Sunday, September 11, 2011

2011-12 Manchester City Initial Player Rankings

There is no real Cheesehead sports connection here other than the fact that I am Manchester City fan so if you don't care to get to know the current Man City squad thanks for stopping by, please check back for more regular Cheesehead sports coverage soon. Also this post is going to be far from quick so buckle up if you want a full preview of the initial 2011-12 Man City squad.

For those that decided to stick around, thank you. I explained why I pull for Man City in my running diary of Man City's FA Cup victory over Stoke City a few months back. With the 2010-11 EPL season in the books and the August transfer window closed, Man City now has their squad settled until the January transfer window opens.

As usual, Man City signed a number of high profile players* when the transfer window opened. That left Man City with a glut of talent so a bunch of quality players were loaned out** or sold*** to other clubs. In fact if you put a few mediocre Premier League players with Man City's loaned out players, that squad would probably be a mid-table Premier League side. After all those transactions, thanks to EPL rules****, Man City named their initial 25-man (actually comprised of 24 players) roster***** for the 2011-12 season. Thanks to a quirk in the rules, Man City doesn't have to name certain players****** to their 25-man roster so they actually have more than 25 players available to play for Man City between today and when the transfer window opens again on January 1, 2012.

I know that was a ton of information and we are only getting started. With all of that as window dressing, here are my initial rankings of Man City's 2011-12 squad:

#29) Abdul Razak (M, CIV) - Not much to say here so let's just keep the rankings moving.

#28) Greg Cunningham (D, IRE) - Apparently he is the left-back of the future but there are a ton of other stud left-backs on the roster so Cunningham is only going to improve through training with the first team at this point.

#27) Gunnar Nielsen (GK, FAR) - The first player from the Faroe Islands to ever appear in a English Premier League game will struggle to see the pitch this season.

#26) Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely (M, ENG) - Became the 31st Academy player to play first-team football for Man City. With all the striking options you will see below, the only way he sees the pitch for the 2011/12 season in anything other than garbage time is if Man City suffers a baker's dozen of injuries.

#25) Costel Pantilimon (GK, ROM) - The Romanian Goalkeeper of the Year in 2010 was targeted by a number of teams before the seasons (Arsenal, Inter Milan and Manchester United) but Pantilimon elected to sign with Man City.

#24) Owen Hargreaves (M, ENG) - After more years in the medical room than actual appearances for Man United, Hargreaves moved to the blue half of Manchester in hopes of resurrecting his career. With how deep Man City is across the midfield, which essentially forced Patrick Vieira to take a front office job with Man City, expect Hargreaves to make very few appearances even if he is healthy.

#23) Wayne Bridge (D, ENG) - Man City tried to sell Bridge but other clubs knew Man City was desperate to move him so talks never materialized. As a result, Bridge is still on the team despite the fact that Man City purchased two better left back options: Kolarov and Clichy.

#22) Stuart Taylor (GK, ENG) - The definition of quality back-up, especially with Shay Given sold to Aston Villa, Taylor will be called on if Joe Hart suffers an injury this season.

#21) Nedum Onuoha (D, ENG) - A young, talented defender that is going to struggle to make first team appearances thanks to the quality depth Man City has along the defensive line.

#20) Stefan Savic (D, MON) - A lower profile transfer for Man City with how much money they flash around will ultimately be a good signing for the club because Savic is a quality, young central defender that will get an occasional start depending on the health of Kompany and Lescott.

#19) James Milner (M, ENG) - Mancini has not given Milner consistent playing time, which makes it hard to evaluate whether it was a bad signing. When Milner does see the field he is sort of tweener playing as a holding midfielder sometimes and playing as a winger other times. At some point Man City needs to sell some of their players but if City tried to sell Milner in the now closed transfer window they would be selling low on Milner. I say give Milner some starts to see what he can do the pitch.

#18) Kolo Toure (D, CIV) - After being suspended for six months for taking a banned substance, reportedly his wife's weight control pills, Toure looks to rejoin the squad and fight for first team action since Kompany and Lescott have played well together in central defense in Toure's absence.

#17) Gareth Barry (M, ENG) - Some people like Barry more than I do. If Barry was predominately a right footed player he might not ever see the pitch. Fortunately Barry is left-footed so he get consistent playing time as a holding midfielder.

#16) Aleksandar Kolarov (D, SERB) - Move over Wayne Bridge, there are a few new left backs in town.

#15) Adam Johnson (M, ENG) - If Johnson got more regular playing time he would challenge Kompany for the most cost effective transfer under the new ownership regime. Unfortunately with all the other impressive attacking options currently on the roster, Johnson will be more of a super-sub than a start unless a rash of injuries strike the midfield.

#14) Pablo Zabaleta (D, ARG) - The John Kuhn of Man City does whatever Manager Roberto Mancini asks, which makes Zabaleta a quality utility player.

#13) Samir Nasri (M, FRA) - I was dead against this transfer but after watching Nasri on the road against Tottenham, may be Nasri was the final attacking piece Man City needs. One game obviously does not make a career but Nasri seamlessly combined with his fellow attacking compatriots (Dzeko, Aguero, and Silva) to absolutely torch the Tottenham defense. Hopefully that assault continues throughout the rest of the 2011-12 campaign for Man City.

#12) Gael Clichy (D, FRA) - The first of two players purchased from Arsenal before the start of the current campaign is going to battle with Kolarov for the starting left back spot.

#11) Joleon Lescott (D, ENG) - After a less than impressive start to his Man City career, Lescott started to partner well with Kompany in the center of the defense toward the end of last season.

#10) Mario Balotelli (S, IT) - The mercurial nature of Balotelli is Terrell Owens in the making. With a ton of attacking options, Balotelli is going to have to work to even make the bench let along make appearances for City.

#9) Nigel de Jong (M, NED) - The new-school Roy Keane in Manchester is a guy you love if he plays for your team but absolutely hate if he plays for teh other side.

#8) Carlos Tevez (S, ARG) - If these ranking took last season into account then Tevez would be #1 but all the drama surrounding Tevez moving to another club has limited his first team appearances so far this season. As crazy as it sounds, Tevez is going to have to work hard just to make the starting line-up for Man City this season.

#7) Micah Richards (D, ENG) - With all the impressive players on the team, Richards might actually be the most physically gifted player on the entire team. Richards routinely tests defenses pushing forward down the right flank but still somehow can track back when teams counter attack.

#6) Yaya Toure (M, CIV) - Last year's hero notched goals in the FA Cup semifinal and final to help Man City win their first trophy in 35 years. Toure might be ranked higher but after buying Nasri it looks like Toure is going to play more defensively this year than he did last year.

#5) Sergio Aguero (S, ARG) - If you would have told me a month ago the highest ranked Argentine striker would not be Tevez, I would have laughed in your face but Aguero looks worth every penny (billions of pennies actually) that Man City spent on Aguero especially following his hat-trick against Wigan.

#4) Edin Dzeko (S, BIH) - Luckily this list was not put together till after Dzeko set the Premier League on fire notching his first EPL hat-trick with four goals against Tottenham.

#3) David Silva (M, ESP) - The slightly poor man's Lionel Messi, yes you read that correctly, I am comparing David Silva to Lionel Messi. Don't get me wrong, Messi is still much better than Silva but they are similar players.

#2) Joe Hart (GK, ENG) - There is little question whether Hart should be England's #1 goalkeeper. The real question is whether he will continue to improve enough that he will be mentioned as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

#1) Vincent Kompany (D, BEL) - Man City purchased Kompany from Hamburg for a reported £6 million, which actually makes Kompany the most cost effective transfer in Man City history given that Kompany has been Man City's most valuable player on the roster the last two seasons.

I hope you enjoyed my preview of the 2011-12 Man City squad. Check back soon for more actual Cheesehead sports coverage.

* = Sergio Aguero (S, ARG) from Atlético Madrid; Gael Clichy (D, FRA) from Arsenal; Samir Nasri (M, FRA) from Arsenal Costel Pantilimon (GK, ROM) from FC Timisoara; and Stefan Savic (D, MON) from Partizan Belgrade.

** = Emmanuel Adebayor (S, TGO) loaned to Tottenham Hotspur for the 2011/12; Ahmed Benali loaned to Rochdale for an undisclosed period of time; Dedryck Boyata (D, BEL) loaned to Bolton Wanderers for the 2011/12 season; David Gonzalez (GK, COL) loaned to Aberdeen for six month; John Guidetti (S, SW) loaned to Feyenoord Rotterdam for the 2011/12 season; Abdisalam Ibrahim (M, NOR) loaned to NEC Nijmegan for the 2011/12 season; Michael Johnson (M, ENG) loaned to Leicester City for the 2011/12 season; Ryan McGivern (D, NI) loaned to Bristol City for the 2011/12 season; Benjamin Mee (D, ENG) loaned to Burnley for the 2011/12 season; Roque Santa Cruz (S, PRY) loaned to Real Betis for the 2011/12 season; Kieran Trippier (D, ENG) loead to Burnley for an undisclosed period of time; and Vladimir Weiss (M, SVK) loaned to Espanyol for the 2011/12 season.

*** = Craig Bellamy (M, Wales) sold to Liverpool for an undisclosed fee; Jerome Boateng (D, GER) sold to Bayern Munich for an undisclosed fee; Shay Given (GK, IRE) sold to Aston Villa for an undisclosed fee; (S, BRZ) sold to Sport Club Internacional for an undisclosed fee; Scott Kay (M, ENG) free transfer to Macclesfield Town; Shaleum Logan (D, ENG) free transfer to Brentford; Donald McDermott (S, IRE) free transfer to Huddersfield Town; James Poole (S, ENG) sold to Hartlepool United for an undisclosed fee; Andrew Tutte (M, ENG) free transfer to Rochdale; and Shaun Wright-Phillips (M, ENG) was Queens Park Rangers for an undisclosed fee.

**** = "Each club's 25-man squad should have eight homegrown players who - regardless of age or nationality - spent three years (or a total of 36 months) in the youth system of a club in England or Wales before they reached the age of 21. Contrary to reports elsewhere, players aged under 21 can, if required, be named in the 25-man squad as a homegrown player. An Under-21 player is defined as being born on or after January 1, 1989. Clubs can use an unlimited number of Under-21 players in addition to their 25-man squad. Any player who is left out of the 25-man squad will only be eligible to play in the Carling Cup until January 1. From January 1 to January 31, clubs can make unlimited changes to their 25-man squad. On February 1 a new 25-man squad must be named to run until the end of the current campaign. If a club chooses fewer than 25 players for their squad it is almost certainly due to them having a large number of under-21 players. Clubs with fewer than 25 players in their squad are still permitted to sign free agents." (Source).

***** = Sergio Aguero (S, ARG); Gareth Barry (M, ENG); Wayne Bridge (D, ENG); Gael Clichy (D, FRA); Nigel de Jong (M, NED); Edin Dzeko (S, BIH); Owen Hargreaves (M, ENG); Joe Hart (GK, ENG); Adam Johnson (M, ENG); Aleksandar Kolarov (D, SERB); Vincent Kompany (D, BEL); Joleon Lescott (D, ENG); James Milner (M, ENG); Samir Nasri (M, FRA); Gunnar Nielsen (GK, FAR); Nedum Onuoha (D, ENG); Costel Pantilimon (GK, ROM); Micah Richards (D, ENG); David Silva (M, ESP); Stuart Taylor (GK, ENG); Carlos Tevez (S, ARG); Kolo Toure (D, CIV); Yaya Toure (M, CIV); and Pablo Zabaleta (D, ARG)

****** = Mario Balotelli (S, IT); Greg Cunningham (D, IRE); Abdul Razak (M, CIV); Stefan Savic (D, MON); and Alex Tchuimeni-Nimely (M, ENG) with others from the youth academy possibly joining the squad later in the year.

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