Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Man City Report - January 2015 Transfer Window Roundup

A little over a month ago I gave Man City manager Manuel Pellegrini advice on how to approach the January transfer window.  Unfortunately Pellegirini didn't follow my advice, so I will provide my critique after I give you an update on the six competitive (seven total) matches Man City played since my last post: four EPL matches and two FA Cup match.

Man City dropped two points at home to close out 2014 when they surrendered a 2-0 lead to Burnley to tie them 2-2.  Sadly Man City almost did the same thing against Sunderland to open 2015 but thankfully midfielder Frank Lampard notched another important EPL goal for Man City to give them a 3-2 victory over Sunderland.  Man City followed that up with a 2-1 victory over Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup.  That form didn't carry back over to the EPL when Man City went back on the road to face Everton because they tied them 1-1.  Sadly that wasn't rock bottom as Man City lost consecutive home matches by a scoreline of 2-0.  Man City first lost to Arsenal in the EPL and then to lowly Middlesbrough to crash out of the FA Cup. In between home 2-0 loses, Man City won a friendly in Abu Dhabi against Hamburg.  I know Man City needs to expand their global brand and play in front of their oil barren owners occasionally to appease them but that came at the expense of the FA Cup given that Man City returned from Abu Dhabi less than 24 hours before their home loss to Middlesbrough.  That is hardly the form Man City wanted to be in ahead of their most important EPL match of the season when they went on the road to face EPL leaders Chelsea.  Man City trailed Chelsea by five points going into the match and that margin remained the same as Man City tied Chelsea 1-1 despite actually being the better side.

With the January transfer window closed, here are my updated thoughts and rankings to the roster:

2014-15 Player Rankings 4.0
1. Sergio Aguero (F, LR 1)2. Yaya Toure (M, LR 3)
3. Vincent Kompany (D, LR 2)
4. David Silva (M, LR 4)
5. Wilfred Bony (F, LR N/A)
6. James Milner (M, LR 9)
7. Pablo Zabaleta (D, LR 5)
8. Samir Nasri (M, LR 6)
9. Jesus Navas (M, LR 10)
10. Edin Dzeko (F, LR 7)
11. Joe Hart (GK, LR 8)

12. Fernandinho (M, LR 14)
13. Gael Clichy (D, LR 16)
14. Eliaquim Mangala (D, LR 11)  
15. Aleksandar Kolarov (D, LR 13)
16. Bacary Sagna (D, LR 18)
17. Fernando (M, LR 15)
18. Stevan Jovetic (F, LR 12)
19. Martin Demichelis (D, LR 17)
20. Willy Caballero (GK, LR 19)
21. José Ángel Pozo (M, LR 20)
22. Dedryck Boyata (D, LR 21)
23. Sinan Bytyqi (M, LR 24)
24. Frank Lampard (M, LR 25)
25. Richard Wright (GK, LR 26)
Loaned Out
1. Scott Sinclair (M)
2. Matija Nastasic (D)
5) Wilfred Bony (F, LR N/A): I am on record as saying I would rather have kept Alvaro Negredo instead of essentially selling him in a move that was called a "loan" before the season to balance the books.  That decisions was exacerbated by all the injuries Man City suffered at striker at the end of 2014, which forced Pellegrini to start midfielder James Milner at striker since he did NOT have a healthy striker available despite being arguably the richest club in the world.  Man City tried to fix that when they bought Wilfred Bony from Swansea.  There is no doubt that Bony is a quality striker given that he was the top scorer in the EPL in 2014 when he scored 24 goals.  In fact the first two of those goals came against Man City at home to open 2014 in a 3-2 loss to Man City.  I presume Pellegrini never forgot that performance, which most likely factored into his decision to buy Bony.  Whether Bony is worth a $40 million transfer fee is another matter.  To put the $40 million transfer fee in perspective, it eclipses the fee that Man City paid to Arsenal for Emmanuel Adebayor in 2009 to make Bony's transfer fee the most expensive transfer fee of all-time for an African footballer.  That is a ton of money, especially given that Man City already have three accomplished strikers on the roster that are all currently in a collective injury/scoring drought but don't forget that Bony is off at the African Cup of Nations tournament as a member of the Ivory Coast so he doesn't even provide immediate help for Man City's striker woes anyhow.  Not only did Man City pay almost $40 million for Bony's services but Man City signed him to a four-and-half year contract worth upwards of $150,000 a week and includes a clause that pays Bony an additional $30,000 per appearance for the club.  The appearance fee seems like it is gilding the lily for Bony but I presume that "bonus" was included to somehow skirt UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules.  That is great business for Swansea given that they paid $20 million for his services just a few years ago even though selling Bony will mean Swansea sold one of the most prolific goal scorers in Europe.  Bony's 56 goals (25 EPL goals since the start of the 2013-14 EPL season) are the 5th most goal scored in Europe's top six leagues since the start of the 2012-13 season behind heavyweights Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Graziano Pellè.  Bony has found the back of the net regularly in the Eredivisie and EPL for less glamorous clubs than Man City so I expect that to continue as long as Bony can get regular first-team action. Let's hope this deal goes better than the last time Man City purchased a player from Swansea though given that Man City purchased winger Scott Sinclair for roughly $12 million in 2012 but Sinclair only made three starts and 19 appearances total over a couple seasons for Man City.  Given the lack of regular playing time, Man City loaned Sinclair to Aston Villa with an eye towards a permanent move over the summer.

9) Jesus Navas (M, LR 10): With Nasri out injured for a few more weeks, Navas is getting regular starts at winger despite the fact that his crosses have been sub-par besides his most recent outing against Chelsea.  I know that might seem like a fairly general criticism but Navas is essentially on the field to combine with the right back to provide good service to the strikers so when his crosses are sub-par, there is not much reason to play him  Unfortunately Man City doesn't really have a better option than Navas at this point since Silva thrives as a playmaker in the middle and Milner is a nice option opposite Navas on the other wing.  I wonder whether Man City need to consider something somewhat unconventional like playing Kolarov or Zabaleta as a winger as opposed to their regular spot as an outside defender.  Kolarov has played as a winger a couple of times for Man City so moving Zabaleta or him to winger from outside back might not be all that revolutionary, especially given how much they already push forward from their outside back positions.

17) Fernando (M, LR 15): The Mangala signing is clearly the biggest disappointment of the summer transfer window for Man City but Fernando is not that far behind.  That is exacerbated by the fact that Yaya Toure is playing with new teammate Bony for the Ivory Coast in the African Cup of Nations.  Given how invisible Fernando has been in place of Toure, Man City need to consider starting Frank Lampard along side Fernandinho ahead of Fernando now that they secured Lampard's services through the end of the season.  I would even rather see James Milner play in central midfield ahead of Fernando at this point. When Toure returns, Lampard can move back to his super-sub role, which will essentially relegate Fernando to spot appearances till next season unless Toure, Fernandinho, Lampard, or Milner are injured for an extended period of time.

22) Dedryck Boyata (D, LR 21): Pellegrini loaned central defender Matija Nastasic to Schalke through the end of the season.  Much like Negredo's loan, Nastasic's loan to Schalke includes a purchase option.  Apparently Pellegrini holds Dedryck Boyata in higher esteem than Nastasic, otherwise this loan makes no sense.  The structure of the loan means the proverbial ball is in Schalke's court now for how they want to proceed with Nastasic.  Unless Man City can recoup almost all of their original $20 transfer fee they paid Fiorentina for Nastasic's services, which I think is highly unlikely, I hope Schalke passes on their purchase option for Nastasic because I still think he could be a useful defender for Man City given that he is still only 21 years old. 

With the transfer window closed till the summer, Man City will have an uphill battle in the Champions League (face Barcelona in their quarterfinal home-and-home match up) and the EPL (currently in second place, five points behind Chelsea).  Check back at the end of the next international break for my updated thoughts on the squad.

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