Mark Hughes has less than a season to prove himself

A raft of expensive signings including self proclaimed Real Madrid targets Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor. Roque Santa Cruz finally arrives at Eastlands on the fifth attempt. The midfield marshaled by Gareth Barry, long coveted by Liverpool. Their defense get a boost with Kolo Toure’s transfer. Joleon Lescott to possibly to follow. Even Franck Ribery is not out of the question now that Der Kaiser has set his price at £80m. The days of Giorgios Samaras and Paul Dickov seem aeons ago.
The expectations are enormous. The very least fans hope for is cracking the final four to get to a CL spot. Unlike Chelsea’s transfer extravaganza which caused little heartburn being mostly overseas, City has done it with players already present in the EPL. The bitterness is real. The desire to see City fail palpable.
Mark Hughes once famously described as “A warrior you could trust with your life” by Sir Alex Ferguson has been involved in an increasingly acrimonious exchange with his former mentor as City’s transfer spending has come in for blistering criticism. Hughes was forced to defend the club as Sir Alex called it “stupid and arrogant.”
He has reason to worry because he was not entirely convincing in his last season and it was only Steven Ireland and a johnny come lately Robinho in the second half of the season that saw City gain some respectability. He was brought to City on the strength of his water tight Blackburn defenses. But in his first season, City’s defense have proven shambolic. Micah Richards once such a highly rated prospect showed an inexplicable decline in defensive prowess.
Hughes haphazard defensive signings include Tal Ben Haim, a Chelsea reject and Pablo Zabaleta, once a right back now shunted to a midfield role. There has been no stability in the left back position with Hughes rotating with Javier Garrido, Michael Ball, and most recently Wayne Bridge. He now wants Joleon Lescott.
City have also paid lip service to their own talent. Daniel Sturridge, the high jinking forward has departed for Chelsea with the surfeit of strikers crowding him out. Nedum Onuoha, from the City reserve ranks and an outstanding prospect had made a recent comeback to first squad duty pairing up with Richard Dunne in central defense after a series of injuries forced him out for long spells in previous seasons. He is sure to find less work with Kolo Toure, most recently added from Arsenal taking up as center back.
I would say that Hughes has the first 4 months to prove himself. There are 14 matches in these four months and seven of them are against teams that finished higher than City in the 2008 including fixtures against Arsenal, Man Utd, Everton, Villa, Fulham, and West Ham coming within weeks of each other.
September is particularly crucial if City needs to make a statement. The first match that month, City host the Gunners, targeted as the most vulnerable club to fall out of the top four positions. The derby follows at Man Utd made contentious by the Tevez saga. City then return home to West Ham and then the following week travel to Villa. The performances in these matches will form a Rorschach of what Mark Hughes hopes to accomplish with the club. If he disappoints then the knives will be out early and City could be looking for a new manager to start the second half of the season.

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