Wednesday, 22 July 2015

v Roma: What we learnt.

That was probably one of the best pre-season warm-up games I’ve ever seen (or can recall). Despite the inevitable and most understandable high-number of substitutions by both sides; both Roma and City were ‘well up for it’ in going for the win.

 

Many positives

 
Getting straight to it then, what I learnt was…
 
  • The kids are alright! From that performance Kelechi Iheanacho is every bit the striker I thought he was [whenever I’ve had the privilege to watch him] and had hoped he was. Determined, intelligent running, a really good finisher and mature beyond his age. He’s one of our 4 (3?) first team strikers this season. I thought both Bruno Zuculini and Manu Garcia grew into the game and improved a lot before being substituted; perhaps Garcia looked the slightly more accomplished of the two. Jason Denayer looked every bit the player I had heard of; very confident and cool with the ball and certainly liked to break forward, as well as defending with fervour. Marcos Lopes was a menace the whole time and was very strong on the ball. Any more performances like that and he should be a ‘bench man’ more often and at the very least this season. Brandon Barker was another one who grew very quickly into the game when he came on after the break. And grew he did; with some fantastic link-up play and skilful footwork. Another confident lad. And having never seen much of him I was delighted with the performance of “right-back” James Horsfield who had a terrific game both in defence and attack-support down that flank. More often a central midfielder for the EDS; he proved just how versatile he is. Similarly a late showing for midfielder George Evans who came on as centre half for Vincent Kompany. Alongside Denayer – and in a very young defence by this stage – George & Jason performed superbly well under the cosh from a pressing Roma side. Enes Unal didn’t see too much of the ball but that was down to a then-pressing Roma side who were looking for – and got – a late equaliser. Seemed to play deeper that Iheanacho [who pressed Roma’s back line the whole time] but, as I say, was perhaps forced to do so a little.
 
  • Willy Caballero didn’t convince me too much. I’ve stayed away from being critical of the Argentinean since his arrival last summer because I’ve seen so very little of him; and can’t understand [for the same reason] how anyone can be. However, he looked a little flat-footed and slow to react at times yesterday. Might be just pre-season rustiness…
 
  • Bacary Sagna did quite well before the interval; particularly with some telling attacking-support play as we were on the 'front foot' for large parts of the first half.
 
  • Raheem Sterling had a very good debut and surprised me personally with left-sided forward role, which gives us more options that I was already counting. Good finish for his goal and was very lively in his link-up play with his new colleagues – looked like he’d played with them for a year or more!
 
  • My player of last season, David Silva, was sublime! He looks raring to go already and with the addition of more flare players in Sterling (and perhaps more to come?) he should shine even brighter this season…if that’s at all possible!
 
  • The lads from Porto didn’t exactly have poor games yesterday but neither did they do much to convince me otherwise that they’ve settled in yet with their City teammates. There were still some ‘flappy moments’ in defence when Eliaquim Mangala was alongside ‘our Vinny’ and perhaps it’s me-personally missing Fernando for doing a quiet & effective job sitting deeper in midfield; while the players ahead of him with a more-attacking agenda are getting the limelight & plaudits. I’m hoping that’s what it was yesterday and if so I hold my hands up...
 
  • We still need a left-back! Gael Clichy was okay again but – and it starts [from me] already – we looked flaky & exposed again when Mr Kolarov replaced him…and then, of course, there was his penalty shot that he blasted WAY over the bar!
 
  • Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas each had particularly lively 45 minutes and both Samir and Yaya Toure looked to have a happy demeanour (worth mentioning of course).
 
  • The corners and crossing in general seemed to have improved.
 
  • As suspected, it looks like Manuel Pellegrini might be considering this fluid 4-5-1 come 4-3-3 for the coming season. That’s fine - it’ll need a lot of fitness [to track back / counter attack] and will require one of our defensive midfielders to be right ‘on blob’ for most of the season. Will that player be Fabian Delph?
 
  • Edin Dzeko & Stevan Jovetic look to be on their way out.
 
  • Joe Hart for penalty taking! What a shot into the ‘top left’! Not to mention his great mind games and performance in between the sticks (go find a video on the WEB if you’ve haven’t seen it…)
 
  • We’re going to be in for, as fully expected of course, a season of ‘boos’ from mindless morons. We can expect it from Liverpool & Villa fans with regards to Sterling & Delph respectively but what the ffffff…lip was that all about in Australia at the beginning of the game and whenever Raheem got hold of (or stood on) the ball?!
 
T’was a good game; good end result but, much more importantly, a very good performance in general from the lads (and a fitness workout of course).
 

One more signing? Two? Three? FOUR?!

 
Okay…even though we might be off-loading both Edin & Stevan very soon (plus one midfielder?) I can’t see us bringing in another four or even three players in-addition to Delph, Partick Roberts & Sterling. But here are my brief thoughts on the final 6 weeks of the summer transfer window with regards to our very own Manchester City.
 
1. I’ll say again…we need a flippin’ left-back! I can only HOPE that we’re in the market for one (and Kolarov’s performance yesterday might have just highlighted this to the Management team) because I would hate for all our hard work in-building a more attacking midfield threat to be undone by glaring gaps and silly mistakes on that side of our defence. We have to remember too that other Premier League teams at least are strengthening THEIR sides and may well have some new attacking right-sided options to test our left-flank even more this season…
 
2. One more, additional attacking / creative midfielder / (left) winger to ‘complete us’ across the middle please. I think we can forget the Paul Pogba thing for this season at least (and probably for the next 5 or 6 seasons) but the Kevin de Bruyne thing just won’t go away will it? In fact this morning - and despite more “He’s going nowhere” talk from Wolfsburg – rumours have intensified that we are closer to agreeing a move for the ex-Chelsea & Belgium midfielder / winger.
 
3. Or are we in for Isco as WELL as Kevin? Well we were always in for Sterling, de Bruyne AND Pogba if we are to believe reports. As well as increased speculation about de Bruyne; reports this morning suggest also that we are stepping up for - and are closer to getting - a deal for Real Madrid’s, David Silva-like, Spanish playmaker.
 
4. Are we going to go into the season with Aguero, Bony, Iheanacho & Unal as our four strikers (although I can see Unal going out on loan)? If so then fine; I can see us relying more on our attacking midfielders / wingers backing-up a loan striker most of the time this season anyway. But with Enes likely to be given a season somewhere to mature further and with, in fairness, Kelechi being untested at Premier League level; if there were to be another addition then don’t be TOO shocked if we were to go in for WBA’s Saido Berahino (or A.N. Other).
 
So that’s it really. Mourinho has apparently already started whinging about our spending (I can’t be a**ed looking for the report / video - I’ve just been told) and I have, unfortunately, already half-caught footage of ‘the broken robot’ (van Gall if you needed to ask) attempting to talk to the press about their further spending on additions to Manyoo’s squad.
 
It’s the sort of thing you have to put up with in the ‘beautiful game’ that I am now [less than 3 weeks away!] starting to get the excited butterflies for once again…
 
Hyperlinks to be completed as & when…

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Will Delph’s arrival see…


…a City exit for either of the ‘Ferns’?


Regular readers know my opinion of our Brazilian midfielder with the slightly longer name than his midfield colleague and countryman; and in a blog-posting on 25th May 2015 I gave my opinion on the two ‘Ferns’, which was one of-being largely underwhelmed so far.


If either ARE to go, which one?


Well putting my personal disenchantment with Fernandinho in particular aside – trying to look at both players objectively – Fernandinho is the older of the two by two years and a couple of months. Also in the negative column for the ex-Shakhtar Donetsk player is that he’s been with us now since July 1st 2013 and has just less than 2 years remaining on his current deal.

In contrast, Fernando joined us just last July and has another 4 years remaining on his contract and may also, crucially, be given the benefit of the doubt; following a below-par season from ‘The Octopus’ that was [also crucially] interrupted by injury…as well as a ‘settling in period’ allowance factor.

In addition to those arguments that appear to be weighing heavily in favour of the ex-Porto player already; you have to ask whether the following list of players would be enough to carry us through a long campaign without one of them?

Main list:

Fabian Delph                                       -           Defensive / Central midfielder

Samir Nasri                                         -           Mid / Winger – Left / Right / Centre

David Silva                                          -           Mid / Winger – Left / Right / Centre

Yaya Toure                                         -           Central / Attacking midfielder

(Kevin De Bruyne or Paul Pogba?)     -          Central / Left-sided midfielder(s)

Fernando                                             -           Defensive midfielder

Fernandinho                                        -           Defensive / Central midfielder

Well I would say that if we were indeed to bring in De Bruyne, Pogba or A.N. Other midfielder in the coming weeks - and by 6pm (BST) on 1st September 2015 - then we’d definitely have scope to ship one of those Brazilians out; particularly when you also chuck into the mix Jesus Navas (Right winger), Raheem Sterling (Right winger / Forward) and quite possibly Marcos Lopes (Midfielder / Winger – Left / Right / Centre), along with young hopefuls Bruno Zuculini (Central Midfielder), Brandon Barker (Winger / Forward – Left) and Manu Garcia (Central / Attacking midfielder).

I say all of that also on the understanding that Samir’s end-of-season ‘weirdness’ is now behind him and that he’ll be seeing out another year, at least, of his ‘remaining 4’.

My gut feeling is, however, that if at all possible - even with F(not-so)FP and the home-grown / English quota rules forever looming large overheadManuel Pellegrini would like to keep all of the main list players, at least, available in his squad for both domestic and European ventures.

However, if one of them is indeed to fall victim of one of those 'pesky rules' then I believe Fernandinho’s time at Manchester City may well be coming to a close. I’d wish him well [if]…but I wouldn’t be crying in my beer for the £28M+ man.

Furore!


Raheem Sterling

One of the reasons I’ve not posted a blog-entry for a whole 18 days is the sheer number of opinionated merry-go-round comments and utter rage surrounding both Raheem Sterling & Fabian Delph. The last thing anyone needed while it was in ‘full flow’, I thought, was another article ‘out there’.

I did almost, however, produce a ‘Fabian has signed’ article when I heard that he was having his (first) medical but didn’t even get chance to ‘put pen to paper’ before it was seemingly all “off” as quick as it was “on”!

I don’t think it’s over by any stretch - and will certainly loom large again when we play Aston Villa & Liverpool at least 4 times between them next season (and you can bet we’ll draw one of them at least once in a ‘cup comp’) – but the storm is now passing and the dust is STARTING, at least, to settle.

And so…

  • Is Raheem too expensive? Yes…by about £15M I’d say.
  • Did the player conduct himself in a bad manner? Well…assuming he was genuinely ill when he couldn’t join his Liverpool colleagues abroad on the same day then I can’t see what he’s done or said wrong. He’s joined a better team with better players with a better chance of winning trophies in the coming years with just 2 years remaining on his current deal; and having given Liverpool 3 years, 95 appearances, 18 goals and several assists.
  • Did Raheem’s agent conduct himself in a bad manner? Well I haven’t heard anything particularly nasty but, I suppose, it could have been handled a lot quicker and perhaps, therefore, slightly less publicly? But if either of them are at fault then Liverpool are equally to blame. Brendon Rodgers has, however, had nothing but nice things to say about Raheem since the move and so I don’t think there’s anything else to get in a sweat over.
  • Have City done anything wrong in the Raheem deal? Apart from being ‘held to’ and paying the ‘English mark-up ransom’, then no.
  • Did Fabian Delph conduct himself in a bad manner? I’d have to say yes. I personally can’t wait for an explanation (if it ever comes) of the apparent double turn-around and I have to believe (I didn’t read myself) also all those who read his comments following his first ‘about turn’; that he wanted to remain loyal to Aston Villa…before then-signing for City just 5 days later! Weird…
  • Have Aston Villa conducted themselves in the right manner? Well if I was an Aston Villa fan I’d be FURIOUS at the ridiculous low release-clause-figure inserted (by someone) into Fabian’s new, 4-½ year contract just last January! Other than that, no; they’ve honoured that crazy release clause.
  • Have City done anything wrong in the Fabian deal? No.

Fabian Delph
Apart for the understandably livid Aston Villa fans it makes me wonder, then, just why I’ve been listening to and reading ‘blue murder’ from fans, radio presenters and so-called pundits over the last few weeks…not to mention the vile, so-called Liverpool “fans” who allegedly dispensed on-line abuse & threats to Raheem and his family.

Will both players improve us? Yes, I’d say so. Will both players, like James Milner, improve year on year on year with Manchester City? Yes, I’d say so.

Is Raheem Sterling a bargain? In the short term, no. In the long term, however, I’m confident we’ll look back in 3-years time and say what a terrific asset he’s turn out to be and, therefore, yes.

Is Fabian Delph a bargain? Oh yes…oh VERY yes (well-done Txiki & Co!)

Continuing the "English theme" - Patrick Roberts
 
 I wonder if they'll be similar, media 'nuclear fall out' following our recent signing of Patrick Roberts from Fulham? The young, strong-left-footed right winger's fee is "undisclosed" but articles last week suggested that any fee would, in time, likely rise to around £10M for the very promising English 18-year old.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Tin hats on! Has the ‘City bashing’ begun already?

It’s not just us; fans of a lot of clubs go through it.

 

Stoke City fans often accuse a lot of being ‘Stokeist’, even when they sometimes change their “typical” style of play; Manyoo fans have often churned out “ABU” (Anyone But United) and Chelsea fans find themselves having their club described as having ‘no class’.

 

If they win 1-0, Arsenal fans get accused of watching a boring team and, in a positive light, fans of North East clubs get labelled as being part of the ‘hotbed of English football’, which has always been an utter joke!

 

Our turn (again)?

 
 
UEFA strike again! Reports this morning suggest that the relaxing of the F(not-so)FP rules – where clubs can now-again spend beyond FFP limits as long as UEFA can see that the club has a viable business plan – will NOT apply to those club who were punished last season!
 
In other words – and as the Manchester Evening News points out – FFP has been relaxed to allow clubs to do exactly what Manchester City F.C. have done (and were punished for)!
 
Now I try not to swear in my blog postings and so I’ll just say…
 
W.T...?!
 
Are we City fans right to suspect that UEFA have a not-so hidden agenda to keep ‘upstarts’ like little ol’ City ‘pegged back’ and slow (or attempt to completely scupper) their progression to join ‘the big boys’ at the big table; whilst at the same time clearly and SO very obviously allowing past elite teams who have slipped-up in recent years to catch up again?
 
Well I would love to hear the argument of anyone who thinks we are unjustified in our belief of that very theory…and I hope like hell Jean-Louis Dupont manages to expose the organisation for exactly what they are.
 
I hope the courts decide that the well-intended FFP rules have been wrongly used and, therefore, is / has been completely illegal. I hope they get heavily fined for it and that ‘due compensation’ to those clubs wrongly punished are considerable also.
 

And the others…

 
I’ve been following City for 30+ years now. Although the story goes about our ‘Invisible Man’ song that Glauber Berti, who made just one, 85-minute substitution appearance after being on the bench for almost half the 2008 / 09 season was, indeed…’The Invisible Man’ himself (and that one fan dressed in bandages and dark glasses at an away game some time later); others then-used the song to lament the fact that we were very often overlooked by being shoved into small corners of newspapers whilst often being the victim of being ‘last on MotD’…and even then only in very brief highlights (I’m sure that’s why I recall us-singing this years before good ol’ Glauber arrived…and disappeared).
 
I can recall many of those seemingly-ignorant & cruel occasions but one in particular where we’d beaten Huddersfield Town, albeit in the second tier of English football, 10-1…only to have the report of that match shoved a few pages in from the ‘back page’ by one Sunday publication at least. Who was on the back that day? Manyoo of course…and I don’t think they even won that Saturday!
 
Were we overly sensitive or even paranoid back then? Are we now?
 
No I don’t think so…and although it might be abating slightly I do believe also that in the media there has been an elitist ‘London bias’ in the perhaps-now distant past. And, more recently of course, I have to add an absolute torrent of Liverpool-‘lovies’ on TV an’ the like.
 
In fact it’s slightly sad to say that I think the most even-minded / unbiased pundit on TV is Gary Neville (although I do find ex-Liverpool midfielder and [later] Manager Graeme Souness likewise).
 
But what I have noticed in those 30+ years is that these ‘City bashing sessions’, when they come around, rarely come in singular incidents; nor from just one source. There’s often a lot of ‘band-wagon jumping’ and further ‘dirt digging’ by several other parties who are often, seemingly, out to not only have a pop at City for what we’ve done but to sour anything we’re trying to achieve.
 
  • We build our Academy and almost within a few months I’ve heard press-pundits crying, ‘Where are all these so-called home-grown kids?!’
  • Similarly my mate quite recently reported that there were a bunch of Crewe Alexandra fans watching their reserves play our EDS lads; and who were reading the Manchester City team-sheet line-up and scoffing at the foreign-sounding names whilst asking, "Where are the local lads". Thankfully my mate was on hand to point out to them that the majority of the lads they were skitting about WERE 'Manchester born'...
  • Our new owners steadily build our fan base and raise the profile of our club worldwide in general; we then build a new stand (not even finished yet) and expand the seating otherwise around the Etihad for the long term and there are cries from embitteRED fans and elsewhere that, “We’ll never fill it”!
 
Now also…
 
  • Wolfsburg are doing their very best to scupper our plans to sign Kevin De Bruyne by offering him an even BETTER deal than he’s on…even though he only signed a new, 5-year contract with the German Bundesliga side last year.
  • Even though they can’t purchase anyone this year due to a transfer embargo; Barcelona appear to be doing their upmost to sort of gazump our pursuit of Paul Pogba.
  • Liverpool are playing ‘hard ball’ with their CRAZY £50M valuation-demand for Raheem Sterling and…
  • …going back to UEFA, it could be a whole 3 weeks - just 3 weeks before the start of the flippin’ season - that currently-imposed sanctions, let alone the recent revelation that we are to be excluded from the relaxing of last season’s F(not-so)FP restrictions, before we find out for sure if constraints on wages & spending are indeed to be lifted! What’s that all about?!
 
Okay…I get the Wolfsburg / Barca / Scouse thing; they’re only looking after their own interests. I have no real issues with that…beyond it being a little irritating of course.
 
But when it (and they) fly at you all at once as this latest, momentum-gathering ‘bashing crowd’ seems to be doing; the old City ‘spider sense’ does start to tingle a little.
 
 
Well I intend to take a leaf out of our ‘Charming Man’s’ book and remain calm about it all.
 
Apart from the odd ‘dig’ that comes our way in respect of and similar to what Chelsea / Chelsea fans have to tolerate; I think we are generally seen as a club with class who does things in the right manner both on & off the pitch for the most part.
 
In Ferran Soriano, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, Manuel Pellegrini & Txiki Begiristain I trust; and I believe that we’ll ride, with style, the waves in the murky UEFA waters and that we’ll achieve most of our transfer targets…and, if not, we’ll have a pretty decent Plan ‘B’ & ‘C’ ready to spring into action. 'Early business' is 'good business' but if needs be, in the transfer market, ‘we’ll fight to the end’
 
On TalkSport the other day someone in the studio suggested that 'we City fans' were starting to panic [about the summer transfer window]. Us? Having been through most of the divisions in the last 18 years like a dose of (whatever)?
 
Really…
 
 


 
 
 
 
...etc.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Manchester City transfer talk

I said recently that I don’t intend to spew out the same ol’ transfer talk that’s already ‘out there’ and that’s still the case in some ways. I have, in fact, touched on the subject of player possibilities & various movements over the last 6 months…

But although we’re just 5 weeks or so past last season; the fixtures for next season are already out and time – and transfer rumours – seem to be rolling-on at a fair ol’ rate of knots!

 

And so I want to look at positions I think we need to address along with some possible / likely players (and some wilder suggestions) to come in and fill those slots (with a quick look at outgoing players too).


Starting at the back…


Keeper situation? Well as long as Willy Caballero is happy to keep pushing Joe Hart then this position isn’t an issue in the slightest. In fact even Richard Wright who is highly respected on the training pitch has been given another 1-year extension…

Same for the right-back slot really - unless Bacary Sagna suddenly decides that his Manchester City move hasn’t quite worked out for him; then in both the French defender and ‘our Zaba’ we have no issues whatsoever here.

However, I think it’s a very different story on the left side of our defence…and I think it’s about time we sorted this problem area out once and for all!

Regular readers will know my (low) opinion of Aleksandar Kolarov’s ability as a defender…and I don’t follow the idea that he’s all that good (he's not too bad I suppose) going forward either...and please don’t tell me, “But he’s good at free kicks"

We saw about four or five back-to-back 7/10, ‘shop window’ performances from him at the end of last season…and that p***** me off even more in some ways; that all these years is has been ‘capable’. But I lost patience with this lad a long time ago and how he’s still here I’ll never know.

Now I like Gael Clichy - he’s certainly more of a defender than the afore mentioned. However, I will agree with some who aren’t OVERLY confident whenever he’s give the left-back slot over the Serbian and he can be annoying inconsistent at times.

But I have also seen him produce 7.5/10 performances on a regular basis too and, for me, he’s well worth keeping.

I also love him for this passionate moment after ‘THAT’ goal in ‘THAT’ final game of the 2011/12 season.

But he needs help / competition and we are DESPERATE for an injection of quality in this area. And, so…

I’ll start with a player that has just one year remaining on his contract but one who plays for a team that I found annoying to deal with last season. FC Porto's Alex Sandro has been linked with us several times and should be available for a decent £15M. Just yer 6 caps for Brazil but with 81 for his club he might even have a calming influence on the fella he player right next too last season – a certain Eliaquim Mangala!

If Kolarov does leave us in the summer and this fella comes in his place, there’s no upsetting the ‘foreign quote’ either.

The next player has not only been linked with us on several occasions but it’s also rumoured that the 22-year old has handed-in a transfer request at Monaco. Arsenal, (of course!) are also interested in French international left-back Layvin Kurzawa who, despite having 3 years remaining on his contract, can apparently be picked up for around £15M. Has also been seen at Manchester City this season but the player, when asked, said that it was an innocent visit to watch a game / catch up with friends. I like the look of him.

Want to ‘up’ the English quota? Well apparently you can get a tightly-locked contract signing from West Ham United for £20M. With 4-years remaining on the contract he only signed last season; Aaron Cresswell has been turning heads since his move from Ipswich Town, despite him having just one season in the top-flight. With Chelsea reportedly willing to meet The Hammers’ valuation, it just goes to show you how priceless “English” AND “left backs” are becoming…

Very much an outside chance is another player with 4 years remaining on his contract…but this one will apparently cost more like £30M. If Kevin De Bruyne does move on in the summer then I find it highly unlikely that VfL Wolfsburg will want to let ANOTHER very important player leave…and if they DO lose their number one ‘assist creator’ from last season then why would they need the money?

But apparently HUGE interest is being shown by both Arsenal & Manyoo for Swiss left-back Ricardo Rodriguez and so if we do want to fix a long-standing issue then why not go for one of the best around, which I understand this fella to be?

Now for the ‘IF’ factor position of central defence. Dedryck Boyata has already gone (to Celtic), right-back-come-centre-back Micah Richards has been released and is to be picked up by Aston Villa on 1st July and Karim Rekik is apparently about to be bought by PSV or someone else for around £3.5M (with City adding a ‘first choice buy’ clause in future sale or sales).

And so for the IFs

IF Eliaquim Mangala is gonna ‘come good’ and fill his potential more this season; IF Vincent Kompany isn’t going to be injured for his now-often-traditional quarter-season (or worse), IF ‘old dependable’ Martin Demichelis isn’t going to start feeling the strain of being an almost 35-year old defender in one of the most pacy leagues in the world and IF Jason Denayer lives up to the many plaudits that have gone his way in recent months and is, therefore, ready to be City’s 4th central defender in the Premier League…then we should be ‘all sorted’ in this department; with no need to splash any cash.

However, IF, like me, Manchester City have concerns over some or all of the above with regards to the heart of our defence, then they would be wise to consider ‘splashing some’ on a quality centre half. With so much money apparently about to be spent on the midfield, however, the problem remains…“Who?”

Highly unlikely is Mats Hummels, a player strongly linked with Manyoo (unfortunately). Highly unlikely also are we to use £35M+ of our ‘war chest’ on a central defender; with so much emphasis on improving our attacking / creative midfield…and having already spent £40M+ on Mangala last summer.

He would be, of course, a fantastic addition to an area for us that was fragile to say the least at times last season…but it would also be seen as a ‘luxury signing’ and one that would severely dent our spending power elsewhere on the pitch.

Eder Balanta is a player who has been linked with City in the past and although, like Hummels, he has 2 years remaining on his contract; £15M or so would probably be enough to secure his services. Don’t know much about him myself but some decent sides appear to be watching him. Not sure how he’d stand work-permit-wise and, of course, the Argentine league is vastly different to that of the Premier League. Pellegrini knows his South American league though and if the ex-central defender himself thinks him good enough then this could be a possibility.

Far less likely - and again far more expensive - would be Everton’s highly rated English defender John Stones. At 22 next January and with 4 years remaining on his contract this fella would likely cost in the region of £32M (with the added “English” ransom forced onto would-be suitors of course).

Then of course there’s always the ‘rolling out’ of the name Pepe, with whom we get linked with every…single…transfer window (summer and winter). It’s all been said before about this fella – he certainly has the quality and experience to play in the Premier League but has had a VERY questionable on-pitch character; with ‘red mist’ tendencies to say the least!

Seems to have calmed down in recent seasons, I understand from a Real fan I often speak with, and with contract-extension talks having apparently stalled since the ‘changing of the guard’ at Real Madrid; this might be worth a punt after all. Chelsea are apparently “monitoring” also…

Tosin Adarabioyo
Of course we do have Bacary Sagna who, we are often reminded, “Can play there if needed” and I really do like the looks of Under 18s pairing Tosin Adarabioyo & Cameron Humphreys (particularly Adarabioyo). But I can’t see either of them getting a sniff of first team action next season.

Cameron Humphreys
So for me all that remains to say about this department is, do City “Stick” or “Twist”? I think sticking [with what we have] would be a bit of a risk…

Down to the REAL ‘business end’ (or should that be the ‘business middle’?)


Of course it’s the midfield / wing department that is to be the subject of the most analysis in the summer. In particular with regards to the forward-thinking / creative personnel, where David Silva almost ran the show single handed last season (not ideal at all) and where Yaya Toure looked a lost soul for the most part; his huge frame and not-so-young legs apparently wanting more assistance than some of his midfield colleagues were providing (but I’ll jump back to that shortly).

With Samir Nasri looking quite likely to leave in the summer - despite having only signed a new 5-year contract (to June 2019) last summer - and with questions marks also over Jesus Navas (despite being a fairly regular for Manuel Pellegrini); an injection of class & creativity is an absolute must before the big KO in August.

Defensively, midfield wise, we might be alright…or are we?

Like Mangala, his ex-Porto colleague Fernando hasn’t exactly lived up to ‘the billing’ since his arrival last summer and although we have been told by the player himself that he was rushed back a little too soon following an early-season injury and that a lot of last season he was playing through some pain; question marks still largely remain about ‘The Octopus’.

And so with no James Milner (although never used in that role by our manager – James’ apparent main reason for wanting a new challenge elsewhere) and going even further back the likes of Jack Rodwell, Gareth Barry and Nigel de Jong all-having departed; it leaves us with only Fernandinho should Fernando ‘not fire’ again…and / or is injured again.

For me that leaves us a little lightweight in the ‘defensive midfield’ options because, as regular readers will be aware, the jury has been out for me ever since Fernandinho signed from Shakhtar Donetsk for £28M+. At times he looks quite a useful and accomplished player…but only at times. I find him a fairly inconsistent player whenever asked to play slightly advanced OR defensively…and somewhat flaky to say the least.

I just wonder – and not necessarily hope because I would very much LIKE to see him play more consistently well – whether the 30-year old Brazilian might make way for other incoming midfielders? If so, then for me we’d definitely have to add another defensive midfielder to our summer shopping list if the emphasis, otherwise, is to bring in mostly ‘attacking flare’.

So that’s, at least, a central, creative midfielder required along with both left & right-sided midfielders / wingers.

Let’s start with the most expensive player linked with a move to the Etihad - a player who was muted to be on our ‘radar’ even before the arrival of Manuel Pellegrini…and whose stock has risen and risen AND RISEN as his many talents blossomed following his departure from Trafford to Turin.

Paul Pogba is apparently one of the most sort-after players in Europe, if not the world, and it’s for this reason – despite our own stock rising steadily over the years – that I find it hard to believe that we’ll get him…this summer at least.

If he stays at Juventus for at least one more season, as some reports suggest, then I can see him quite possibly being a Manchester City player in the future. However, should he decide to move this summer then, for some reason, I just get the feeling that another European club will win his signature.

Of course if he is indeed ‘all he’s cracked up to be’ then I hope we do get him – he sounds like an awesome player and at just 22 an absolute diamond for many years…as well as a hugely sellable asses to be in possession of.

My only very slight fear is that if the plan is - as I understand it to be - to mostly play him alongside Yaya in the middle; then in a 4-4-2 one of them is going to feel a little ‘shackled’ I’m sure and to say the least.

We all know that Yaya is far more effective for Manchester City ‘bombing forward’ rather than ‘sitting deep’ and although Pogba has been described many times as a ‘box to box’ player who can ‘dig in’ and tackle / break-up play; I understand that he too is far more valuable in an attacking role. This isn’t an issue if the plan is to mostly play with one striker and five midfielders as that would allow for a ‘Fernando-type’ to sit behind 4 attacking midfielders.

The question also throws up where David Silva would play and the only answer is either on one of the flanks, where he’s often less successful, or is rotated / rested with Yaya. Nice problems to have of course…

Should we not get the Mario Balotelli lookalike then another repeatedly-linked player is Isco of Real Madrid. Of course our manager tried to sign him before Real got their claws into him and, understandably having managed him at Malaga, the ‘link’ always seems to be there.

But apparently the little Spanish attacking midfielder may be surplus to requirements under the often defensive-minded Rafael Benitez, who has a treasure-chest-full of attacking talent at his disposal. If so, I’d like this fella very much indeed.

I’m not an expert on foreign stars from around the world - more often I have a ‘general knowledge’ of a player’s abilities & background; often then digging a little deeper as links with Manchester City get stronger. I think unless you have an abundance of time on your hands – or it’s your job of course – then a lot of us who have an interest in footy are perhaps similar.

But not just because of his nationality, size and playing position; I think in Isco we’d have a 6-years-younger, David Silva-type player on our books for what would be, hopefully, a long time to come. That’s not a bad thing at all! I like the look of this chap…and he’d cost us FAR less than Mr Pogba.

Next up for consideration is a player who flirted so very briefly with the Premier League that it’s difficult to recall. And so I have to admit that I’ve been doing a little bit of head-scratching as to why – other than his age and the fact that he has 4 years remaining on his contract – he is apparently worth in the region of £35M; when he’s had just one good season in the Bundesliga.

But I read time and time again WHAT a player he is becoming after a so-very-brief Chelsea career and, more recently, he’s been given high praise indeed from his countryman – and our very own Captain – Vincent Kompany.

Despite 10 goals from midfield and a Bundesliga record last season of a whopping 21 assists; I’ve just got this little Harry Kane / Spurs ‘one season wonder’ possibility alarm bell…should that happen to Spurs’ “very own” striker of course (and I’m certainly not wishing that to be the case for the England international striker).

I hope I’m very wrong about that feeling should we get De Bruyne, of course; although mostly a central attacking / creative midfielder he often operates on the left…and can do similar on the right too by all accounts. Very useful indeed.

Right…the Raheem Sterling debate!

 
As well as reading plenty of Manchester City fan’s WEB-posted comments, I have also had several conversations with a number of Blues, one Manyoo fan (who doesn’t go to games of course) and even a Leeds United fan about Mr Sterling. I have to be honest (as always) and say that the feeling about Raheem runs from ‘stone cold’ to ‘lukewarm’ at best.

Where I stand on the fella is this…and I’ll START with agreeing with some of the “negatives” out there:

  • He’s inconsistent. And I don’t say that lightly because as a long-suffering Manchester City fan of days-gone-by; one of the most irritating traits of our beloved club was their annoying ability to be SO flippin’ inconsistent (that’s why, today, the likes of Clichy, Nasri, Fernandinho, Navas & Dzeko to name five often leave me gritting my teeth in frustration at times). The many detractors of the right-sided, Liverpool attacker point, quite rightly, specifically to the poor and inconsistent season he had last season (but I will add a note to that point in that he was playing in a team that was also, in general, fairly poor & inconsistent and that he still managed [in 35 games] 7 goals and 8 assists in that same poor & inconsistent team…where Liverpool’s - and his - main front-man-partner was missing for most of it).

  • The price. I will agree, in some part, that the figure Liverpool want and where we’re now at with our latest offer (at time of publication) is way too high. For me his abilities and the fact that he is coming into his penultimate year of his contract should value the youngster at £25M to £30M…tops. However…I said, “…agree in some part”. Why? Well whether you like it or not – and for the record I most certainly DON’T like it – as long as the ‘home-grown rule’ is here then selling clubs of English players - and in particular those who are full England internationals - are going to slap-on anywhere between £10M to £20M. Fact! And so if you are a fan of a club who is trying to BUY one of these same-said players and your club also happened to have squillions of pounds in the bank; then I have one phrase to suggest to you – ‘SUCK IT UP’…because unless the home-grown rule goes away then this, I’m afraid, is a sad fact that is here to stay. Want an example? Everton apparently value Ross Barkley at £60M! Ha!

  • His shooting is pretty naff most of the time…and that’s why I see him as a right winger / right-sided forward as opposed to him being classed as a striker, which he is most certainly not in my book…not at the moment anyway.

  • His crossingalthough it has improved slightly with time and as he continues to mature on the pitch – isn’t the best. But I’m going to add that his crossing is still better than that of Navas’…even when the young England man is having a bad day!

 
Okay, in Raheem’s defence…

-        At 20 years & 6 months old this guy has at least 3 Premier League seasons behind him already and with 47 games; a wealth of international experience at various levels too. In that times he has been a regular for large parts of those teams and you don’t get to do that if you’ve not got something about you.

-        Have you listened to a lot of young-player interviews and those of coaches / ex-footballers? Well I have and one reoccurring theme said by many of them is that young players who surround themselves with other highly-talented players - with the right attitude - will learn from those more-experienced teammates and become a much better player for it. Want an example? When we signed James Milner from Aston Villa we had most certainly signed ‘Mr Average’. I recall bemoaning towards the end of his first season that all we’d bought was a player who could run all day and do nothing else. I had to listen to a Manyoo fan persistently goad me about how we had all this money and yet we’d gone out and bought a couple of very average Aston Villa midfielders (Gareth Barry being the other one)…and I could do nothing in the first year [about James] to come back to the embitteRED pest. And so how striking it was that in ‘year 2’ this same Manyoo fella’s derogatory comments subsided and from ‘year 3’ onwards he wasn’t uttering a Milner-bashing word; as James, for me, won the ‘most improved player’ award season on season on season right up to the very [sad] end. His positional awareness improved, his link-up play, his passing, I swear he even added a burst of extra pace to his game and he even started to pitch-in with some goals; proving how even MORE versatile he was [than we all thought] by stepping up as a lone striker! Now apart from some good coaching, of course, can anyone seriously reject the idea that he (and we) benefited from him-being surrounded by the highly-skilled & experienced colleagues he’s had the pleasure to work with? We have better players than Liverpool ‘in my humble’ and so if Raheem can soak up that same influence and advice then can you imagine what a young man with talent we’d have in the years to come?!

-        His maturity and level-headedness. Okay, first of all I cannot deny that the young lad has been a bit silly recently once and, even more recently, possibly twice; by being seen sniffing some kind of so-called legal high gas. Stupid! But I’ve listened to football people being interviewed who have worked with the lad both in a footballing capacity and with activities on the fringes of football. Similar to his teammate, Daniel Sturridge, for a young lad I’ve heard that he gets involved with a lot of community activity and even spends his own time teaching kids the finer points of footballing skills. You can’t buy that – we are trying to of course – but you know what I’m getting at; it’s just as important for me that you get players with the right character / attitude. Would you rather have that…or a Jack Wilshere-type character that flicks hand gestures towards Manchester City fans and calls Spurs “S***” when celebrating his own team’s F.A. Cup success, to name just 2 incidents by the 23-year old Arsenal man?

Yes, if we do sign Raheem, we’ll be paying a high price (certainly TOO high by the sounds of it) for half-“potential”…and I know too that if we shopped around in Europe with that sort of cash we’d be sure to find a more-ready-made & quite brilliant right-sided forward. I also hope we’re not buying him as an out & out striker, as I’ve said.

But if you can, indeed, ‘suck the price up’ for the time being then I’m sure that if Raheem were to become a Manchester City player in the coming weeks then in the coming years we’ll have a much-envied player on our books.

One final note from me on Raheem is this. My ‘barometer’ on this player also lies with the fact that over the last 2 or 3 seasons, whenever we’ve played ‘The Reds’ I’ve been fearful of the likes of Luis Suarez, Steven Gerrard…and one Raheem Sterling. What I CAN’T quite decide on is whether that should be classed as praise for the youngster himself or whether it stems from the fact the left side of our defence has often been fragile over that same period of time…

An alternative, we are told, will be an approach to The Gunners for England midfielder Jack Wilshere - he who played just 14 bit-part Premier League appearances last season and who scored 2 goals and got 1 assist. In 2013/14 he made 24 appearance, 3 goals and 5 assists; the previous season 25 appearances no goals and 5 assists and the season before that, 35 appearances in the league with 1 goal and 3 assists.

Now of course better ‘Wilshere watchers’ than me might point out that he’s more of a box-to-box type central midfielder and, therefore, doesn’t get the goals & assists of the likes of Raheem Sterling. And that’s fair enough…but aren’t we in the market for a central midfielder of that ilk in Pogba or Isco? Why is Wilshere an alternative for a right-sided attacker? Besides, which, I also have it on good authority that he doesn’t actually do too much defensive work for Arsenal and so, in that case, his ‘goals & assists’ tally make for even less impressive reading…

Anyway…linked as a ‘back up’ we would appear to be and the most worry aspect for me is his pretty bad, to say the least, fitness record. In fact I was shocked to read that he had made as many as 14 appearances last season; albeit ‘bit part’ ones as I say. With 3 years on his contract remaining against Raheem’s 2, you can bet Arsenal would want around the same kind of fee that Liverpool are asking for their man…and if we’re going down that route of purchasing a treatment-table player then why did we get rid of Jack Rodwell and why don’t we keep Stevan Jovetic?

Talented though he is, this ‘Jack the lad’ is not for me…

According to reports we are about to sign young Fulham right-winger Patrick Roberts. The London-born, England Under-19 player would cost at least £5M with ‘add ons’ I’m sure and more recent reports suggest that we’ll send him immediately out on loan to a team / league that club officials believe will benefit him the most.

From the few pundit interviews I’ve heard, “Pat” gets high praise indeed – one even stating that he was head & shoulders the best England Under-19 in their last tournament.

And continuing the theme of right-sided, attacking players; we are reportedly watching Mexico & FC Twente’s Jesus Manuel. I’ve done the ‘video thing’ on him and although right-footed, he’s notable accomplished on the left and ‘just off the front man’ too.

Similar size & pace to our own Jesus – perhaps a little slower – he looks more sure-footed in possession than Navas and with a better cross and finishing shot. Not English but it seems as though we’re keeping our options open in case the Raheem deal doesn’t happen…and it seems also that we’re in the market for someone to put pressure on – or perhaps replace – Navas.

And let’s not forget that we have our very own, highly rated EDS player Marco Lopes to possibly come back into the fold after impressing during a season-long loan spell at Lille last season.

Briefly as possible on the defensive side then…

If we are to offload in the middle at all then it’s a shame we didn’t make an approach for Sami Khedira, who is moving from Real Madrid to Juventus…on a free! Would have been a belter for us I’m sure.

 
We are, though, apparently sniffing around the possibility of talking to Barcelona about Alex Song.

With only 2 years remaining on his contract; with plenty of Premier League - and otherwise English - experience with Arsenal, West Ham United (on loan) and Charlton Athletic (on loan) AND with him being able to provide proficient cover in central defence (VERY useful for us and addresses two areas in one swoop); this move would make a whole lotta sense! Of course Chelsea ‘the spoilers’ are lurking around him too…

‘Up front’…and another ‘IF’ factor.


So following on slightly from, in particular, the Raheem Sterling intent of what we’re buying him as [winger or striker]; for me it’s not really a case of ARE we going to add anyone to the striking department in the summer but, again for me, how many.

To make this slightly easier first and foremost – SURELY we’re going to see the end of both Edin Dzeko & Stevan Jovetic and, so, can we move on under the strong assumption that we’re going to be left with “just” Sergio Aguero & Wilfried Bony? Good, and so…

…top guys as they are; that’s clearly not enough to see us through a long, 4-trophy campaign.

 
Of the EDS players, in general, I can see Kelechi Iheanacho being ready for some first team action this coming season…and I say that knowing that both injury and work permit issues meant that he had reduced playing time for Columbus Crew and delayed his playing time in England for any of the City Youth teams.

But he just looks so assured and competent despite his fledgling status that, staying injury free of course, I see more EDS starts & first-team bench time rather than a loan move. Assuming I’m right – and assuming that Raheem is to be brought in as either right-sided competition WITH or replacement FOR Jesus Navas – then that means surely we’ll be in the marker for a least one striker to replace the departing Edin & Stevan.

Here are some suggestions / links:

Already linked with us in the past is Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette, although Manyoo are cranking up the heat in apparent pursuit; with Liverpool amongst others very interested also.

Apparently, Lacazette has stated that he will only move from Lyon to a team in the Champions League – that's risky with 4th-placed Manyoo then and that would definitely rule out a move to Liverpool

A terrific, award-winning 27 goals in 33 appearance last season; the season before of 15 goals and 5 assists from 36 Ligue 1 appearances wasn’t a bad return either. With 3 years remaining on his current deal he’d probably cost in the reason of a rather [now] familiar-looking price of £35M.

A player I’ve been monitoring for about 18 month now belongs to Roma but was on-loan at AC Milan half of last season. Struggled for a time with injuries at Roma after signing from Genoa and gained a few yellow & red card bans; one in particular a reviewed punishment for punching an ‘oppo’ defender.

But Mattia Destro certainly found his feet at Roma and bagged 24 goals in all competitions from 57 appearances; some of those appearances being part-games. Don’t really get why, then, Roma loaned him out (I’m sure they have their reasons) to Milan in January 2015, where he scored 3 from 14.

Sampdoria are apparently monitoring him and Arsenal have been linked too, as were we once under Roberto Mancini. AC might be interested in extending his stay also. Might be worth a go and with 2 years remaining on his Roma deal, £25M might be enough for this just-turned 24-year old.

Mattia probably isn’t a very likely signing and far less likely is Gonzalo HiguaĆ­n. So why include him then? Well a player of this quality will, as most similar players do, want Champions League football and with Napoli finishing their season 5th and in “just” a Europa League spot; despite having 3-years left on his 5-year deal he might be getting itchy feet.

All of the usual English suspects are circling vulture-like and for a player of his age and quality it might take £40M+ to get him. But imagine him playing / competing with Aguero & Bony?!

The fact alone that he can do a crackin’, classic Laurel & Hardy-style door / head-bang is enough to spend that kind of money alone…

 
A far cheaper option is also a far more sensible one too…and one that still excites in many ways. I was pleasantly surprised when West Bromwich Albion came to the Etihad last season at just how good Saido Berahino was. Of course I’d heard he was good – sadly I’d also heard about his apparent ‘Billy big biscuits’ attitude too – but for a slight-looking fella I was impressed with his body strength and on-pitch attitude and discipline.

More-so did I admire the England Under-21 striker as Albion had gone down to 10 men after just 90 seconds; meaning that he was the…‘one’…in a ‘full 90’ 4-4-1 formation.

About to turn 22 in August and with just 2 years remaining on his contract; I can’t see him signing a contract extension and so the Midlands’ club [wanting some decent cash for him] might, therefore, even encourage a move in some ways…or at the very least won’t do much to stop one from happening.

Apparently West Brom want £30M and Tottenham are keen to link him up front with (Harry) Kane. Newcastle United too are showing interest but that price tag is likely to scare them off – whilst Tottenham are apparently trying to negotiate a cash / swap with Andros Townsend & Aaron Lennon, which might just interest The Baggies.

I recon £25M might just swing it and we have had successful / smooth transfer dealings with them last season (for Joleon Lescott). Chuck in a loanee EDS player for experience and they too might be interested in doing a deal with us.

Another English player to add to the ranks; a very good striker (20 goals from 45 appearances in all competitions last season in a struggling-to-average team) makes very, VERY good sense to me.

An outsider wildcard I’d like to chuck in is QPR’s Charlie Austin. He tore us to pieces at Loftus Road last season in a strong and intelligent-running display.

Tended to be less effective away from home last season I noted; perhaps a little inconsistent therefore. But for a soon-to-be 26-year old English striker with just one year remaining on his contract, this ‘lethal finisher’ would be well worth a punt to add to what we have. £15M to £18M would probably get him to!

Although he has lived ‘up North’ in his very successful time with Burnley; it’s highly likely that the Hungerford-born player will switch to West Ham United...although Newcastle have been strongly linked with him for weeks now.

Hope you enjoyed my not-so-little summer transfer piece – and thanks for taking the time! Time now, though, for us all to sit back while Ferran Soriano, Txiki Begiristain and others at Manchester City, I’m sure, ‘do their bit’ in the summer, which is sure to be filled with many twists & turns.