Silly Season Preview
Ah the mid-season transfer window, where big deals can change the outlook of a club’s season. With how this season has gone across England, and Europe, this could shape up to be one of the busier January windows in the past few years. Being a supporter of Manchester City, I have become used to the club being linked with every big name player on the planet because of the coin that we have. Now of course 90% of these rumors are just that, and never come to fruition. In this post, I will offer up my views on where City needs help in the New Year, and what moves I believe are viable. I understand that the Sheikh could afford pretty much anyone, but I will be focusing more on who could actually slot into the systems in place and that would make sense financially. I’ve done a lot of research on these players, and I believe that they could truly help City close the season out strong.
Before getting into the targets, we need to take into account the roster rules that English clubs must adhere to in order to compete in the Premiership. Click here to see a quick and easy 10 point run down of the squad rules. As you can see, it’s not as easy as just going to buy the player you want; and if you add the in the FFP rules it gets even more complicated.
Already around the league, and Europe, some big moves have gone through, or are in the works. Liverpool completed the signing of young Chelsea (and ex-City) striker, Daniel Sturridge. While just this afternoon, Newcastle and Chelsea have, as of today, completed a move sending striker Demba Ba to Stamford Bridge. In France, nouveau riche Paris Saint-Germain has acquired the services of highly rated attacking midfielder Lucas Moura from Brazilian side Sao Paulo. Over in Germany, Borussia Dortmund is looking to lock up a deal for Nuri Sahin. The on load midfielder is currently at Liverpool, but his parent club is Real Madrid. Sahin has only been at Madrid for a short time after being sold from, you guessed it, Borussia Dortmund. This is the same as you getting dumped by a chick for a rich attractive guy, then she realizes that he’s got a lot of other money grabbing whores around him, so she wants to come back to you, and you are dumb enough to take her back even though she’s probably going to do the same thing in a few months.
Now I’ll offer up the moves that I would make in the month of January, taking into account the squad rules and the FFP. Now my ideas of quality signings may differ from some, but I am more concerned about players that will work in our 4-2-3-1 and 3-5-2 systems, as well as being compatible with the style that City tend to play, or that Mancini has been known to promote. The way I see it, City have 5 or 6 positions that it needs to improve. This does not mean that all need to, or indeed will be, addressed this month. I’ve ranked these into how important I view each potential move.
- Replace Yaya Toure
- Add a holding midfielder
- Bring in a winger
- Add a left fullback
- Young attacking midfielder
- This depends on if Balo, or another striker is sold
The biggest hole that City will have is in central midfield. If you take a look at City at their best, everything comes through Kompany, to Barry or Yaya, to Silva, to one of the hit men. With Yaya gone, this leaves Barry, who will keep things ticking, but can’t provide the drive that Yaya does. Whoever comes in needs to be powerful and have a big engine. Yaya does not play a holding midfield role, even though he lines up deep. He is a box to box midfielder in Mancini’s system. Yaya is good in attack and defense, and whoever comes in needs to be as close to this type of player as possible. At the same time, this player needs to understand that once Yaya returns, they are not likely to see a lot of playing time. This is not a position to drop an astounding amount of money, because it would be very wasteful in the long run. The player that comes in needs to be a box to box midfielder, or deep lying playmaker, in order to give City the best chance to continue their success in Yaya’s absence.
There is a pretty big list, in my eyes, of players that could come in and fill this role temporarily. Some are higher in this list because they could solve more than one of our current issues.
- Daniele De Rossi (Roma)
- If you’ve seen him play, you’ll understand why he is held in such high regard. He has said before that he wouldn’t leave Roma, but his relationship with his manager has been on the rocks for some time now. He can play as a box to box or holding midfielder, and even center back if necessary. He would cost more than any other candidate at this position, but his contribution would more than cover the cost.
- Scott Parker (Tottenham)
- Another player that could slot in at either of the deeper midfield roles. He has been out most of the season, but has recently begun to regain fitness. His engine is almost unmatched, and you’d be hard pressed to find a player that has more tenacity. He won’t be pretty, but he would work harder than anyone on the pitch, save James Milner, for 90 minutes.
- Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan)
- One of Mancini’s men from his days in Milan, this guy is an absolute monster. He can play as a holding midfielder or go forward more, and is built like a tug boat. Crunching tackles and safe passes are what this man adds to a club. Another player that if you have seen the Argentine play you will know how and why he would fit in at City.
- Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari)
- Think Nigel de Jong with better passes and vision. This young Belgian is a stud and has been wreaking havoc in Serie A. You probably haven’t heard of him because he is stuck on a mediocre team. He has said that a move abroad would make him happy. He would be affordable, could play both roles in midfield, and would become a cult hero much like Nigel. Keep your eye out for this one.
Next we move to the holding midfield role. Gareth Barry can’t play every single game, and Javi Garcia isn’t showing the form that led to his purchase. I think that Javi will come good eventually but until then we should add someone to create some competition. Add to this the fact that Gareth Barry is into his 30s and not getting any younger and you’ll see why we need depth here. You will notice in this section, and the last, a number of players from Serie A. The reason for this is the style of play in Italy. They rely on holding midfielders to break up play, and link the defense to the playmakers much more than you see in England.
- Daniele De Rossi (Roma)
- See above
- Scott Parker (Spurs)
- See above
- Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan)
- See above
- Radja Nainggolan (Cagliari)
- See above
- Luca Marrone (Juventus)
- Finally a new name to the list, and what a player he is (or will be). Marrone is a young defensive midfielder/center back that is very close to breaking onto the world scene. He’s had trouble getting into the squad at his preferred midfield role, but anyone would when Andrea Pirlo is the starter. Marrone is a big lad that can break up play and complete a smart pass to an outlet player. An added plus is that he could come on the cheap.
- Etienne Capoue (Toulouse)
- I haven’t seen much of this player, but what I have seen is impressive. He stays home and reads the game very well. You won’t see him aimlessly wandering forward and leaving the back four unprotected. Good player but the likelihood of him going anywhere is very low.
Now onto the wingers. City is very narrow, so narrow at points that it looks like their trying to walk the ball into the net through the center of defense. Added width spreads the opposing defense, and creates more chances in the middle.
- Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
- This would be a dream. If the Sheikh and Mancini know what is good for them, they need to snap up this boy by the summer at the latest. Gareth Bale is the best winger in the league, and one of the most dangerous players in the league by far. Pace, power, crossing ability, shooting ability, and youth. You couldn’t ask for much more in a player. He would cost a pretty penny, but his production would more than pay for itself.
- Theo Walcott (Arsenal)
- Okay, I know he doesn’t want to play on the wing, but in our system would be allowed to drift in often, and could play striker occasionally. You won’t find much faster footballers on the planet, and he’s recently found his goal scoring boots. Contract talks are at a standstill with the Gunners, and if a bid came in that made Wenger some money Theo could be out the door.
- Hatem Ben Arfa (Newcastle)
- Since having his leg broken by Nigel de Jong, Hatem Ben Arfa has been on a tear. He has been one of the primary creators in the magpies’ offense and has put in his fair share of goals. Newcastle looks to be in another selling phase, so don’t be surprised if this is one of the deals that goes through because of the fee involved.
- Wilfried Zaha (Crystal Palace)
- This young man is a star in the making. He can play anywhere in the front four of City’s 4-2-3-1 formation. His name has come up a lot recently and it looks as if this could be the window that he moves up to the Prem. If City could pip United for him it would give the Blues a very valuable weapon for years to come.
At fullback, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, we just don’t have enough players. We started the season with 5 fullbacks that all could start for most teams in the league. Currently we have 2 healthy, and only one is left sided. While Kolarov will be back soon, I would like to see a young player come in at this position to give us an option going into the future. This does not need to done now, but this summer we may need to see some action here.
- Gareth Bale (Tottenham)
- He started as a left back until ‘Arry moved him forward a bit. But if Mancini wants to know what would turn his 3-5-2 into a nightmare for his opposition, he only needs to plug Bale into the left wingback role. Bale can run for days and would make life a living hell for the right side of opposing defenses. Gareth Bale needs to be a Citizen sooner rather than later.
- Leighton Baines (Everton)
- One of the top left backs in the world in my eyes. There’s a reason he has been chosen over Ashley Cole for England on some occasions. He is deadly from set pieces, crosses very well, and is talented in defense. This could be a coup if pulled off, but would only make City better.
- Luke Shaw (Southampton)
- The Saints’ teenager is going to be something special. He doesn’t play often because of his age but when he does you can see that the tools are there. He likes to get forward which is a redeeming quality in Mancini’s book. The fact that he would comply with the homegrown player rule in the squad rules is a major plus, and he would be cheap. Another one to keep an eye on in the next few years.
- Jetro Willems (PSV)
- This guy is a burner. Shocking speed, big engine, decent positioning, and he’s very young. He is the future left back of Holland and would slot in nicely on the left side of City’s defense.
- Alex Sandro (Porto)
- Future left back for Brazil. In no way is this an exaggeration. This boy is going to be very special, and will overtake Marcelo in the national set up sooner rather than later. He has the same qualities as the rest of the listed players, but he also has that little something special. He will not be at Porto much longer, as big clubs are starting to swarm like sharks.
Attacking Midfield is a spot that is becoming more and more important in the 4-2-3-1 system. With Nasri out, Silva is the only real creator left. When Silva was out injured City didn’t have the same flair and attacking prowess as they did when the little wizard was healthy. Again this is a position that could hold off until summer, but adding a young player now that could learn from Silva would be brilliant. This player needs to have some Latin flair in his game in my eyes. The rhythm and panache that these players possess make opposing defenders and midfielders miserable. Good vision and silky touch are a must if a player is added here.
- Isco (Malaga)
- This guy is the future. 20 years old but is already mature beyond his years. He is magnificent on the ball and has great vision for being so young. He will cost some serious cash, but he is going to be a worldwide household name in the future. What better way to replace Silva than with the new breed of Spanish maestros?
- Bernard (Mineiro)
- You haven’t heard of him, but just you wait. The diminutive Brazilian teenager is going to be special. Small, quick, Velcro on his boots, and ever improving vision. This lad could give City a nice alternative if Denis Suarez doesn’t mature the way we hope he will. Bernard would come much cheaper than any other option.
- Mario Goetze (Dortmund)
- If you watched the Champions League you got to see how awesome this guy is. He oozes quality and confidence, and will be a force in European football for years to come. Big money signing that would provide big results.
- Iker Muniain (Bilbao)
- Meet the man that makes Fernando Llorente one of the most chased strikers in Europe. This boy will break into the Spanish squad soon, and will become a very big name in the next few years. Muniain is more likely to score along with being creative than some of the other options available.
The priority of adding a striker could jump way up this list depending on whether or not Mario Balotelli (or another striker) is sold in the window. Both clubs of Milan have been rumored to be lining up a move for the Italian, as well as PSG. Should this scenario go down, we could see some serious movement take place.
- Radamel Falcao (Atletico Madrid)
- If you don’t know why, then shame on you. At present, there is no finer striker in Europe. He can’t stop scoring and he is as tough as they come. What’s £35 million when he’s deadlier than the Black Death?
- Play John Guidetti
- City have something very special on the books, but he can’t get a sniff of the first team. On loan last year in Holland he was an absolute monster, and the clubs he faced had no answer. He’s a big, young lad with gun powder in his boots, and if City aren’t careful they could lose something very important. This guy is going to be very good, but he won’t wait around much longer to start playing at the highest level.
- Robert Lewandowski (Dortmund)
- The Rags were after him in the summer, and for good reason. Lewandowski is a quality striker that could’ve really shown his stuff at the Euros had Poland not ducked out so early. We didn’t see him too much in the Champions League, but his play in the Bundesliga speaks for itself.
- Luc Castaignos (Inter)
- Here is the future line leader for Holland. He’s a young guy that has been dreadfully misused since his arrival in Milan. With proper coaching, and an opportunity to play with quality footballers, this lad could be very impressive in the coming years.
- Lacina Traore (Anzhi)
- A giant. This young Ivorian plies his trade at wealthy Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala and is the strike partner of Samuel Eto’o. Yes that Samuel Eto’o. Now whether or not Traore has been so successful this season is the result of being paired with one of the best strikers in recent memory is yet to be seen. He has been linked with Liverpool and other clubs on the continent, but if City want to take a risk on a massive striker with a lot of upside, this would be the man for them.
Well, there you have it, my view on who City could bring in to improve in the New Year. I’d love to hear what some of you guys think about my thoughts, or who you would bring in. Leave a comment, or hit me on twitter @jtmccune. Here’s to a wild and wacky January transfer window!!