Sunday, November 24, 2013

Man City Report - City Thumps Tottenham

I was going to write a lengthy Manchester City post during the international to give an update on City's recent form but since City hosted Tottenham at the Etihad in their first match following the international break, I decided to wait for that match because I thought it would be a good litmus test for both clubs.  Before the season City and Tottenham looked like virtual locks for a Top 4 finish but going into their match Tottenham was 6th and City was 7th in the table.  That meant both clubs desperately needed three points from the match to keep their faint title chances alive.

As I covered a few months back, City spent roughly £85 million purchasing four players: midfielder Fernandinho, winger Jesus Navas, striker Stevan Jovetic, and striker Alvaro Negredo.  The jury is till out on Jovetic with injuries limiting him to a handful of appearances for City but as you will see in my updated rankings below, the other three signings were great business for City.

Tottenham went on a spending spree this summer purchasing Christian Eriksen, Érik Lamela, Paulinho, and Roberto Soldado for roughly £85 million.  So far Paulinho and Soldado have been useful but Tottenham had to expect more from the quartet given their collective price tag.

In order to balance the books, Tottenham sold winger Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a record £85.3 million transfer fee, which eclipsed the previous record of £80 million that Real Madrid paid Manchester United for Cristiano Ronaldo. I understand why Tottenham made some of the purchases just discussed but unfortunately for Tottenham when you factor in the Bale sale it looks like they get two quarters and two dimes for a dollar.

With all of that as background, just 13 seconds into the City/Tottenham match I realized it was a great decision to delay my City update post till after the City/Tottenham match was in the books as Navas put City up 1-0 despite Tottenham kicking off to start the match due to a poor clearance by Tottenham keeper Hugo Lloris.  In the end Navas scored a bookend brace with a brace by striker Sergio Aguero, a goal by Negredo, and an own goal by Sandro in between as City went on to win 6-0.  Sandro's own goal could have easily been credited to Negredo to give City a trio of braces.  City bossed the match from start to finish to put together their best performance since Manuel Pellegrini took over as manager of City this summer.

Just to get you back up to speed since my last City post that focused on City's 4-1 drubbing of United.  City played 12 matches going 4-3 in the seven English Premier League matches, 2-0 in the Capital One Cup, and 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League.  After coming up short in their last three attempts, City qualified for the knock-out stage of the Champions League for the first time in club history.

For how well City played in the Champions League, they've been equally unimpressive in the EPL on the road with their most recent road struggles coming at Sunderland in a 1-0 defeat before the international break.  Lately City has had trouble on the road but losing to Sunderland when they were the 19th team (20 total) in the EPL is unacceptable.

Fortunately City has been borderline perfect in their six home matches in the EPL.  City scored 26 goals scored and conceded just two en route to earning the maximum 18 points at home thanks in large part to beating Norwich 7-0 and Tottenham 6-0 at the Etihad.  With all of that background out of the way, here are my updated rankings and player thoughts:

Player Rankings
1. Sergio Aguero (F, LR 2)
2. Yaya Toure (M, LR 1)
3. Alvaro Negredo (F, LR 9)
4. Vincent Kompany (D, LR 3)
5. David Silva (M, LR 4)
6. Jesus Navas (M, LR 6)
7. Samir Nasri (M, LR 12) 
8. Edin Dzeko (F, LR 10)
9. Fernandinho (M, LR 5)
10. Matija Nastasic (D, LR 7)
11. Pablo Zabaleta (D, LR 11)
12. Joe Hart (GK, LR 8)
13. Gael Clichy (D, LR 14)
14. Aleksandar Kolarov (D, LR 13)
15. Joleon Lescott (D, LR 18)
16. Costel Pantilimon (GK, LR 20)
17. James Milner (M, LR 15)
18. Micah Richards (D, LR 19)
19. Javi Garcia (M, LR 17)
20. Stevan Jovetic (F, LR 16)
21. Jack Rodwell (M, LR 21)
22. Martin Demichelis (D, LR 27)
23. Dedryck Boyata (D, LR 22)
24. John Guidetti (F, LR 23)
25. Richard Wright (GK, LR 24)
26. Alex Nimely (F, LR 25)
27. Erik Johansen (GK, LR 26)
1) Sergio Aguero (F, LR 2): Named EPL player of the month in October thanks to scoring four goals in three matches and might be adding more awards in November thanks to scoring a brace en route to beating Tottenham as discussed above.  Aguero now leads the EPL in scoring with 10 goals but that is not the reason that I finally moved Aguero above Toure.  No, the reason that I finally moved Aguero ahead of Toure was Lionel Messi's request that Barcelona purchase Aguero.  Despite being injured, Messi is unquestionable the best player in the world.  Part of Messi's affinity for Aguero might be the fact that they play together for the Argentinian national team.  There is no question that when healthy, they form the most potent national team scoring attack.  That duo could go a long way towards ensuring that Argentina wins the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.  In my recent trip to South America with Cheesehead Chick we got to experience the depth and breath of the rivalry between Brazil and Argentina.  Suffice to say, if Argentina wins the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro at the Maracana, there will be no Samba dancing following the match. 

3) Alvaro Negredo (F, LR 9): Last season Negredo was one of the leading scorers in the Spanish Premier League so he obviously has a nose for goal, I just thought it would take him some time to get acclimated to the EPL before going on a scoring binge.  Instead, Negredo picked up in the EPL and Champions League right where he left off in the SPL last season.  Case and point, Negrado notched a hat-trick to help City secure a spot in the knock-out stage of the Champions League.  Aguero and Negrado are playing so well lately that absent injury to one of the two, it looks like striker Edin Dzeko could be sold in the January transfer window since Dzeko's first team opportunities will be limited to substitute appearances for the foreseeable future.

6) Jesus Navas (M, LR 6): Going into this season, City's best winger was David Silva.  With Silva out a month due to a calf injury I thought Navas might not be as effective but given his recent form, Navas is making a run at Silva for the best winger throne.  Navas combines well with right back Pablo Zabaleta to form a potent attack that not only sets up goals for the likes of Aguero and Negrado but leads to goals for Navas as well.  I really enjoyed watching Adam Johnson pick apart defenses when he played for City so I was somewhat surprised that City unloaded him to Sunderland for £10 million.  I only saw Navas play a handful of times before joining City but after seeing Navas play the last few months, the differences between entertaining wingers like the Johnson and world-class wingers like Bale, Navas, and Silva are huge so now I understand the thought process.  That goes back to the point I made earlier about Bale.  You can replace guys like Johnson obviously but you can't replace players like Bale, which is a big reason why Tottenham have struggled so far this season.

16) Costel Pantilimon (GK, LR 20): Pellegrini has handled everything besides the keeper situation during his tenure so far.  I know Joe Hart made a couple gaffes for City but he still remains England's starting keeper.  Juxtapose that with Pantilimon fighting for his first team spot on the Romanian national team with Tătăruşanu and I just don't get the thought process for starting Pantilimon over Hart.  My guess is that there is something going on behind the scenes that will never get aired in public that would make the Pantilimon over Hart decision make more sense.  In an odd twist, Pellegrini committed to Pantilimon following the international break against Tottenham but following that match Pellegrini announced that Hart will start midweek in City's Champions League match.  City already qualified for the knock-out stages for the Champions League so it will be interesting to see whether Hart or Pantilimon start this weekend in their next EPL match at home against Swansea.

One final note.  Although City are already through to the knock-out stages, they host Viktoria Plzen on Wednesday before going on the road to face Bayern Munich on December 10th.  City currently trail Bayern by three points in the table and six goals in goal differential.  Given City's impressive form at the Etihad, if they beat Viktoria Plzen by four or five goals, they have an outside chance of winning Group D to get more favorable seeding in the knockout stage if they can knock off Bayern on the road.

As the January transfer window approaches, look for more City posts for how Pellegrini and Company should handle the transfer window.

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