Monday, May 12, 2014

Man City Report - Two Trophies out of Four Ain't Bad

There is no question that Manchester City has gone through a meteoric rise since I started following them in the mid-2000's.  I originally started following City because they were the underdogs in their own town employed midfielder Claudio Reyna from 2003-07.  Despite Reyna's injury history and gaffe against Ghana in the 2006 World Cup, he is still my all-time favorite member of the United States Men's National Team.  I am not trying to take credit for City's rise but when I started following City they were owned by Thaksin Shinawatra, the disgraced former prime minister of Thailand that has lived in self-imposed political exile in England since 2008.  Just a few years after I started following City, Shinawatra sold City to Abu Dhabi United Group Investment and Development Limited owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family.  As a result money has been flowing through the blue side of Manchester since 2008, which has recently gotten them in hot water with the Financial Fair Play rules.

After City won the Capital One Cup 3-1 over Sunderland, there was an outside chance that they could win four trophies this season.  At that point I thought there was an 85% chance they won the FA Cup, 51% chance they won the EPL, & 25% chance they won the Champions League.  As it turns out, City crashed out of the F.A. Cup at the hands of Wigan, the same team that beat them in the F.A. Cup Final in 2013 even though Wigan was relegated from the EPL last season. City crashed out of the Champions League at the hands of Barcelona.  That mean the only way City could hoist another trophy this season was to win the EPL.

When City lost 3-2 to Liverpool on the road on April 13th and barely tied Sunderland 2-2 at home on April 16th, it looked like they would have to settle for only one trophy this season given the cushion that they gave Liverpool.  Thankfully less than a fortnight later on April 27th, which will forever be known as "Brace Day" on the blue side of Manchester, City defeated Crystal Palace 2-0 on the road while Liverpool lost 2-0 at home to what amounted to Chelsea's second team.  The stumble by Liverpool on "Brace Day", pun intended as a shot at Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard's gaffe to gift Chelsea a goal, allowed City to regain control of their EPL destiny.  City won their final three matches 3-2 @ Everton, 4-0 over Aston Villa, and 2-0 over West Ham to win their second EPL title in three years.  Here are my final rankings projecting their transfer value going into the summer transfer window along with my thoughts on a few of the unsung heroes of City's 2013-14 EPL Champion squad:

Player Rankings
1. Yaya Toure (M, LR 1)
2. Vincent Kompany (D, LR 3)
3. Sergio Aguero (F, LR 2) 
4. David Silva (M, LR 4)
5. Edin Dzeko (F, LR 8)
6. Samir Nasri (M, LR 6)
7. Fernandinho (M, LR 9)  
8. Joe Hart (GK, LR 11)
. Alvaro Negredo (F, LR 5)

10. Pablo Zabaleta (D, LR 10)
11. Jesus Navas (M, LR 7) 
12. Stevan Jovetic (F, LR 12)
13. Aleksandar Kolarov (D, LR 13)
14. Javi Garcia (M, LR 17)
15. James Milner (M, LR 14)
16. Gael Clichy (D, LR 15)
17. Matija Nastasic (D, LR 16)
18. Micah Richards (D, LR 19)
19. Jack Rodwell (M, LR 20)
20. Martin Demichelis (D, LR 21)
21. Dedryck Boyata (D, LR 22)
22. Alex Nimely (F, LR 23)
23. Marcos Lopes (M, LR 26)
24. Joleon Lescott (D, LR 18)
25. Costel Pantilimon (GK, LR 24)
26. Erik Johansen (GK, LR 25)
27. Richard Wright (GK, LR 27)
5) Edin Dzeko (F, LR 8): I talked about selling Dzeko to help balance the books in my look at the January Transfer Window.  In fairness to me, at that time Aguero and Negredo were the preferred strikers while Jovetic looked like he was going to finally be healthy.  As a result, I thought City could get by without Dzeko.  Boy was I wrong.  Dzeko ended up scoring big goal after big goal in the second half of the season, which was huge given the injuries to Aguero and cold streak that plagued Negredo. I am still not sure Dzeko deserves to wear the #10 jersey for City but without his services I don't think City would have finished any higher than 3rd or 4th in the table this season so maybe that gives him the right to wear the #10 jersey for City.

10) Pablo Zabaleta (D, LR 10): This season cemented Zabaleta's legacy as one of the best defenders in club history.  At left back this season City switched between Kolarov and Clichy to keep both players fresh since City made deep runs in the F.A. Cup, Champions League, and Capital One Cup.  The thought going into the season is that City would do the same at right back with Richards and Zabaleta but Richards continued to struggle with injuries so Zabaleta pulled what amounted to double-duty relative to his teammates at left back.  Zabaleta was one of the first players purchased in 2008, just a few years after I started following City. There is no question that Zabaleta is a member of my personal City Mount Rushmore.

14) Javi Garcia (M, LR 17): An injury to Fernandino with less than a month to go in the season thrust Garcia into the Starting XI in the central midfield for City's last few matches of the season.  Earlier in the season Garcia struggled when he played extended minutes but thankfully he learned from his struggles to serve as a perfect defensive cover to Toure, which allowed Toure to push forward to create numerous scoring chances each match.  Just six months ago I thought Garcia would be a part of a sham transfer to NYCFC to help balance the books to comply with UEFA's Financial Fair Play Regulations but if  Garcia can carry his end of the season form into next season, he could push for regular playing time in central midfield ahead of Fernandinho.

20) Martin Demichelis (D, LR 21): I guess 7th times a charm given that Demichelis won two Argentine Premera Division Championships (2001-02 & 2002-03) and four Bundesliga Championships (2004-05, 2005-06, 2007-08, & 2009-10).  I've been critical of Demichelis throughout this season but there is no question that he made amends throughout the season to become an integral partner in central defense with Kompany given that Nastasic was injured for most of the season.  I know Atlético Madrid got Demichelis from Málaga on a free transfer just a few months earlier but as crazy as it sounds, Demichelis was the most cost-effective member of the team this season since City was able to purchase his services from for £4.2 million.  I am not sure that City would fetch £4.2 million for Demichelis right now, which is why he is so low in the rankings.  Much like Dzeko, if Demichelis' form did not improve in the 2nd half of the season, City would not be the 2013-14 EPL Champions.

City has to deal with the repercussions of their alleged violations of UEFA's Financial Fair Play Regulations, which could severely impact their plans to reload their already stacked squad in the summer transfer window.  With the 2013-14 season in the rear view mirror, make sure to check back in this space over the next few weeks for my thoughts on how City can navigate this all important summer transfer window.

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