Jury still out on Manchester City signings who play it the Arsenal way

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LONDON. KAZINFORM - A smile broke out across Manuel Pellegrini's face when he was asked to consider a question that seemed to have been devised with a headline in mind. Does Manchester City's acquisition of Wilfried Bony mean they now boast the strongest striking lineup in Europe?

"Well let me see, it is so difficult to compare," the City manager said, defusing the prompt with his usual mixture of politeness and amusement. "If you go to Barcelona you have Suárez, Messi, Neymar and Pedro. If you go to Real Madrid you have Ronaldo, Bale, Hernández and James. They are very important players, too. You can review all the teams and they have important strikers and important players. I don't think we are the only ones." Bony will be unable to make his debut for a while following his £25m move from Swansea due to his involvement with Ivory Coast in the Africa Cup of Nations. City are also missing Yaya Touré against Arsenal on Sunday afternoon for the same reason, though with Sergio Agüero and Vincent Kompany fit again Pellegrini is confident his squad will be strong enough to cope, Kazinform cites the Guardian. "A good squad is the key to a title challenge," Pellegrini explained. "It is impossible to win the title just with a team. You see how many games we have and how many injuries we pick up - not just our team, all the others too - and then you have suspensions and internationals. You must have a strong squad with two players for each position, and a style of play that everyone is familiar with, then you have genuine competition for places as well as back-up if anyone then has to miss matches." That is more or less what Gooners have been telling Arsène Wenger for the past few seasons, though rarely is the Arsenal manager credited with the flip side of his perceived intransigence in the transfer market, his success at moving players on at just the right time. City know that better than most, having spent more than £80m on Arsenal players in the past five years without ever seeming to have obtained full value for money. Samir Nasri, now injured, has been just about the best of the lot, though many would argue he has not yet lived up to the potential glimpsed in his early years at Arsenal. Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Touré failed to work out, Gaël Clichy has been quietly consistent without setting the Etihad on fire, while Bacary Sagna, signed on a free, is now expecting to be cut from the European squad to make way for Bony. Financially, Arsenal had the better of all those deals. They made money from players they were able to replace and for the most part did not see their old boys go on to produce outstanding performances for their new clubs. On the other hand, Nasri has two titles to his name and is in the running for a third. He may not have proved a stellar performer in Manchester, though he fits neatly into Pellegrini's squad concept. With two dozen or so players of that quality you are bound to be in with a chance. Only one player, Sagna, has actually arrived from Arsenal on Pellegrini's watch, but he recognises that both clubs want to play attacking football with technical players, so are often attracted to a similar type of talent. "All the players who came here from Arsenal are very good," he said. "I am happy with all of them. I don't know if we are always in the market for the same type of player as Arsenal, but I can tell you that all the big teams always want good players." There were no City players, nonetheless, in Fifa's recently announced team of 2014. In fact there were no England-based players at all, unless a case is going to be made for Ángel di María, and as English champions that must hurt City more than the rest. Maybe if Sergio Agüero had stayed fit for longer at the World Cup or if Spain had given David Silva more of a platform it might have been different, but Pellegrini suspects progress will have to be made in the Champions League for his players to get the international recognition they deserve. "I personally feel the Premier League is more important than the Champions League, and I think a lot of fans feel that way too," Pellegrini said. "It is a more satisfying prize to win because you have to be good all year round. "Luck plays more of a part in the Champions League, especially in the knockout stages. You can win it if you hit form at the right time, though of course you need to be a good team to get that far in the first place. But though I would never put the domestic league secondary to the Champions League it is clear this club must improve in Europe. It is what all the important teams must do every year, one step more that we must take, and I hope we can achieve success in the Champions League soon. I think we have a stronger squad this year than last. We can keep improving." Bony should prove that, once he starts his City career. Even José Mourinho complimented City on signing a good player, but Pellegrini countered the Chelsea manager's suggestion that City are flouting the financial fair play rules by admitting that he does not fully understand them either. "I have said before that I don't really understand FFP," Pellegrini said. "Some clubs can buy a player for £70m but we cannot do it and Chelsea cannot do it. We are not playing by different rules to anyone else, we are among the clubs being affected by the rules."

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