At the halfway mark of my series, I look at the team that finished 10th in the league—Manchester City. Ideally, City would have wanted to finish in the European spots, but I'm sure that for a first season, the management and most fans would not be too disappointed with 10th place.
However, I think some players' performances would perhaps be a source of disappointment to the fans, and I will be addressing them in this article.
City definitely need to strengthen in the summer to push themselves into the European spots. Central midfield would have been one of the areas I would have focused on, but with the signing of Gareth Barry, that position is now good to go. The other positions that definitely require strengthening are...
On paper, this department is well stocked. Richard Dunne, Micah Richards, Vincent Kompany, and Nedum Onuoha have been used here, and all have performed well for City at a certain point of their careers.
However, for two of the above, their best has not been seen for the whole of season 2008/2009. I am referring to Dunne and Richards.
While Richards is still young and can perhaps improve with the appropriate guidance, Dunne looks to be past his prime.
For a player who already had the pace of a 129-year-old tortoise with three broken legs prior to the start of the season, he seems to have lost a yard of pace in the past year, and that has made him less effective as a defender.
For City to progress in the league, replacing Dunne is crucial. A top-class defender should be added to the ranks so that he can guide the likes of Richards and Onuoha along and aid them in their development to become first-choice centre-backs in future.
I would suggest Manchester City sign Porto's Bruno Alves. He is similar to Dunne in that he is a good defender and is very strong, and thus would be well-suited to the English Premier League. While not exactly boasting Theo Walcott's pace, he is definitely faster than Dunne.
More importantly for City, Alves would bring with him a wealth of European experience, which would be useful when they finally qualify for European competitions.
Money should not be a problem for City, and Hughes should be able to convince Alves to take up a new challenge, having won enough championships with Porto.
Should Alves prove to be impossible to tempt over, then Hughes can use his ex-Blackburn connections to go for Christopher Samba.
The giant Blackburn defender has shown that he is a real warrior, and with the current City side being accused of lacking a solid spine, the signing of Samba would definitely go some way to changing that view.
I don't think I even need to assess whether it's possible to prise Samba away from Ewood Park.
Currently, Shaun Wright-Phillips occupies this position. While he is definitely good enough for a team trying to qualify for Europe, his replacements, Kelvin Etuhu and Darius Vassell, who have been used there in the past, are definitely not.
As such, a right-winger should also be one of the top priorities on Mark Hughes' shopping list.
One of the best right-wingers in the Premier League currently is Antonio Valencia. He definitely will not be remaining at Wigan for next season, and it has been reported that Real Madrid tabled a bid for him a few weeks back. However, if that deal does not materialise, then I think City have a good chance of signing him.
They are certainly a club on their way up and would present him with an opportunity to play with better players. Money is not a problem for them, and any deal would probably benefit Wigan, Antonio Valencia, and Manchester City.
If Valencia is snapped up by another club, then City could perhaps set their sights on Joaquin from Valencia—the club, not the player.
Valencia missed out on the UEFA Champions League, and Joaquin might well decide that it is time for a new challenge and become part of this huge project going on in Manchester.
Since joining Valencia, Joaquin has not reproduced his Real Betis form but still remains a quality player. A tricky winger who likes to reduce opposition left-backs to mere spectators on the pitch, Joaquin would be a fantastic acquisition if he can find his form again.
With Valencia reportedly in financial trouble, they might be willing to cash in on Joaquin, and Manchester City will definitely have the ability to match any asking price.
It may seem strange that I am pushing for Man City to sign a striker, despite them having nine players who can play there. They are Robinho, Craig Bellamy, Valeri Bojinov, Felipe Caicedo, Ched Evans, Benjani Mwaruwari, Daniel Sturridge, Jo, and Darius Vassell.
Of the nine, Sturridge has rejected a new contract and looks likely to leave. Vassell is clearly not good enough for a club with City's ambition. Caicedo and Evans could potentially come good, but City need to be in Europe quick and cannot rely on them for goals. Jo cannot get along with Mark Hughes and will probably be shipped out.
Robinho, Bellamy, and Bojinov are the only strikers who seem to be able to match the ambitions of the club. However, Robinho's best position is on the left wing, where he can cut in with great effect, while Bellamy and Bojinov seem to play best with a big guy partnering them, as they are unlikely to win many headers.
Their pace would be best utilised if they had someone big to flick the ball on for them to chase.
For that reason, I think Manchester City should try to sign Roque Santa Cruz. Strong in the air, good on the floor, he would be the perfect partner for players like Robinho and Bellamy.
Besides, we have all witnessed the fantastic understanding between Barry and John Carew at Aston Villa in the season just past, and should Mark Hughes sign his former employee, then they could perhaps try to replicate that, as Santa Cruz definitely possesses the necessary attributes to be the "Carew" for Manchester City.
Another possible target would be Pavel Pogrebnyak. Tall and strong, Pogrebnyak also boasts an excellent goal-scoring record in Russian and European football. He has been tipped to be the next big thing in Russian football for the longest time, and City might want to take a chance on him.
I say "take a chance," because there is no guarantee a player signed from a foreign league will be a success.
So those are my suggestions for Manchester City to sign in the summer. With the backing of some of the richest people in the world, they will be favourites to land any player they are interested in.
However, they might have to persuade the top-class players to come to a club where they do not already have Champions League football, and that will not be an easy task.