Is Mark Hughes the man to make City a top four team and win trophies? (part one)
With no Premier League games last weekend, it’s a good time to examine the qualities Mark Hughes brings to City and consider whether it looks like being enough to take City into the Champions League and win some silverware.
Firstly, we can consider the positive contributions the Welshman and his management team have made, then we can look at the areas of concern.
The good side of Mark Hughes
- Professionalism off the pitch – One thing we repeatedly hear is how Hughes was shocked at the state of City’s training and medical facilities when he arrived from Blackburn. He pushed through an overhaul to give us top-level facilities which any galactico would be happy with. This fitted in nicely with the work of Khaldoon al Mubarak and Garry Cook in upgrading the infrastructure of the club.With his experiences of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Old Trafford, Hughes knows what’s expected at a ‘big’ club and conducts himself accordingly. He’s similarly demanding of others and, as an example, sought to deal in-house with any waywardness from our Brazilian contingency last season.
- Training sessions – Vincent Kompany and others described how the training is more intense and demanding under the Hughes regime than any they had previously known. Sven took a more relaxed, hands-off approach which players like Stephen Ireland have been critical of. The players certainly look fitter than they did under the latter days of the Swede.
- Preparation – Hughes and his staff pride themselves on their organisation, and the players have spoken of the high levels of preparation in analysing opponents prior to matches. The benefit of having his trusted team around him has helped here.
- Dealing with the media – From his time as a player, Hughes has clearly done his media training and rarely speaks out of turn. He may not be Mr Charisma but he is professional, and follows the modern path of always sticking up for his players regardless of any atrocities they may commit.As someone who was considered an up and coming British manager, it is noticeable that Hughes does curry some favour with certain elements of the press. In major interviews and features (often during pre-season and on training camps), Hughes is portrayed positively by the likes of Ian Herbert (Independent), Henry Winter (The Telegraph), Ian Ladyman and Martin Samuel (both Daily Mail).Even with the recent performances, the view of more considered journalists is that Hughes should be given time to develop ‘his team’. Whether an imported foreign coach would be shown similar goodwill after spending the money Hughes has, and being no closer to producing a solid defence or a coherent passing game, is very much debatable.
- Transfers and squad building – It’s easy to question the value for money aspect of our transfers, but it’s difficult to see what else could be done to develop the side in a short space of time. Clubs who know we want their players quickly inflate fees. Hughes showed at Blackburn he could do well on a budget if required.Most top level players will only join big Champions League clubs, so they’ve been unobtainable for Hughes. Generally I think he’s bought the best quality available to him, even if it has meant paying over the odds.He’s been right to go for proven Premier League quality in an attempt to fast-track us into the Champions League. We now have a balanced squad with cover in most positions.There are question marks over some, such as Roque Santa Cruz, but no manager is ever perfect in the transfer market – even Arsene Wenger had his Francis Jeffers. If we discount Jo, the only truly bad one thus far has been Tal Ben Haim.Hughes is known for his thorough research of transfer targets, weighing up attitude and suitability to the Premier League, as well as ability. The squad looks tougher and more determined as a result, though a few less references to a ‘winning mentality’ would be welcome.Having established the core squad there is likely to be only a couple of signings in future windows as we seek to add quality when it becomes available. Hughes recently said how as soon as one window closes, he starts planning for the next one. This is one area where I would trust Hughes above his ‘top four’ rivals.
- Relationship with the board – Whilst many were speculating that Hughes was a man living on borrowed time following the takeover by Sheikh Mansour, the opposite was true. Hughes’ appointment was under Garry Cook, and he has retained favour with the CEO. Even more importantly, the two of them went on to establish a positive relationship with Khaldoon al Mubarak . (al Mubarak interview here)The measured professionalism of Hughes appears to have found a kindred spirit in al Mubarak, and there has been a welcome trait of the owners to show patience with those they believe in. Sheikh Mansour clearly has an appetite for deal-making, and Hughes’ structured transfer strategy appears to have fitted in well with this.The big question now is what happens to that relationship if things don’t go according to plan on the pitch.
- Can you come up with additional qualities displayed by Hughes?