The past week has been incredible for Manchester City. Not only did the club unveil a mind-blowing new training facility, but firmly regained their footing as true Premier League title contenders.
On Saturday, league leaders Chelsea faltered for the first time in the 2014/15 Premier League campaign, dropping a 2-1 match at Newcastle. It was the end of what some were beginning to predict could be an undefeated season for the Blues – and despite Jose Mourinho's somewhat petulant post-match complaints, where he appeared to blame in part the ball boys for the loss, it showed some real vulnerability. But the result also opened the door for Manchester City to creep closer in the tables and the Citizens were able to do just that later on Saturday.
In a tight match, which some would argue saw fortunate officiating, a penalty from Yaya Toure secured a 1-0 victory over Everton and brought City within three points of Chelsea at the top of the tables. After all the hype surrounding Chelsea, the quest for the Premier League title could suddenly become a remarkably close race. And although the Everton result was tarnished to some extent by an injury to Sergio Aguero, with the striker expected to miss the next four to six weeks after damaging his knee ligament, Manchester City still have a favourable outlook for the near future.
Looking at the upcoming fixture list on Betfair, it actually appears as if Aguero's injury could not have come at a ‘better’ time for City: While it is obviously far from an ideal situation, it shouldn't hurt the club's title hunt. Noting manager Manuel Pellegrini's proclamation that City are not a one-man team, analyst Joe Dyer points out that the team’s next five matches will come against clubs placed 14th or lower in the Premier League table – a run that Manchester City ought to be able to get through, even without their biggest star.
But even with all these developments – Chelsea's loss, City's win and the soft schedule over the next month – the biggest news for Manchester City supporters in the last week was the unveiling of the club's one-of-a-kind new training academy. In the works for two years (not counting the extensive planning and location selection process) and having cost £200 million to complete, the new academy has instantly been recognised by the media and various individuals as the finest football training ground in the world.
Named the City Football Academy (CFA) or the Etihad Campus, the area, which was once an industrial brownfield site in the City of Manchester, now consists of 16 football pitches, with 12 solely designated for youth development within the club, as well as conference rooms, extensive weight training and cardiovascular exercise facilities, six swimming pools, lounge areas and bedrooms for players living at the academy. A 7,000-capacity academy stadium is available for use by youth and women's teams as well as the community, with the club eager to stress the regeneration benefits the project has brought to the residents, including the clearance of once contaminated land. The campus also houses a sixth-form college for students from the community and, given the academy's price tag, it goes without saying that each of the facilities and features is state of the art.
But the real reason for Manchester City supporters to be excited about the new academy isn't its size or quality alone. Rather, it is the facility's potential to develop talent. Many may be surprised to learn that since Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Mansour's purchase of Manchester City in 2008, the club have failed to develop a single English player who has made it into a starting position in a Premier League match.
And although this issue hasn't prohibited the club from signing some of the best players in the world and competing at the highest level, there is the argument to be had that it is a preferable model to develop talent from within, something the Etihad Campus hopes to inspire and allow the club to do.