This season could still go either way for the Eastlands faithful. The only downside of reaching the FA Cup semi final is that it moves the Spurs game even close to the business end of the season, and I am not sure personally I could take a repeat of last year.
The 1-0 defeat last time around brought no real complaints from many City fans, we didn’t deserve to finish 4th, it was a season of brilliant days, hammering Chelsea at the Bridge, and depressing gloomy days, the battering we took at White Hart Lane.
It would be foolish to say that there hasn’t been an improvement this term, currently sitting in 4th place with our destiny in our own hands and with a run in that doesn’t involve any of the ‘big 4’, other than that huge clash with Spurs, there are reasons to be positive. Some things however clearly haven’t worked, teams come to stifle and at times it is a great success. Draws at home against Fulham and Birmingham were not good enough and if we had won just one of those City fans would feel almost guaranteed of 4th place, if not third.
Some people around Eastlands have questioned the manager, personally I am behind Roberto Mancini, performances have been cautious, and there hasn’t been lashings of flair, but if that brings Champions League football next season, does it matter? I firmly believe the Italian is putting out teams to guarantee 4th, when the ambitions of the club change, I believe the style of play will also change.
Therefore I for one don’t believe a change of manager is required, however there are clearly problems that must be addressed, and I have spent ages sifting through match reports and stats (OK, so I haven’t really, but it sounds good!) trying to identify how City can be improved, and I think with 2 players we can solve many of our problems, so here goes:
It is pretty fair to say that Aleksandar Kolarov has struggled this season, I recently wrote an article about another left sided player linked with City, and in that piece I wrote about how the potential target, Juan Vargas, had started life as a left back, but struggled so much that he had been shifted to the left wing to great success. It wasn’t far into his City career before the same was done for Kolarov, but unfortunately he wasn’t particularly great there either. The Serbian lacks nothing in terms of work rate, but at times I get the impression he just doesn’t understand the English game, and maybe doesn’t have the attributes to ever do so. It is a real problem area for the side and the best performer on the left of the defense this season has been right footed Pablo Zabaleta.
I really believe the club need a solid left back who understands the league and doesn’t neglect the defensive side of his game, and I think Leighton Baines could be that man. At 26 he is just entering his prime, and he will continue to improve with the right coaching and playing in a better team. It could be easy to say, lets sign Ashley Cole, Patrice Evra or whoever, but what I see in Baines is a realistic transfer target. Obviously with him being English there is the usual ‘English tax’ and he wouldn’t come cheap, but we have been short at left back for a while now and I don’t think it is an area that we can continue to just ‘make do’. When you are chasing trophies and accolades, you can’t have any weak links, and currently left back is one of ours!
Now this one might seem a little strange, but I have been infuriated at times this year by a lack of width at Eastlands. I think Adam Johnson is a real threat on the right cutting in, but David Silva on the other flank isn’t really a winger so he floats around a bit which means we don’t have anyone going down the touch line.
I was tempted to go with Ashley Young, but I feel competition there might just be too stong for his signature, Mata however is a different story. He is very quick, can go round a man, has good delivery and also is a very accomplished finisher. The other important factor is that he would create chances for Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko, City rarely have people in the right position to whip crosses into the box and I think Mata could provide that as well as so much more. At 22, he is somewhat of a rising star in Spain and although there are issues with his strength David Silva has proved that you don’t have to built like a brick outhouse to survive.
Playing Mata left, Johnson right, with Silva through the middle behind Tevez or Dzeko I think would be a real threat going forward and it would finally provide some natural width down the left hand side. There is a buyout clause in the players contract at £40million, but with the Spanish club struggling financially it has been suggested he could be secured for closer to £30million. With a good salary on offer and his friend Silva also at the club I think he could be very tempted by the move.
All in all I think City are progressing well, but with a top quality winger to get round a full back and someone to solidify the left side of the defense I really think the Eastlands side can push on and challenge even higher up the table next season. I am confident that they will qualify for Europe’s top competition this time around, but with these 2 new boys I think they could do even better.
What are your thoughts? If you agree or disagree, or have other suggestions, lets hear them below. Also if you want more from me, why not follow me on twitter @soccercityjoe!