• Could Swansea's Michu resolve City's goal deficit?
• 'If you know who can do it, you are a magician,' says Mancini
It is what every football manager craves – the striker who can guarantee him 20-plus goals a season. And with that heady haul, success may follow. The manager is happy, the striker also, and the mutual backslapping will tell of a job well done. If only it were that simple.
Already, Roberto Mancini, the Manchester City manager, is addressing the conundrum, even before the ashes of a title-squandering Premier League campaign have cooled and long before the summer transfer frenzy sparks into life. It might smack of desperation but, essentially, it is no more than proactive common sense. But where will Mancini find that 20-plus superstar?
A clone, perhaps, of Robin van Persie, whose 25 league goals have helped propel Manchester United past City?
And at what cost? Prolific marksmen do not come cheap. Actually, funding is the least of City's worries under the money-no-object stewardship of owner Sheikh Mansour. It is the identification and procurement of the target, an often tortuous process, that Mancini has to resolve if City are to reclaim their crown from United."We can't know which player can score 25 goals next season," Mancini said. "If you know this, you are a magician. Some years are difficult, when you don't score enough goals to win the league. Last season, we scored 20 more goals by this stage. We are missing 20, that is too many. To score another 10 to 12 goals, it would have been enough to fight for the title."
To be accurate, City are 26 league goals light of their tally at the same stage last season. Edin Dzeko has 12 and Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tevez 11 apiece, modest returns and nowhere near the magic 20-plus mark. Even had Mario Balotelli stayed at the Etihad Stadium, instead of taking his considerable baggage off to Milan in January, it is unlikely that he would have made much of a difference. "I think for Mario," Mancini said, "it was better to go back to Italy".
City's profligacy – and Mancini's headache – was no better illustrated than against Swansea City on Saturday. After a sluggish first half, with half a mind maybe on their FA Cup final date with Wigan Athletic on Saturday, City awoke. Yet chances were scorned at regular intervals, the howler of a miss by Dzeko near the end typifying City's glaring weakness.
The Bosnian will probably become surplus to requirements during the close season, making way for the mysterious "Mr X" – if Mancini is able to get his man. Clearly, the manager cannot take much more of the wastefulness.
"This is our season, exactly," Mancini said of the grim stalemate. "In 90 minutes."
Swansea have experienced many a frustrating 90 minutes too, since winning the League Cup. They have not won in seven matches, a barren spell during which they have scored only four goals. With Michu, their leading scorer, likely to start his summer vacation early due to a hamstring injury, Swansea's excellent campaign is petering out alarmingly.
When Michu does return, fit and healthy, in August, he may have additional support. Michael Laudrup is also aiming to bolster his strikeforce. "We have to accept that behind Michu there is a lack of goals," the Swansea manager said. "Next season, it will be different." Perhaps the Spaniard will not return. With 21 goals, albeit in all competitions, he could be just what Mancini is looking for. Michu for Man City, Roberto?
Man of the match Ashley Williams (Swansea)