Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Ones That Got Away

It was announced this week that young Spaniard Joan Angel Roman had left the club to make the switch to Barcelona B after he turned down a new contract with City.  The midfielder had been with us for three years, but in that team the 19 year old failed to make a first team appearance despite being named as a substitute a couple of times.

The youngster showed respect and thanks for what City had given him during his time in England (the exact opposite of when Frederic Veselli crossed Manchester to join United), he tweeted the following in the aftermath of his decision to leave:

“It hasn’t been an easy decision to leave. Manchester City is where I’ve spent three wonderful years but all in all Barca is the best option to continue my career right now. “I would like to give a special mention to all City fans for the support you have given me which will always stay with me. Thank you all.".

I suppose when any young Spaniard is offered a move to Barcelona, albeit their reserve team, it is incredibly hard to turn down, but I believe there may be another issue involved in this move, and that is quite simply a lack of first team opportunities.  Roman never had the chance to demonstrate what he could do at the top level, and going forward that could be a bit of a problem.

The club have made no attempts to undersell the new training and academy complex, and why should they, the plans are fantastic and exactly what we should be doing.  It is somewhat of a myth that Barcelona only produce their own talent, clearly at times they do splash the cash, but the undeniable fact is that they do give youth a chance, even when there are doubts over the players quality.  Numerous youngsters have been given a good crack of the whip to show whether they can cut it or not, and i'm not talking 5 minutes at the end of a cup game, they are given starts in important games to prove their worth.

As I see it there is absolutely no point in creating the facilities to develop these young players if there is no link into the first team.  There has to be a clear passage into the side, otherwise the academy could become a huge white elephant.  The club is set up in such a way that young players progress well, from the junior levels right up to the reserves or the 'Elite Development Squad' as the club would prefer it to be called, but when players get to that stage they need to continue, not left to stagnate until their contract expires and they make the inevitable move.

We have a few players stuck in that limbo that we risk losing.  Roman could be the first of a few to grow disillusioned with their lack of chance to prove themselves.  The other player whom we need to sort out is John Guidetti, on the back of his exceptional form in the Eredivisie last season he will understandably not be content with a place in the reserves.

Most sources seem to suggest that he will be sold, but what if we were to keep him, what if we were to give him a chance ourselves?  I think it is pretty clear that we are looking to move on 1 or maybe even 2 strikers this Summer, likely candidates being Dzeko and Tevez.  In that situation, I am sure a big name would arrive to supplement Balotelli and Aguero, but I see no reason why we couldn't give the Swede a chance as the 4th choice forward.

There are others as well, Abdul Razak has always impressed when given run outs in the first team, and he spent a successful loan spell with Brighton last season, we talk of a long term replacement for Yaya Toure, this kid could be the person to do it, but we have to give him the chance to develop.  17 year old Denis Suarez has been knocking on the first team door for a while as well, likened to David Silva, the youngster was courted by Barcelona but instead chose to move to City, but without this link to the first team he too may feel the need to move on to develop his career.

As time passes this situation could arise time and time again, and I really think it is something that we need to address.  I am not suggesting that we fill our team with teenagers, but there needs to be opportunities for these players to show what they can do.  There are clear financial factors at play as well, the more players of high quality that we can create ourselves, the less money we have to spend.  Financial Fair Play is designed to encourage this sort of player development, we are going to have all the tools at our disposal to do it, but we just have to use them.

We may be building the best youth academy and training complex in the world, but if we can't get these players into the team it serves very little purpose and could be doomed to failure.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

It's oh so quiet!

I'd say this sums things up quite well....

There is literally nothing going on, and I apologise for lack of update this week, but as soon as ANYTHING of note occurs, you will hear it here first I promise!

Friday, 15 June 2012

Rumour Mill - Israeli Exchange at Eastlands?

With the European Championships and more specifically England dominating the back pages, you have to dig a little deeper for transfer rumours this Summer.  Some City fans have suggesting that we have been strangely quiet in the transfer market this year, but I am not so sure that is the case.  It is only June, and during tournament Summers, the majority of business is normally done in July.  That also ignores the fact that had things panned out differently we could already have made one significant signing in Eden Hazard.  On top of that, it is highly likely that we have an offer on the table for Robin Van Persie, and with the Netherlands massively under-performing the player could be making a decision on his future earlier than many expected.

So that is at least 2 deals that we have been involved in, and today we could possibly add a third.  It looks as if it could be one in, one out with regards to Israeli players this Summer, it was announced towards the end of last month that former Barcelona midfielder Gai Assulin would not see his contract at City extended and he was let go.  The 21 year old came to City after being released by the Catalan club 2 years ago, his career in Spain was marred by a string of injuries and when he was returning to fitness towards the end of his first campaign at City he picked up another serious injury playing for the reserves and he has never recovered from that.  A regular starter for the reserves, he has not been near the first team in a League Cup game, let alone the Premier League.  He did spend the end of the year on loan at Brighton and appeared in 7 games, whether they choose to swoop for the tricky winger on a permanent basis remains to be seen.

So whilst Assulin has seen his time at City come to an end it now appears he could be replaced by a compatriot, and that man is 20 year old Nir Biton.  Now that name might seem familiar to some of you, and that would be because the Daily Mail claimed a deal had been done in January, well that was just yet another story they got wrong.  Parts of it were true, he did spend a week on trial with the club, and he trained with the first team at Carrington, however despite murmurings in the press and supposedly impressing the clubs coaching team, he returned to Israel where he plays for MS Ashdod.

The 20 year old made his debut for his club in 2009 when he was 17, and he soon established himself to be one of the brightest talents in Israel, his success for his club has also seen him capped at international level making his debut for the national team in 2010.  At 6'5 it could be easy to assume that his game purely revolves around his physical prowess, but that would be doing the youngster a disservice.  If you are active on twitter, you will be aware of @Doug_mcfc, and how he is a regular at Carrington watching training sessions.  So he is in a good position to comment on the players ability and attributes.  During a couple of training games he commented on the players awareness, touch a good eye for goal, and went on to tell me that he believes the player can definitely have a future in England, maybe not at City, but somewhere in the top flight.

My only concerns revolve around the players age, not that he is too old, but at 20, I don't believe that is a player you would be signing as being 'one for the future', in recent years, players are breaking through at 16/17, so 20 is a relatively 'grown up' age for a Premier League player, so should this deal come off he should be expected to be taking part in first team activities.  If it is going to take him 2 to 3 years to be ready then I don't really see the point in bringing him in, at his age he has to be ready to make an instant impression on the squad.

It is again the Daily Mail that are claiming this deal is close to completion, no price is quoted but back in January the asking price was thought to be around £2million and I can't see it being much more than that now.  Of course the other issues are the work permit and national service, but again in January the players agent released a statement saying neither would be an issue because of the players 'exceptional potential'.

So really it could be a pretty exciting piece of business, other Premier League clubs were seemingly interested but it would appear that we have won out.  So maybe the transfer dealings are about to begin, who is going to be next? Gareth Bale maybe?  Watch this space...

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Nasri Next Out Of The Door? Not a Chance....

It has been a pretty bad week to be a blue, well that is if you believe what you read in the papers.  According to our fantastic media the end is nigh, Roberto Mancini is preparing to quit to take over as Italy coach because his wife can't settle in Manchester, Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Edin Dzeko, Nigel De Jong, Adam Johnson and Mario Balotelli are all leaving, we were snubbed by Eden Hazard and now according to reports in France, Samir Nasri is on the way as well.  It's great being a City fan isn't it?

Clearly the media circus around the club is going to get more mental every year, but the notion of moving on about half of our playing staff as well as our manager to be honest is ridiculous, and yet people get paid to write this stuff?  Obviously, there are going to be players departing this Summer, that is the nature of the game, just as there will be a few new arrivals, but the wholesale revolution being talked of in the media seems nothing short of farce. 

The latest claims doing the rounds revolve around the future of Samir Nasri and they originate from the bastion of quality French journalism, sports paper L'Equipe.  The paper claim that the former Arsenal man has not impressed his manager this season and claim that City are prepared to 'listen to offers', and with that comment comes my first problem with the piece.  The story is being spun as if we are seeking to move on the midfielder after only one season, when what it actually says is that we may be prepared to listen to other clubs should they make an offer that is deemed acceptable.  Now, outside of Aguero, Toure, Silva, Kompany and Hart I think you could say the exact same about any member of our squad, but there again 'City would consider selling Nasri if a good offer comes in' doesn't quite have the right sensationalist ring to it does it?

If we ignore that aspect of the story, there are other ridiculous things at play here as well.  Firstly why would we be wanting rid of the 24 year old?  In my mind he has had a solid season, some criticised him in the opening period, but I think that is a bit harsh, and perhaps underestimates the challenge of adapting to a new club and team.  In the last few months of the season however, Nasri has been one of our best performers, and he has taken some of the slack off Silva who toiled for a spell during the beginning of 2012.  It is also worth pointing out that he has got more assists to his name this season alone than in his entire career at Arsenal, but supposedly Mancini isn't impressed?

I am not going to second guess the management of the club, they know what they are doing, and whilst Nasri may not have been quite as glittering as some expected I just can't imagine why we would be looking to sell the French international, who, at 24, has still got his peak and prime to come.  

If we return to the original point though, I still find the whole story incredibly misleading, it says in black and white that we aren't looking to sell, but would listen to offers.  Now wait and see what the red tops do with that tomorrow morning.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Are We Getting A Genuine 3 Horse Race?

Do you remember when we were ruining football?  We were the scourge of the Premier League, lambasted by the media in all corners for our 'immoral' and 'disgusting' spending, well we aren't alone any more, because Roman Abramovich has opened his cheque book again, and this time not just to pay off another manager.  In fact if they finalise the 2 deals they are currently working on, they will have spent more than us in the last 2 years, who'd have thought it?!

Of course spending at Chelsea never really stopped like the media would have you believe, they did however curb their spending somewhat, and at the same time we were spending £18M on Roque Santa Cruz and paying Wayne Bridge £100k a week!  The main result of the 'reduced' spending at Stamford Bridge was their first finish outside of the top 4 for 9 years.  In a very strange twist of fate however there lowest finish since 2002 coincided with them winning the one prize they have missed out on, and the one prize they have wanted more than any other, the Champions League.

Had Abramovich and his merry men slipped up in Munich the club would have been in real trouble, sustaining their wage bill without the income from the Champions League this coming season would have been close to impossible.  On top of that, they would have found it frustratingly difficult to recruit new players, as we found in our initial wave of spending immediately after Sheikh Mansour took control.  Attracting top players without the promise of Champions League football is incredibly difficult.

Things didn't quite pan out that way, and even though I should have been supporting Chelsea that night against Bayern, I hold my hands up and admit that if they had lost I wouldn't have been overly upset.  Not because of any particular dislike for the London club, but just because it was apparent that should they win and gain Champions League entry through the back door, it would mean another team for us to compete with in the transfer market.  The landscape of football in England wouldn't have been massively different, but it would have taken Chelsea a few years to get back to where they were, where as now, with this increased spending they are demonstrating you have to admit they should be right back in the title race next season.

It is hard to put a finger on exactly what was wrong with them domestically this season, I suppose the simplest explanation is that AVB was brought in to revolutionise the Chelsea set up and was not given the time to do so, and by side lining experience and promoting youth he got the club into a really dire situation.  Then latterly when Lampard, Drogba and Terry were reinstated caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo did not try to battle on 2 fronts, he put all his eggs in the Champions League basket, resting important players in league games to ensure they were fresh for their European adventure and in the end you simply can't fault the approach, it worked.

Now as we look to next season, their success is impacting on City already.  It may not be set in stone yet, but it appears a near certainty that the paperwork and necessary medicals will soon be completed to confirm Belgian Eden Hazard as a Chelsea player; before their showdown with Munich it appeared City were hot favourites to land the 21 year old with competition from Manchester United.  However, as soon as the London club ensured their place amongst Europe's elite, the landscape changed, they were willing to pay the exorbitant agent fee's that we were rightly haggling over and they could offer the player all he wanted, so we missed out.

If the transfer rumour mill is to be believed they are also close to landing Porto forward Hulk in a deal worth £38M on top of the £32M they paid for Hazard, and the spending doesn't stop there, they are looking at making a move for Ajax right back Gregory van der Wiel, a deal that would cost around £9M to pull off.  Let's not forget before last season ended they agreed a fee of £7M to sign Marko Marin from Werder Bremin, reigned in spending this is not.

Clearly as Manchester City supporters, we cannot criticise their outlay but we can see how it could affect us going forward, should all their transfers come off, their starting 11 next season could look a little something like this: 

Then with players like van der Wiel, Marin, Terry, Sturridge, Malouda, Mikel, Essien, Meireles, Lukaku on the bench it becomes clear that they have a squad not just a team, and an incredible strong and dangerous squad at that.

Obviously we can compete, our front 4 is still better I would argue, our defense is superior and i'd much rather have Yaya Toure and Gareth Barry (or even Javi Martinez) over Ramires and Lampard but the gap will clearly have closed.  It seems to be expected that Ferguson will spend this Summer to keep Manchester United there or there abouts, but on the evidence of this season, even if he didn't spend he'd still get his perhaps average team performing at a much higher level than many would expect.

Clearly the losers in all of this are either Spurs or Arsenal, if RVP does depart North London (maybe for a move to the blue side of Manchester) they could be in a little bit of trouble, and a top 4 of City, Chelsea, Spurs and United would have a fresh look to it.  This potential challenge from London though is something that I am pleased with, when City first got the investment I said it was good because it would stop the league from stagnating, there was an extra team to compete, and as much as i'd love City to win the league every year (something I wouldn't put past us), 3 teams slugging it out for the title could be a great thing, even better if it were 4, but lets not get ahead of ourselves!

The approach Chelsea are taking is clearly not a patient one, it is worth remembering they are still manager-less, and a bad decision there could derail them even with their potentially much improved pool of players, but if they get that choice right, and if they do manage to finalise these deals they will be a real force to be reckoned with, I say bring it on!