April 20, 2015

Summer clear out at the Etihad? By @SocanalysisUK

Manchester City have failed to build on success again and now need to phase out ‘stale’ players.

Things can change very quickly when a big club stands still or even regresses. The environment amongst top clubs is such competitive one that an underwhelming summer of player recruitment can lead to several clubs overhauling you and Manchester City are a prime example of this.

Last season Manchester City demolished Manchester Utd 4-1 at home and 3-0 at Old Trafford. Pellegrini’s side won the Premier League title and League Cup whilst United finished the season 7th, without a manager and with the prospect of no European football for the first time in decades. Fast forward 12 months and City are 4 points behind United and with no guarantee of a top four finish after being thoroughly outplayed at Old Trafford.

Few if any Premier League Champions under the same manager the following season have regressed as much as Pellegrini’s Manchester City have this season. Pellegrini and the hierarchy at Manchester City are guilty of not being aggressive and ruthless enough in selling some players who have previously brought success and also not signing any top class players to build on their success. This problem has been prevalent at the Etihad for years. Manchester City started the match against Manchester Utd last weekend with a staggering 8 players who were part of their title winning squad of 2011/12. Of City’s last 16 first team signings, only 3 (Martin Demichelis, Jesus Navas and Fernandinho) have managed to consistently hold down a place in City’s team.

After winning the title in 2011/12, City failed to build on their success and signed several average players that summer and regressed as a consequence. After winning the title again last season, City signed Bacary Sagna, Fernando, Wily Caballero, Bruno Zuculini, Frank Lampard and Eliaquim Mangala. Good players but none of those players are better than what City already have in their respective positions and as a result City have not improved.

When Chelsea won the their first league title in 2004/05, that summer Jose Mourinho brought in Michael Ballack, Michael Essien and Andriy Shevchenko. Not only did these players significantly improve the quality of Chelsea’s squad but the acquisition of players who had proven ability at the highest level was a clear signal of intent. Chelsea went on to retain the Premier League title the following year.

Not only is it important to constantly augment the playing squad with top class players but it is also key to be ruthless and move on some ‘stale’ players who may lack the same hunger that they once had. Manchester City have not done this. It is natural for some players to lack the hunger and motivation they once had and it is clear this is a problem at the Etihad.

As good as they have been in previous years, Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany should no longer be indispensable to Manchester City’s first team. Their performance levels have regressed, they are becoming liabilities and as a result of City’s appalling transfer activity in recent seasons, there are no adequate replacements for them. Edin Dzeko has scored some crucial goals for City over the years but is Dzeko any closer to holding down a consistent place in the starting eleven as he was 3 years ago? This is Samir Nasri’s 4th season at Manchester City, yet how many of those seasons has Nasri produced consistent, top level performance?

City have a poor record of signing English players but intend to continue to sign young, English players this summer and Raheem Sterling is a player who ticks all the boxes. Sterling is young, English, proven in the Premier League and would walk into City’s starting eleven at the expense of Jesus Navas. Sterling’s acquisition would be a clear signal of intent and Manchester City would be able to pay the circa £40m transfer fee Liverpool would demand.

Another young English player who City should target this summer is Everton central defender, John Stones. Stones has been outstanding since breaking into Everton’s first team towards the end of last season and at just 20 years of age, Stones can improve City’s back line immediately and could potentially progress to be one of the top defenders in the game. Stones is excellent on the ball and this ability is invaluable for a club who like to build from the back and generally enjoy the majority of possession.

Paul Pogba would be an ideal replacement for Yaya Toure but Pogba looks increasingly unlikely to move to the Etihad with PSG, Barcelona and Real Madrid more likely destinations for the Frenchman. Instead City should target Borussia Dortmund midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. Gundogan is a proven top class midfield player who has a great ability of controlling and dictating matches. The German International is entering the final year of his contract and would be available for a reasonable fee this summer.

It’s time things were freshened up at the Etihad. Some players who have brought City success in the past need to be phased out or sold and if City want to return to the summit of the Premier League, then the culture of signing average ‘squad players’ needs to be abandoned and proven top class performers who can immediately improve the starting eleven need to be acquired.

By @SocanalysisUK

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