Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Rumour Mill: Aguero Signs, But Who's Next?

As I write this Sergio Aguero is in Manchester grabbing some lunch (probably in one of our 2 restaurants, isn't that right Carlos?) before completing his transfer from Atletico Madrid this afternoon.  Clearly a fantastic signing no matter what happens with the future of Carlos Tevez, but is that the end of our Summer spending? I suspect probably not, we are still being linked with a few players, but who are the runners and riders?

The Samir Nasri saga is dragging on and on but things could very easily come to a head with that deal over the next few days.  As has been reported repeatedly in the press, the Frenchmen is in the last year of his contract and under pressure Arsene Wenger is doing his best to hang onto him in the vain hope that he may decide to renew his deal sometime this season.  We have made our interest pretty publicly clear thanks in part to some awkward and perhaps clumsy comments from Roberto Mancini, and when the managers views were aired it was assumed a deal was close.  The Gunners pre-season tour of Asia however seemed to put an end to an imminent signing, but now that the Arsenal squad are returning to England to take part in the Emirates cup this weekend there could very easily be movement over the coming days.  Twitter is home of a fair few rumours suggesting that we have left an offer on the table and that it is a significantly better package than that coming from Old Trafford.  I think there is a pretty good chance of this one happening at some point, Mancini clearly wants him and if a deal can be sorted to secure an exit for Carlos Tevez there would certainly be money available for the 24 year old.

There is another rumour doing the rounds linking a less well known name to Eastlands, unfortunately it is not someone that I know a huge amount about, and to be honest, what I do know is hardly something worth getting excited about.  The man in question is 24 year old Fiorentina winger Alessio Cerci.  I have done some research online and discovered that the Italy under 21 international is a bit of a flair player but maybe not with the best final product.  It seems that his finest attribute is his pace, and he has the ability to beat a man, but the Italian reports I have read suggest that he doesn't turn up every week and he is not overly reliable when up against more physical opposition.  I don't really think what we need is another flair player with a slightly questionable attitude, but in Roberto Mancini we should trust.  He generally has got his signings right, and if we do wind up bringing in the left sided player for a reported £6million then we will have to reserve judgement.

The third and final rumour (for this article anyway) doing the rounds is those old claims about Wesley Sneijder.  It is looking increasingly likely that the Dutch maestro will remain in Milan this season after a supposed offer from City and United didn't seem to come to fruition.  I still personally reckon that Fergie may make another attempt to take him to Salford, he is exactly the sort of player that they need.  I think the fact that rumours regarding Nasri are cranking up again suggests that we have abandoned whatever interest we supposedly ever had in the former Madrid midfielder.  Clearly he would be a great player, and he would add a lot to our squad.  It just doesn't seem overly likely to me at this point, I suppose there could still be a deal done involving Sneijder and Tevez but at this moment in time there are no real indicators either way.  It would be lovely to see, but at this moment it seems dead in the water.

Knowing City there will be loads more players linked with us over the coming days, but if we secure Nasri on top of Aguero I personally will be pretty content with our Summer business and the next priority is sorting the future of our wantaway striker and then to make sure that we hit the ground running against Swansea on the 15th.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Rumour Mill: More Chance Of Us Resigning Jo Than This Italian Enforcer...

When it comes to football websites, there are those that only deliver fact or close to it (BBC Sport), there are websites that just make up nonsense (Tribal Football, Caught Offside) and then there are some in the middle that pretend they have sources in high up places, and sometimes break a credible story but mostly just publish tosh.  This rumour is from a website that fits firmly in that final category.

The widely ridiculed footballing website has today published a story stating that Roma enforcer Daniele De Rossi is ready to make a sensational switch to England and possibly to City, they have however not just made these claims and left them hanging, they also have direct quotes from a 'source' supposedly within the clearly these 'sources' are always just the work experience kid, but for some reason they think we are all fools and that we will fall for it!

The tough tackling Italian currently has a contract that runs up until 2012, and talks over a renewal have been ongoing.  According to the report he wants not only a bumper pay rise but also assurances from the clubs owners that they will be spending big money to take the team in the right direction.  If these talks don't go well, clearly the club wouldn't want to lose him for nothing next year and that is why it is claimed that an offer €23million from City would tempt them to sell.

The 'source' has 'revealed':

"Manchester City are ready to offer Roma €23m for De Rossi and can give him €9m per annum over four to five years....De Rossi is aware of Mancini's interest and his attempts to bring him to City....He wants economic and technical guarantees from Roma for him to stay. If these guarantees are not met he will not sign the new contract. At the moment, he is very uncertain as Roma have been lukewarm with him in terms of this new deal. The new owners do not want to take on heavy financial commitments before looking into all the club's accounts.".

Let's just for a minute go along with this whole story and pretend we don't think it's utter tosh.  Manchester United have courted the player for years and there is also supposedly interest from Chelsea so if he were to move on there would definitely be competition from other big clubs, whether these sides would compete with the financial package on offer from City seems unlikely so it could possibly put Roberto Mancini in pole position.

Now for the negative (realistic) viewpoint.  De Rossi is Roma through and through and it seems highly unlikely to me that he would play for another club any time soon, he has had the opportunity to move on several occasions before, with that lot from Salford generally thought to be the side closest to sealing his signature.  After all this time though he has stayed put and I don't see him going anywhere else in the near future.  It is highly likely that there could be complicated negotiations over a renewal of his contract, but the bottom line in my opinion is that this is just a ploy from the player and agent to secure more money, we are being used.

It should be pointed out that he is a top quality player and would obviously bring a lot to City, albeit in a position that we are hardly short, but I just don't see anything in this one.  Nothing about the story seems particularly convincing, the website, the 'source', and the comments, for me, nothing really adds up...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Match Report: Club America - City

One of the things that I set up this blog for was to write match reports and deliver ratings on each game that City play, most of these in preseason will be more accounts of players that impressed me as opposed to actual match reports as personally I think performances are more important than results at this stage of the season.

As expected the side was entirely changed at half time with only Weiss playing the full game.  In fact as I understand it the only members of the traveling party not involved were David Silva (slight knee problem), Mario Balotelli ('unwell') and young Spaniard Denis Suarez who has to sort some transfer formalities.

Weiss looked lively throughout, and having not seen him play for a while I was surprised at just how quick he actually is, I remember him being fast but he demonstrated some explosive pace against the Mexican giants.  There are still some problems with his game, he had a tendency to over complicate things and sometimes his final ball was lacking, but the direct running that he demonstrated for the 90mins could have its uses this season.  If he continues in a similar fashion in the remaining friendlies he could be well worth a place on the bench this season.  His loan spell at Rangers has hopefully done him a lot of good, he made 23 appearances for them and that will have greatly improved his match sharpness.  

I suppose the man currently blocking Weiss from the first team is everyones favourite winger SWP.  It says a lot for his attitude that he is on the trip at all, he is clearly willing to knuckle down and there have been no complaints from the England winger unlike those left behind to train with the reserves.  He was one of our star performers, he appeared everywhere down the right flank, putting in some great tackles in our own box as well as giving their full back a torrid afternoon.  He wasn't as quick as he once was,  but his energy made up for his slight loss of speed.  He scored City's second and it was a lovely strike from the edge of the box reminiscent of times past.  I still question how effective he is going to be for us in the Premier League, there is no commitment lacking, and we all love him, but is that enough for him to remain?

Edin Dzeko played the first half and after a slow start he began to impress, maybe it was just me, but he appeared quicker and more mobile than he did at times last season.  His hold up play was impressive although he was aided by players getting closer to him, something that we didn't do particularly well last year.  He still didn't have the best service, the only crosses came in from debutant Gael Clichy, they were pretty impressive and it looked like a route to goal that could be quite fruitful this season.  The Frenchman fitted in well, he played behind Ryan McGivern who played in quite an unnatural left midfield position, this allowed Clichy to race up field and join in the attacks, his speed and pace were impressive and I really think he will prove to be a great signing.

It would be wrong to not say a little about McGivern as well, he has been around City for ages but has never really had a chance to shine.  He was probably the least likely scorer on the pitch but when he calmly slotted a right footed strike into the far corner that theory was disproved.  It was a hard working performance and he covered for Clichy well, but it was apparent at times that he is a left footed central defender being played grossly out of position at left midfield, he wasn't poor by any means but don't expect to see him in the role when the season begins!

The stand out performer for me was Micah Richards, on twitter someone made a reference to him playing like Maicon and that isn't far from the truth...except Richards can also defend.  He looked even quicker than last year, stronger, and he beat players with ease, knocking the ball past them and scampering round the stranded defender to pick up the ball.  The technical side of his game also seemed better.  He was a real threat and I hope to see him galloping down the wing in more competitive games.  He caused no end of problems and I can't help but think it was an option that we under utilised last season, hopefully on the evidence of last night that will soon change.

Honourable mentions should also go to Stefan Savic who was calm and collected at centre back, he didn't look out of place at all.  He played the ball well and looked effective, I look forward to seeing more of him.  James Milner continued his resurgent form in a central midfield role, not that Barry was poor, bit I can't help but feel the former Leeds and Newcastle player should have that position nailed down.  Any names omitted is not through lack of quality, with the exception of Andrea Mancini everyone looked solid.  This was always going to be the least interesting friendly, I am sure as we get closer to the season a team will settle and there will be less tinkering during the games.  This was essentially a glorified training session, but for what is was worth, there were a fair few positives.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

A View From The Reserves: Who Could Step Up This Year?

A few names stand out when you look at the reserve team squad, but are those players capable of making a step up and helping the first team this season?  We suffered a bit of an injury crisis towards the end of Winter last year, but this season we will have more players than ever to help the cause, and clearly others might be ready to make the step up.

Some of them you have to say seem further away than ever, Michael Johnson at one time was a key part of our first team squad but even when he was recovering from injury at the back end of last season he just didn't look the player that he once was.  As someone that attended the vast majority of games at Ewen Fields, I could see flashes of the old Johnson but the whole package seemed to be non-existent.  He was still neat and tidy on the ball, but there was no lung bursting runs through the centre of the pitch, and quite simply he didn't look overly mobile.  I expect his future will lie else where and with no sign of him so far this pre-season you would imagine his exit is pretty imminent.  It is a massive shame really because for a long time it looked as if Johnson would be a future star, not just for City but also England.  His career in football may not be over, but I don't see much of a future in the Premier League sadly.

One player that I think can definitely help is 19 year old defender Reece Wabara.  The Midlands born centreback made a cameo at the end of the Bolton game and I think it could be the first of many.  He has impressed me repeatedly playing for the reserve team and I think he may have what it takes to provide cover and make a few appearances this season.  He is comfortable on the ball, seems to have pretty good technique as well as pace to get himself out of trouble.  A further string to his bow is his ability to play either full back position.  From following Reece on twitter it is pretty apparent that he is hard working and wants to break through and I think he could get a chance this season.  I suppose the only problem is that we are hardly short of bodies in the defensive unit and youngster Dedryck Boyata is ahead of him in the pecking order, but if we pick up a few knocks I can see him getting a chance.

City snapped up Barcelona academy graduate Gai Assulin after a very protracted deal was finally completed and after a string of pretty impressive performances for the reserves he got injured...again...seriously.  I suppose there were early signs, one of the reasons his signing took so long was that he kept picking up knocks making him unable to complete a medical.  What will become of him I have no idea, his playing style is similar to that of David Silva and he floats around the park gracefully, but if he can't put a string of games together he may never come close to fulfilling his potential.  He is currently back in training at Carrington preparing for another season with the reserve squad, if he comes through it unscathed, then who knows, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

The future of John Guidetti is a bit of a mystery at this point.  It would appear that he is now ready to sign a new deal with City and I think that can only be good news.  Earlier in the Summer it looked as if he was going to sign with Dutch side FC Twente, that deal seemed to be a certainty however official confirmation never came and now he is back training with City in the USA.  Reports suggest that City offered a new deal at the last minute and that has convinced the Swede to stay.  Guidetti looks a good prospect to me when I have seen him playing for the reserves and I am sure he could have his uses in the first team squad.  Considering the number of times that Brazilian misfit Jo warmed the bench this year surely the young Swede would be a far better option.  In terms of physical attributes I think he has everything needed for success, he is reasonable pacey, he is strong, and on top of that he has a good finish on him.  He has already played Championship football on loan with Burnley but I think a place on the City bench this season is not out of the question.

There are others in and around the reserve team who have made first team appearances Abdi Ibrahim has a couple of first team appearances to his name and he could feature next season, as could young defender Ryan McGivern but I can't help but feel loan moves are more likely for these 2.  With the 'NextGen Series' kicking off in a month or so, the reserve team could receive a bit of a shake up, but I think there's a couple that aren't a million miles away from the first team.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Has Mancini Scored A Bit Of An Own Goal?

Firstly I should point out that I am a fan of Roberto Mancini and I have always given him the benefit of the doubt, I do feel he has made some mistakes, but who doesn't?  He has made less mistakes than many of our previous managers so we shouldn't complain, that doesn't take away from the fact that I think he has just made a bit of an error of judgement.

I suppose the expected thing would be for me to write about our new awesome, yet gaudy aircraft, or the new name for our stadium which everyone will continue to call Eastlands no matter how much is spent to make us call it otherwise.  On reflection, that statement makes it sound as if I am against a stadium name change, which I definitely am not.

It is however our managers decision to sideline some members of our squad that is bothering me, I think the impact it could have potentially could be pretty difficult to deal with.  The MEN has a bit of a none story this evening, it merely confirms what we already know and that is that some of our players will not be allowed to train or travel with the rest of the squad, and I am not sure that is a great idea.

The sidelined players are Craig Bellamy, Emmanuel Adebayor, Wayne Bridge and Nedum Onuoha (they also list RSC, but fail to mention his absence is down to him playing in the Copa America, top quality journalism), now clearly the majority of those players aren't good enough for our team, but surely taking them to America and getting them fitter makes them more salable assets.  Unless there are moves in the offing for all of those players that can take place before the players return from their USA tour, it serves no purpose to not take them.

I suppose the counter argument could be that they could instill some negativity in the camp, but they have all been away from the team for so long I am unsure as to how destructive they could actually be.  Clearly the papers were full this morning of negative words from both Bellamy and Adebayor, but I think a lot of the motivation behind those quotes was probably because they were sidelined by the clubs coaching staff.

The other issue is that I still believe a couple of those players could offer us something.  If Tevez is to leave, Emmanuel Adebayor could have his uses unless we replace the Argentine quickly, and even though I wrote recently that I felt Onuoha wasn't necessarily good enough for Manchester City I still felt he could offer some decent backup if he impressed over pre-season.

Clearly the thinking behind the 'ban' is to keep morale up, but part of me worries that by taking these actions we are not only taking the players out of the shop window, but that we might also inadvertently damage morale.  Let's not forget there are no stories about Jo being banned, but Adebayor, oh yeah, it makes sense to keep him away from the team....

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

My Carlos Tevez Replacements Rated Out of 10!

Clearly there is no definitive answer on the whole Tevez saga at this point, and in a few weeks we could easily have another statement claiming he wants to say.  Rather than go on about the impact and effect on the team of his possible departure, i've been thinking about who would be a good replacement?

Below are my thoughts on some of the ideas i've read, i've also given each a nifty rating out of 10, now clearly there will be players that I have omitted and maybe you don't agree with my thoughts, but isn't that what's great about football? So lets get into it:

Didier Drogba
One possible solution is a short term fix, someone that can come in and take the strain for a season while the rest of our forward line continue to find their feet.  Drogba may be getting on a bit, but he is a proven goal scorer in the top flight, with the ongoing rejuvenation of Chelsea they would probably be prepared to sell and he may fancy one final big pay day.  He may be an entirely different player to Tevez, but I think he would score goals, and as a quick short term solution I am unsure there are many better options.  Having said that if we are spending money it would be better to look to the future and this goes against the Ivorian.  The other problem is that he is remarkably similar to what we already have, and for many that would make him a less attractive proposition.

7/10 - Could do a job in the short term, but isn't overly inspiring.

Karim Benzema

A few years ago the French striker was toasted as being one of the finest prospects in Europe, there were long running rumours linking him with both Arsenal and Manchester United but it was Real Madrid that took the plunge.   In his first season he only managed 8 goals, and this term just ended he was mostly used as a substitute, however he was handed a life line as an injury to Gonzalo Higuain brought him into the first team on a more regular basis.  He was actually pretty successful this term scoring 26 goals in 48 games, for most people that would make him a key player but with the wealth of forwards at Madrid there are still intense rumours suggesting that they would be prepared to sell.

8/10 - There are some questions over his ability to score in England, however with Madrid's interest in Tevez we could get both the player and money if we deal with Jose Mourinho.

Gonzalo Higuain

I have rated the Argentine for a long time, now in his 5th season with Real he has become a really prolific goal scorer and their first choice striker.  In his time with the club he has netted 69 goals in 127 games, clearly an impressive strike rate and with time I can see his skill set and goal scoring form translating to England.  At 23 he is still young and has a long career ahead of him, and that clearly is another positive.  The only real downside is his injury record which isn't the best, we have enough players made of glass and we could do without another.  Injuries aside though I think he would be ideal, clearly he is a very different player to Tevez but I don't necessarily think that is a bad thing.

9/10 - As with Benzema, I think there is definitely a deal to be done here, and a money plus Higuain offer isn't necessarily out of the question.

Samuel Eto'o

The former Barcelona striker was closely linked to City a few years ago, but at the time it seemed he may have been using the club to ensure a higher wage at wherever he did end up moving too.  Ultimately he signed for Inter Milan and he has been reasonably successful, continuing his impressive scoring record from his previous club.  There have been murmurings in recent months about a possible move to England, with him claiming that he wanted to play in all the top leagues, but I wonder if it is more down to the money he could earn.  At 30 years old he is one of the older options, and I can't help but think he is angling for one final large pay day, clearly a good player but I am not sure he is the right man for us at this moment.

6/10 - We previously tried a deal involving Tevez and Eto'o and it didn't come off, and to be honest I am glad, he may be younger than Drogba but his lack of knowledge of the English league makes him less attractive.

Sergio Aguero

Fellow Argentine Sergio Aguero has been performing extremely well in La Liga for Atletico Madrid for a few years now.  He has proven himself to be an all round forward and I believe that makes him a more than ideal replacement for Tevez.  He is a hard worker, extremely skillful and I think he could be very successful in England.  Question marks remain over whether he would score enough goals and I understand that argument, but I think he would be well worth the gamble.  If this is the man we go for, it will have to be sharpish as a move to Juventus is currently in the pipeline.  Clearly Atletico couldn't afford Tevez so we might have to find a buyer before we can finance this move, but with a release clause set at £35million I think this is a no brainer.

10/10 - For me he is far and away the best option to replace Tevez, he is a different type of player to Dzeko and Balotelli

Best of the rest:

Edinson Cavani - 6/10 - Never been overly impressed when i've seen him, expensive, and not sure about the Serie A to Premier League jump.

David Villa - 9/10 - Age is the only thing that puts me off in all honesty, good goal scoring, and good team player, expensive and not many years left on the clock however.

Hulk - 8/10 - I really like Hulk, but others don't, sometimes people suggest his footballing brain isn't good enough, physically great though.

Giuseppe Rossi - 7/10 - Unfortunate United links, good player and useful age, but never really been consistent enough for me.

Ezequiel Lavezzi - 7/10 - Looks decent, but doesn't score enough for me and would be very expensive.

Neymar - 2/10 - Just no...

If you made it to the end of this ramble, well done.  I am sure the majority of you may not agree with scores, or maybe even my first choice.  I stand by my thoughts though, I think if we end the month with Aguero (and maybe Nasri) and without Carlos Tevez I would be reasonably content.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Who Is Stefan Savic and What Could His Signing Mean?

It seems that transfer activity will finally begin this week at Eastlands with the possible signings of both Gael Clichy and young defender Stefan Savic.  We know all about the former but who is Stefan Savic and what sort of player are we signing?

Talking to the media in Italy today his signing was more or less confirmed by Roberto Mancini, the 20 year has been courted by many teams across Europe and is lauded as one of the rising stars of European football.  This appears to be further evidence of the club looking to the future and attempting to sign future stars securing the teams well being for years to come.

The central defender was born in Montenegro and began his career playing for BSK Borca in Serbia, he spent two seasons with the club before he moved onto bigger things and signed for Partizan last Summer.  It was during that season that he began to demonstrate his immense potential and clubs around Europe began to notice.

At 6'1 the defender is a commanding presence in the air and he has good strength that will help him adapt to English football relatively quickly, his pace has also been praised and he is surprisingly pacey for a taller defender.

Savic is expected to cost the club around £7million, a figure that seems acceptable when you consider the supposed potential that he possesses.  He has previously been on trial with Arsenal and in fact he claimed that a deal was in place that would have taken him to the Emirates, but this proposed transfer never came to fruition, it was reported at the time that Arsene Wenger was unwilling to part with the required money to secure him, where have we heard that before?

Chelsea and Tottenham have also been linked with swoops but it now appears that City have won the race.  So what does this signing mean for the rest of the squad?  I would imagine that at just 20 years of age it is unlikely that he will be a regular in the first team, and he may even spend some time playing with the reserve team initially to get used to a new country.  I would expect that we will begin the season with Lescott and Kompany at the heart of the defense with Dedyrck Boyata offering cover and with the return of Kolo Toure in September it seems unlikely that we will be in the market for any more defenders if this deal proves successful.

The 2 players who could really lose out are Nedum Onuoha and Jerome Boateng, although whether the latter would view a move away from Manchester as 'losing out' is clearly questionable.  Savic is comfortable playing at full back as well as centrally so with him providing cover for Richards, Zabaleta, Kolarov and potentially Clichy you can't see there being much of a future for Neds or Boateng come the start of the next season.

I hope this deal goes through in the end, I have always been keen for us to move for future talents rather than taking the Real Madrid approach to transfers.  Earlier in the Summer we were linked to a huge move for Gary Cahill a transfer that would have cost us £17million and when you consider United recently paid £16million for Phil Jones, the money we might pay for Savic could really make it a massive steal and a fantastic piece of business.  On the other hand he could be dross, but lets not worry about that for the time being....