Stephen Ireland, David Gonzalez, and Shaleum Logan.
Players in grey are under 21, and therefore are exempt from the squad.
Players in blue are "home grown". There must be a minimum of eight in the squad.