Monday, October 6, 2014

Man City Report - So Far So Good...NOT Great...Just Good

It has been an interesting start to the 2014-15 season for Man City.  After a great start to their EPL title defense (beat Newcastle and Liverpool), Man City got a very tough draw in Group E (Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, and Roma) of the Champions League group stage.  A few days after my look at Man City's tough Champions League group stage draw, Man City went into the first international break of the season with a whimper thanks to a 1-0 at home loss to Stoke.

Man City didn't do much to improve their roster in the 2014 Summer Transfer Window, instead they tried to clean-up their books to comply with UEFA's Financial Fair Play Regulations.  Coming out of the first international break, Man City had seven matches in September and early October before the next international break: four EPL matches, two UEFA Champions League group stage matches, and one Capital One Cup match.

In the first of the aforementioned matches, Man City tied Arsenal 2-2 on the road in the EPL.  Man City followed that up with a loss on the road 1-0 to Bayern Munich on a goal by former Man City defender Jerome Boetang at the death in their opening Champions League match.  Man City returned home to notch a 1-1 tie against Chelsea in the EPL thanks to a strike by former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard.  Man City followed that up with a 7-0 home win over Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup where all seven goals were scored in the second half.  Man City righted the ship in the EPL with a 4-2 win over Hull City on the road.  Man City closed out September with a 1-1 tie at home to AS Roma in their second of six Champions League group stage matches.  Finally Man City beat Aston Villa 2-0 on the road in the EPL to head into their second international break on a high note despite a couple uneven performances in September.

Here are my initial rankings of the roster for Man City at the second international break of the 2014-15 season:

1) Yaya Toure (M): In the off-season speculation swirled that Toure might leave the club after he was less than please with how Man City recognized his 31st birthday on May 13, 2014.  Keep in mind that happened just two days after Toure helped Man City win their second EPL title in three much for enjoying their EPL title.  For how well Toure played in the EPL last season when he scored 20 goals, he started the 2014-15 EPL season with a hangover.  Still Toure's ability to dictate the pace of an entire match makes him one of the most irreplaceable players in the world, which means Man City need to sort out how they are going to fill their central midfield spots when they lose Toure for almost a month for the African Cup of Nations in early 2015.

2014-15 Player Rankings 1.0
1. Yaya Toure (M)
2. Sergio Aguero (F)
3. Vincent Kompany (D)
4. David Silva (M)
5. Pablo Zabaleta (D)
6. Samir Nasri (M)
7. Edin Dzeko (F)
8. Fernandinho (M)
9. Joe Hart (GK)
10. Jesus Navas (M)
11. James Milner (M)
12. Fernando (M)
13. Stevan Jovetic (F)
14. Eliaquim Mangala (D)
15. Aleksandar Kolarov (D)
16. Gael Clichy (D)
17. Martin Demichelis (D)
18. Willy Caballero (GK)
19. Bacary Sagna (D)
20. Matija Nastasic (D)
21. Dedryck Boyata (D)
22. Scott Sinclair (M) 

23. José Ángel Pozo (M)
24. Sinan Bytyqi (M)
25. Frank Lampard (M)
26. Richard Wright (GK)
9) Joe Hart (GK): When manager Manuel Pellegrini purchased goalkeeper Willy Caballero for $10 million from Malaga before the season, Hart must have wondered how secure his spot was as Man City's starting keeper.  In just the 3rd EPL match of the season Hart conceded a horrible nutmeg goal to Stoke for Man City to lose 1-0 at home, which really put his starting spot in question.  In an odd twist, just a few days later Hart signed a five-year contract extension with Man City, which had to give Hart some security.  Needless to say, the last few months have been a roller coaster for Hart.  If I were Pellegrini I would ride Hart at all cost but given that Pellegrini spent $10 million on Caballero, he is clearly not ready to ride Hart at all cost despite signing him to a five-year contract extension so it will be interesting to see how the starting goalkeeper position plays out this season for Man City.

14) Eliaquim Mangala (D): Man City have been searching for a central defender to slot next to Vincent Kompany for almost five seasons.  In my review of the 2014 Summer Transfer Window for Man City, I wondered how long it would take Mangala to perform well in the EPL. If Mangala's performance against Hull City (conceded an own goal and fouled a player in the box to concede a penalty) is any indication of how he will perform for the club over the long haul then Mangala picked up where Jolean Lescott and Matija Nastasic left off.  Sadly at this point that means that Martin Demichelis is a better option than Mangala next to Kompany.

25) Frank Lampard (M): My ranking of Lampard is a good illustration of how these rankings work.  Clearly Lampard is much more talented than 25th on the roster but he is on loan from Man City's MLS "sister" club New York City FC, which severely decreases his value since Man City has almost zero chance of keeping him long-term.  Lampard scored a goal against Chelsea to help Man City gut out a draw against his former club.  In a touch of class, Lampard did not celebrate his goal against Chelsea, which makes sense given that he scored the most goals in club history for Chelsea despite not even being a striker.  Lampard followed up that goal with two more against Sheffield Wednesday in the Capital One Cup and scored another goal against Hull City in the EPL.  Given Lampard's age, Man City can ill afford to start him regularly.  Instead they can use Lamard as a "super-sub" of sorts so they can get him into almost every match.  Once Lampard scored against Chelsea, the rumor mill of keeping Lampard on loan past January started and went into over drive after his performances against Sheffield Wednesday and Hull City.  I would be surprised if New York City FC was so accommodating to Man City unless they could get an outlandish fee from Man City for Lampard's services through the end of the 2014-15 EPL season, which doesn't seem likely given all the pressure Man City is under to comply with UEFA's Financial Fair Play Regulations.

Unless something major happens, make sure to check back after the next international break in early November for another Man City Report.

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