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Manchester City to add Spanish wingers after Pellegrini’s arrival?

Last season one of the recurring weaknesses of Manchester City’s attack was the lack of width, pace and variety. This was compounded by some errant finishing but often the out of form strikers would have little opportunity to get a few shots on goal. This was because their attacking patterns were too one-dimensional. If they couldn’t rapidly pass their way through the middle of the opposition they were left without a Plan B. Although full backs Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy provided some attacking width they don’t possess the kind of guile or creativity they needed out wide.

Roberto Mancini’s first choice team often featured David Silva and Samir Nasri as the supposed width but they were usually given license to meander infield. Both of them have the natural compulsion to play in behind a striker and occasionally drift wide, rather than being out wide all of the time. With them drifting in, Carlos Tevez drifting back from his forward spot and with Yaya Toure getting forward from midfield, the sight of four or five City players within the width of the penalty box, but just outside, was not uncommon.

With this in mind, they are being strongly linked to Spanish winger Jesus Navas and versatile attacking midfielder Isco, believed to be main targets for expected new manager Manuel Pellegrini. They are logical connections to make, with Isco having emerged as such a desirable prospect under Pellegrini at Malaga and ,Navas a consistent menace for Sevilla who have run in to financial difficulties and may be willing to sell their prised local boy.

Isco

Isco is very much reminiscent of Santi Cazorla of Arsenal, his ex-teammate. Indeed, when Cazorla left last summer, Isco assumed his vacated central position and took on the mantle of the main playmaker for the Malaga side, which despite financial troubles reached the Champions League quarter finals and the top six of La Liga. Isco is two footed, has excellent vision, glides around the field and this season has increased his goal tally to nine, which is pretty similar to Cazorla, and more than possible new team mate David Silva. His main asset, as you would expect from a young Spaniard, is exemplary technique and football intelligence. Like Juan Mata, he has an impish creativity but also has a bustling and direct style, which makes him a dangerous runner with the ball. The question really, is fitting him in at City.

Isco certainly has different tools to what City currently have. His powerful dribbling and improving goal getting give him an edge over Nasri and Silva. He is capable of making things happen without the need of a team-mate’s help; at times City play as if everything needs to click in to gear with everyone for it to work. He wouldn’t offer width, but he would bring much needed directness, inventiveness and pace in possession. Plus, he is on record with his admiration for the Premier League and has worked with the new probable new City boss, so persuading him should be easy enough.

Jesus Navas

Jesus Navas on the other hand, would offer width. He is a bit of an anachronism in Spain because he is more like an old-fashioned winger. He is very fast with the ball at his feet and a very skilful dribbler. He is a creator of chaos and a creator of goals. He won’t score many, none in the league this season, but he will create them. If anything, the English game should suit him more than the Spanish game. The English propensity for wide-open, fast-paced football with big spaces to roam around in should be an ideal environment for him. He is a pure right winger who would stay out wide and provide not only creativity but a constant out ball, an outlet to switch the play to.

The big questions with Navas have never been on the pitch though, it is with the homesickness that has blighted him. The joke in Spain is that he gets homesick in games outside Seville, so how is he going to cope in England? He doesn’t speak the language, and unless he brings his entire family over his adjustment to life in Manchester will be difficult. It might be reason enough for him to turn down such a move, preferring to stay in Spain.

Isco and Jesus Navas would combine to offer Pellegrini the width, pace and variety that they lacked last year. They would bring with them Plans B and C for City and surely supply enough chances for Aguero to find his shooting boots again. City can afford them both, even if the deal gets up towards £50m, but they need to invest time and effort in settling them in, particularly with Navas. If they do, it could be the jolt they need to compete for the league again next year.

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Manchester City need fresh faces but bad decisions in the past make them difficult to get

First things first, Manchester City are not in crisis. There are 18 other Premier League clubs who would love to be in City’s position. For a club that is putting up their first title defence in 45 years to be in second place and in an FA Cup semi-final is very good going. The problem is, expectations of the club have risen exponentially with their status as the most cash rich club in England. Good early season form led us to believe that they would be able to strongly compete with Manchester United in the title battle. However, after a limp Champions League showing their league form has suffered. So, why is that, and how do they move on from here?

City have lost the exuberant sparkle that saw them score 93 goals last season including six at Old Trafford and five at White Hart Lane. They have been grinding out results, but without the extra oomph that they had last year they haven’t been able to keep pace with United. The main reason for this is the lack of flair in the team and the absence of form of the flair that they do possess.

Samir Nasri

David Silva, their impish creator in chief, has been playing football solidly for six years and it is starting to show. He still looks elegant and stylish but he is missing the sharpness and zing of last season. It has bubbled up at times; it’s just the consistency that is lacking. Sergio Aguero hasn’t looked fully fit since his opening day injury. Maybe he was rushed back, maybe he is just a bit hesitant but like Silva he has lost his X-factor. He has looked amazing at times but again, the lack of consistency is frustrating. He is the complete package as a forward, the best in the league in full flight, but this season he hasn’t reached those levels enough. Similarly Carlos Tevez has flickered and started the season in superb form, but hasn’t brought it to every game. Samir Nasri has looked disinterested; perhaps as Roberto Mancini himself alluded to, he has taken his foot off the pedal after wining the league last year. This foursome helped City to play free-flowing attacking stuff last year but for various reasons they haven’t clicked this year.

The issue with this is that beyond the famous four the creative cupboard is bare. Mancini doesn’t have another option to bring on, so when he substitutes one of them the team’s flair quotient drops every time. James Milner, Edin Dzeko and Gareth Barry are good workers but don’t unlock defences. City were beaten to the punch in the summer on Eden Hazard and Robin van Persie, both of whom would have offered Mancini extra creativity and goal threat. They also would have brought hunger and desire to win their first Premier League title. Mancini was openly critical of the club’s transfer activity, and rightly so.

He was delivered Jack Rodwell, an injury prone grinding midfielder, Javi Garcia, another grinding midfielder and the much-maligned Scott Sinclair, a pure winger that doesn’t fit City’s system. Mancini had already shown he didn’t use wingers, which is why they sold Adam Johnson. So they sign an inferior version? They already had Yaya Toure, Milner and Barry and at that point Nigel de Jong, as worker midfielders. So they two inferior versions? You see the issue?

Jack Rodwell

The lack of clarity and apparent lack of planning was a surprise considering City seemed to have shed themselves of the money-wasting tag with the buys of Aguero, Silva and Yaya, who formed the core of the championship side. But they’ve had these issues before. The likes of Emmanuel Adebayor, Robinho and Roque Santa Cruz were bought for huge sums then sold at a steep loss to get them out of the building. Joleon Lescott, Milner and Dzeko have been good players for the club but cost just under £90m combined. That £90m would have got them Hazard, van Persie and Thiago Silva.

City can afford to spend that kind of money and it not to come off. Or at least, they could before they got big. They had to pay a premium to get players to come to them in their rush to the top. Now that they are, they have to deal with the impending Financial Fair Play regulations to compete in their new Holy Grail, the Champions League. The bad deals of the past hang around like a bad smell. They show up not just as huge losses but in huge contracts and leave a stain on their FFP sheet.

What this means is that the club has a small squad of very highly paid players. For a lot of this season they’ve had young players that they wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the first team filling up the bench. Having to dump the signings they wasted so much money on means they haven’t built any squad depth. They are perpetually chasing their tails, replacing what they sell rather than adding to the squad.

This summer is an important one for Manchester City. They’ve got an immensely talented team, and a manager who has shown he can win consistently, but they need to find a way to get him more depth and more attacking flair if they are to get back to winning the league. The problem is, they have hamstrung themselves with some poor decision making and prioritising in their rush to the top. If they re-find their transfer coherence, and there is no reason that they shouldn’t considering they built a league winner on the market, then they have got the financial resource to get back to winning the league.

You can read more by Max at the thefootballspace.com

Five players Manchester City should sign this summer

Under Roberto Mancini Manchester City have signed players at the peak of their powers. They have not been scared to pay big money and they are working on a timeline which doesn’t seem to afford them time to develop younger players. City have given him the likes of Matija Nastasic, Scott Sinclair and Jack Rodwell recently but Mancini has tended to favour his more experienced players. With this in mind, I will only suggest the finished articles for them to look at.

Leighton Baines – Everton

Leighton Baines

Scout Report A roving and buccaneering left-back, Baines is one of the most consistent players in the Premier League. He rarely misses any game time and can take matches over from his position, which is a rare talent for a defender. His crossing is amongst the best in the league and he is defensively secure.

Where does he fit? City could buy him, plug him in and leave him there for every game. That is fundamentally what they need at left-back. Aleksandar Kolarov can’t defend and Gael Clichy has real problems staying fit. Signing Baines would fix that in an instant. If Mancini wanted to play wing-backs Baines would be more than comfortable playing there too. He would also add some much need width to City’s play, which can sometimes get narrow and slow. If they move it out to him he will sling a cross in quickly to be attacked. He makes too much sense for how infrequently he is linked to them

How much? Probably not too much given Everton’s financial limitations. Something in the £15m region would probably suffice.

Daniele De Rossi – Roma

Daniele de Rossi

Scout Report The complete midfielder, De Rossi brings an infectious determination to win and unwillingness to accept defeat. He intercepts the ball, makes tackles and scores goals. He is truly the all-around package.

Where does he fit? De Rossi would be an enormous upgrade on the incumbents Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia alongside Yaya Toure. Mancini likes a team of men, of winners, and this is where De Rossi would fit. You wouldn’t see City overwhelmed under pressure as they have been at times this season. He would grab games by the scruff of the neck and shake up those around him. He also has the tactical acumen to move back in to a three-man defence should that system be deployed further.

How much? De Rossi is one of the premier midfielders in the world so would not come cheap. City would have to part with around £30m but they’ve made bigger deals than that in the past.

Mario Gomez – Bayern Munich

Mario Gomez

Scout Report The arch penalty box poacher, Gomez has an incredible goal scoring record throughout his career. A big, strong, physical target man, Gomez spends his game on the last line of the defence and in the box sniffing out opportunities.

Where does he fit? City could do with a striker who doesn’t fancy himself as a footballer. Yes Gomez has his limitations in terms of contribution to open play but City don’t need everyone to do that, they need a big lump who will put the ball in the net with the likes of Silva, Aguero, Nasri, Tevez and Yaya feeding an endless supply line of chances. City’s biggest problem this year has been chance-taking so they could just stick Gomez in and leave him to snaffle them up.

How much? It’s almost impossible to imagine Gomez being part of Pep Guardiola’s plan for Bayern next year so he could be gettable. Surely a bid of around £20m would get this done.

Benat Extebarria – Real Betis

Benat

Scout Report Benat is attracting huge buzz in Spain. He is the conductor of the Betis midfield that has led the team up to a surprise sixth place in La Liga this season. If it wasn’t for Xavi, Benat could very well be strutting his stuff in the Spain midfield, such has been his impact. Benat can operate in a deep playmaking role or buzzing around an opposition box, threading intricate passes or dictating tempo.

Where does he fit? City don’t have anyone like him. They don’t have a central midfielder who can take on the mantle of setting the tempo when in possession. Silva likes to operate further forward or wider and possession utilisation isn’t Yaya’s strong suit. Mancini tried to get his ilk with a brief experimentation with Claudio Pizarro last season so he is clearly open to the idea.

How much? Betis wouldn’t be in a position to turn down £10m.

Dede – Vasco de Gama

Dede

Scout Report Dede is a 24-year-old  central defender with a crunching tackle who is aerially dominant. He also has an ability to carry the ball forward from defence and play penetrating passes. He is quick enough and incredibly strong. Regarded as the best defender in Brazil locally.

Where does he fit? The spot next to Kompany has been a revolving door this year. The solidity of last year has gone and they defended poorly in Europe particularly. Dede can be purchased and if Mancini resists the urge to tinker, left to settle in next to Kompany. The Belgian is the ideal defender to come in next to, which would give Dede a chance to adapt and thrive. His physique is ideal for England and for City who like big defenders.

How much? Buying from Brazil isn’t as easy as it used to be so this would surely cost £12m plus.

Manchester United vs Manchester City, Arsenal vs Tottenham and the transfer battles for Europe’s best this summer

After going head-to-head in the 2011-12 Premier League season, the nation;s top five clubs are ready to do battle off the pitch and in the transfer market this summer. Here are the top five transfer wrangles expected between the Premier League big boys.

Eden Hazard – Manchester United vs Manchester City

Ligue 1 Player of Year Eden Hazard has been all over the media this week after announcing that a move to one of the Manchester clubs was on the cards; there is no doubt that the two fierce local rivals will be desperately fighting over the highly-rated 21 year-old in the coming days.

A dramatic last-day finish meant that noisy neighbours Manchester City were crowned 2011-2012 Premier League champions and considering their quest for world domination, many believe the Belgian starlet will favour a move to Roberto Mancini’s men. However, the young winger could find it hard securing a consistent first-team spot, with David Silva and Samir Nasri already occupying attacking midfielder positions. United however will look to the starlet to reinvigorate an ageing midfield if he moves to Old Trafford.

Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United vs Arsenal

The Japanese winger has been a key part of Jurgen Klopp’s Bundesliga-winning side, getting 13 goals and 11 assists for the German champions this season. With interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund will find it hard to keep their 23-year-old star-man, who is out of contract next summer.

Kagawa has already admitted his willingness to move to England, with a commercial value attached to the Asian superstar for his next side also. United are frontrunners for his signature, however Arsenal are also keen and have a recent track record of buying players from Dortmund.

Edinson Cavani – Chelsea vs Manchester City

Uruguay international Edinson Cavani has had a fantastic season for Napoli, impressing both domestically and in the Champions League, where he found the back of the net against both Manchester City and Chelsea. Both Premier League giants are interested in bringing the South American hitman to England, although City seem to be focussing more on capturing Robin Van Persie as their new attacker. The homegrown pair will be joined in the race by Serie A champions Juventus.

With the supposed exit of Ivorian veteran Didier Drogba, Cavani could be the perfect replacement, and having already shown ability in Europe, he could be exactly what Chelsea need if City purchase elsewhere.

Jan Vertonghen – Arsenal vs Tottenham

Another example of Ajax’s outstanding and prolific youth system, centre-half Jan Vertonghen is currently being fought over by north London rivals Arsenal and Tottenham.

Although rumoured to have already agreed personal terms, the White Hart Lane outfit could miss out on the 25 year-old defender due to the Eredivisie champions’ inflated asking price.

It is obvious that Harry Redknapp is intent on strengthening the defence, and the Belgian centre-back would be a perfect addition to the squad. However countryman Thomas Vermaelen is eager to tempt his international comrade to the Emirates, and Arsenal are still in the hunt.

Robin Van Persie – Arsenal vs Manchester City

2011-2012 Premier League top goalscorer Robin Van Persie has attracted serious interest from newly-crowned champions Manchester City, after scoring 30 league goals and winning the PFA Player of the Year award.

With one year left on his current deal, keeping the Netherlands international at Arsenal will be at the top of Arsene Wenger’s priority list this summer. However, with a natural desire to win trophies at the biggest clubs in the world, Van Persie may be inclined to make a move north to join former team-mates Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Samir Nasri.

Currently undergoing contract talks, the coming weeks will be vital in seeing what the future holds for the Arsenal hero. Money may also be a key issue; Arsenal are willing to shatter their wage structure and offer £130,00 per week, whilst City are thought to be eager to almost double this at £250,000 per week.

By Jacob Tucker

Tottenham and Manchester City: Beware the wrath of the former manager

With the last day of the Premier League season on Sunday, all is still to play for in the race for the Premier League title, top four and in the battle to avoid relegation. Manchester City and Tottenham are in the driving seat in their respective ambitions of winning the league and qualifying for the Champions League. However, one thing stands in their way; a dedicated former manager.

City sit top of the standings on goal difference and need three points against QPR this weekend to seal their first top-flight title since 1968. Roberto Mancini’s men have been imperious at the Etihad Stadium this term, winning 17 out of their 18 games at home and remaining unbeaten as hosts. On paper City should have the quality and motivation to dispatch the Loftus Road side; however, Rangers still need a point to ensure their Premier League status for next season, as a Bolton win away at Stoke would see the London team drop back into the bottom three.

Rangers’ fortunes have taken an upturn since Mark Hughes replaced Neil Warnock as the club’s manager. The newly-promoted side have beaten Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham since the Welsh trainer’s introduction, and have looked like a stubborn and solid side of late.

Reports in the press indicate that QPR owner Tony Fernandes will reward Hughes with a £1 million payout should he keep the club in the top flight, however the head coach will be motivated to prove a point for other reasons this Sunday. Hughes was treated harshly in his stint at City, dispatched by the club and their lofty ambitions after Sheik Mansour’s takeover, and the Rangers boss will feel that Mancini has taken advantage of the groundwork set by him.

Hughes did not have stars such as David Silva, Yaya Toure, Sergio Aguero and others at his disposal during his time at the club, and in the early stages of the City revolution patience was not in abundance. Hughes has excelled since leaving the Manchester team, both at Fulham and QPR, and will be keen to show that City’s current success may originate from his initial underpinnings.

Meanwhile, in north London Tottenham are on the verge of reclaiming a top-four spot, and need three points at home to Fulham to confirm fourth place at least. Although finishing in third is also possible if Arsenal slip-up at West Brom, Harry Redknapp has admitted that he will be happy to claim fourth place.

Spurs’ early-season heroics have hit a sizeable roadblock over the last two months, and the White Hart Lane club have dropped from potential title challengers to scrapping for fourth. However, Martin Jol and Fulham stand in the way of a successful campaign for Spurs.

Fulham have had a good second half of the season, and the likes of Moussa Dembele, Pavel Pogrebnyak and especially Clint Dempsey will prove a threat to Spurs’ season. Martin Jol is a popular figure at White Hart Lane after his stint in the club’s hotseat. The Dutch trainer put the wheels in motion for Spurs’ current place as one of he country’s best teams, and led Tottenham to two fifth-placed finishes.

Jol has done a good job with Fulham also, and Spurs are by no means guaranteed an easy three points. Similar to Hughes, Jol will feel that his departure from Tottenham was slightly unjust, and the headhunting of Juande Ramos to replace him will have left a slightly bitter taste in the mouth. Jol will look to prove a point to Daniel Levy and the rest of the Tottenham board this weekend, and in doing so could well end the north London club’s hopes of Champions League football.

With Tevez, Aguero and Balotelli staying, is there room at Manchester City for Edin Dzeko?

Manchester City have played some scintillating football over recent weeks to retake the top spot in the Premier League, with only 180 minutes between them and their first top-flight title since 1968. One of the reasons for this upturn is seemingly the return to the team of Carlos Tevez, and his relationship with countryman Sergio Aguero. However, with Mario Balotelli still in the picture also, what does the future hold for Edin Dzeko?

The Bosnian has had contrasting fortunes during his time at the Etihad Stadium. A slow goalscoring start after his £27 million move from Wolfsburg back in January 2011  saw the eastern European forward go without hitting the back of the net until late April, and had the club’s fans questioning his purchase. However, a blistering start to 2011-12 saw Dzeko leading the City line and scoring important goals to power the club into title contention. The 26-year-old bagged four goals in the 5-1 demolition of Tottenham at White Hart Lane, and scored twice against rivals Manchester United in the 6-1 derby rout at Old Trafford.

There is no doubt of Dzeko quality, if he is given a run of games and is in the right mindframe. Strong, mobile and good in the air, the Bosnian has proven that he can score goals in the Premier League. Roberto Mancini will want four strikers at his disposal, and Dzeko would certainly provide an able deputy to the Argentinean pair and a man to throw on if your team is in search of a goal.

However, amongst a squad of big egos and personalities, Dzeko’s attitude, or lack of it, can go unnoticed. On a fateful night in Munich when Tevez refused to come off the Allianz Arena bench, Dzeko had started the game but cut a petulant and abusive figure when removed by Mancini in the second half – this was slipped under the carpet in light of Tevez’s misdemeanour.

On numerous other occasions this term Dzeko has made his frustrations clear, and he is clearly not a fan of the squad-rotation system. The Bosnian seems to need to be the main man, like he is at international level, to excel, and constantly being in and out of the team breeds frustration and inconsistency.

With Aguero, Tevez and Balotelli all stating that they want to stay with City over the last fortnight, it is evident that there is no room for Dzeko. Mancini would like to keep him, but will not play him enough to satisfy the player. Bayern Munich and Borussia Dormund have been credited with an interest, but City are set to make a considerable loss on their initial £27 million investment.

One feels that Dzeko has been a victim of City’s style and personnel, with Tevez, Aguero, David Silva and Samir Nasri all smaller players that want the ball to feet and to knit intricate interplay. The bullish Dzeko is seemingly not an ideal fit to the Premier League leaders, and will most likely be sold at a discount price by City this summer with the Financial Fair Play ruling in mind.

Published – Soccerlens

Manchester City take the Premier League initiative, but did Sir Alex Ferguson get United’s tactics wrong?

In a tight and nervy encounter on Monday night, Manchester City took the initiative in the Premier League title race with a 1-0 win over rivals and current champions Manchester United. The noisy neighbours are now equal on points with the Red Devils, but are top due to their superior goal difference and have destiny in their own hands. United have slipped up in recent weeks, and failed to really test Joe Hart in the derby clash; did Sir Alex Ferguson get his tactics wrong?

Against a City side containing the attacking talent of Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez, David Silva and Samir Nasri, United opted to pack the midfield in a 4-5-1 formation. Although admittedly this limited the hosts to sparing opportunities on goal, it also shackled United’s attacking ambitions and meant that the champions have given City the advantage without really testing their title rivals in the clash.

Wayne Rooney started by himself in attack and largely cut a forlorn figure, as limited support saw the visitors’ main attacking weapon isolated, frustrated and ineffective. Nani played on the right flank and was the closest player to the England international, but the pair failed to effectively counter-attack, and the Portuguese winger failed to majorly contribute or create chances for the lone striker. One feels that Sir Alex had adopted the blueprint of previous seasons in away Champions League fixtures, where Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo were left to try and hit teams on the break; unfortunately Nani does not have the ability or clinical touch in the final third of his countryman, and United’s attack proved toothless at the Etihad Stadium.

In midfield, Michael Carrick, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Ji-Sung Park fought to limit City’s creative players, and in fairness the hosts’ usual free-flowing play was not evident as a result. However, in possession the quartet failed to keep the ball for any lengthy periods of the game, and the South Korean in particular was guilty of giving the ball away on a too frequent basis.

Most of City’s joy in attack came down their right flank, as Nasri and Pablo Zabaleta found space against Patrice Evra, with the midfield quartet failing to get out to help their colleague. The selection of either Ashley Young or Antonio Valencia instead of Park would have levelled out the midfield, providing more cover out wide and still allowing United to play three in the centre of the park. Valencia has been one of United’s standout performers this term, whilst one of Young’s strengths is to come off his wing and pop up in central positions, in support of Rooney; although both came off the bench, neither was given sufficient opportunity to influence the game.

Ferguson’s frustrations were evident as he clashed with counterpart Roberto Mancini on the touchline, but the Scot’s annoyance was probably down to the ineffective nature of his team rather than the antics of the Italian. United fans will be hurting after City completed the season double over them, but to be beaten without providing an attacking threat or putting their opponents under any concerted pressure will make the blow doubly hard to take. With Young, Valencia, Danny Welbeck, Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez all on the United bench, such a defensive team selection suggests that Sir Alex played for a draw, or, unlike any United team of recent years, was wary of going toe-to-toe with an attacking opponent.

City have by no means won the title yet, as a trip to Tyneside to face Champions League qualification candidates Newcastle will test Mancini’s men. However, United’s relinquishing of a seven-point lead at the top of the table at the business end of the season will have the powers that be at Old Trafford scratching their heads, and suggests that the Red Devils’ usual collective superiority over the division is no longer apparent.

Published – Soccerlens

Who is to blame for the Manchester City blue moon falling?

After the Premier League games on March 4th, Manchester City had a two-point lead over Manchester United and an 11 goal advantage in terms of goal difference. Now just over one month later, after their 1-0 defeat to Arsenal they found themselves eight points and two goals behind. Who is to blame for this though?

A lot of the attention over the last week has been around Mario Balotelli. There is no doubt that the circus that surrounds Balotelli does not help the team spirit or the harmony of the team when they are on the pitch. His constant neglect of his defensive duties was evident against Arsenal when his unwillingness to defend resulted in constant Arsenal pressure down Manchester City’s left hand side for the first 25 minutes on Sunday. His temper also lets his team down. Balotelli should have been sent off early on against Arsenal for a horrific tackle on Alex Song and of course has already been sent off against Liverpool earlier in the season and was lucky to get away with a cowardly kick out at Scott Parker in the home meeting with Tottenham.

There is no doubt though that Balotelli possesses ability. His record this season of 17 goals in 31 games in all competitions shows that he has potential and his calmness from the penalty spot is to be admired. However until he learns to control his temper and improve his team play he will always cost whichever team he plays for more points than he gains them.

The other player who must take a portion of the blame is Carlos Tevez. His record before the start of this season of 52 goals in 81 games for City was outstanding and his ability to create something out of nothing for himself or for his teammates made him one of the most feared strikers in the league. His refusal to warm up against Bayern Munich in the Champions League would once again have done nothing for harmony in the dressing room. His constant refusal to apologise whilst trying to engineer a move away from the club for the last 6 months would have left a bitter taste in his fellow player’s mouths whilst they were trying to win a title for the supporters.

The man who must take the most blame for city’s capitulation in the title race is Roberto Mancini. Whilst Balotelli and Tevez have both acted unprofessionally he is to blame for giving them both too many chances. Tevez should never have been allowed back in the dressing room after effectively going on strike for the majority of the season and after Mancini said he would never play again.

Mancini seemingly has no Plan B in his locker either. He is far too negative away from home and this has resulted in defeats against Arsenal, Swansea, Sunderland and Everton. Opposition teams have worked out that if you cut off David Silva’s space then Manchester City do not move the ball quickly enough to hurt you.

There is clearly no team spirit in the dressing room which also comes from the manager with players constantly arguing and bickering on the pitch with each other. This is the main reason why City have blown their chance at the title. Whilst even many Manchester United fans would admit City have better players, United are more of a team and have the winning mentality which comes from their manager.

The buck always stops with the man in charge and that is why Mancini may well find himself out of a job in just over a month’s time and City will need a new man to get the blue moon rising once again.

By Chris Newman

The draw of home: Why Chelsea could face losing Oriol Romeu

With Spanish football on an all-time high, there is no wonder that Premier League clubs are eager to bring players from La Liga to England.

With Pepe Reina’s current and Xabi Alonso’s past importance to Liverpool, Juan Mata’s immediate impact at Chelsea, Cesc Fabregas’ legendary status in North London and David Silva leading Manchester City’s title charge, the English top flight has been blessed with incredible talent from Spain in recent times.

However, seemingly more than any other nation, Spanish players yearn for home and have left English teams at the peak of their individual abilities.

An emerging talent at Stamford Bridge is quickly proving his worth and may well one day be added to the impressive list of world-beating Spanish players that have graced British shores.

Oriol Romeu joined Chelsea from Barcelona last summer, and despite only making one solitary substitute appearance for the Catalan giants before departing, he has become a crucial member of Andre Villas Boas’ squad almost instantly. Jon Obi Mikel, Ramires and even Frank Lampard have seen their time on the pitch impacted this season by the Portuguese coach’s use of the youngster, and Romeu is already one of a host of players that Andre Villas Boas is building a new-look Chelsea team around.

Romeu has a great blend of the traditional Spanish qualities, and a battling nature that has suited the pace and aggression of the Premier League. Technically gifted with the ball at his feet, Romeu has an eye for a pass and calmness when in possession that is uniquely distilled through the ranks at La Masia. Add to this his ability to read the game, a keenness to put in a tackle and excellent positional play and Romeu is already at 20 years old an accomplished defensive midfielder.

However, just like in the case of Fabregas and Alonso, the draw of his homeland may hamper Chelsea’s long-term ambitions and plans for the Ulldecona-born man. Reports have emerged that Barcelona have a buy-back option integrated in Romeu’s contract, which can be implemented at the Camp Nou outfit’s request in the summer of 2012 or 2013.

With the abundance of midfield talent currently at Pep Guardiola’s disposal it is unlikely that the European champions will opt to bring Romeu ‘home’ this summer, but given another season of Premier League and European football and it may well be deemed that the starlet could be an asset in the Catalan senior squad.

With Xavi and Andres Iniesta currently at the peak of their powers, Sergio Busquets filling the defensive midfield slot, Fabregas being deployed as a second striker and Thiago Alcantara an impressive back-up, Guardiola’s options in the centre of the park are simply salivating.

However, given another 18 months, the two current dominant playmakers in Catalunya may well be starting to feel their age, and with Busquets gradually making the transition to central defence, Romeu could be summoned.

This would be a big blow for a team like Chelsea, who are not accustomed to losing key players; anyone who leaves Stamford Bridge is generally surplus to requirements. With Roman Abramovich’s billions, an ambitious young coach in place and an exciting team being built around the Spaniard, surely Romeu would be tempted to knock back Barcelona’s potential advances?

Not very likely. The draw of La Liga’s top sides is huge, not least to those who have witnessed their allure up close. The fact Romeu is a Barca youth product means he has been instilled with the mindset that playing for the Blaugrana is the Holy Grail since the age of 13, and Chelsea now have a problem.

One only has to look at the demise of Liverpool since the sale of Xabi Alonso to Real Madrid to see the potential effect of losing a Spanish midfield general. Cesc Fabregas openly admitted to ‘feeling English’ during his time in North London and frequently spouted his love for the Emirates outfit.

He was part of a team unbeaten for an entire season in England, played in a Champions League final and had the adoration of one of the most respected coaches in world football, his fellow players and fans. Nevertheless, he could not resist the appeal of home.

An equally concerning thought that Chelsea will need to keep in mind revolves around Juan Mata, and like his countrymen, whether or not he would be able to resist either Barcelona or Real Madrid’s charms in a year or two’s time.

Mata is a Madrid youth player who again did not make the first team, and was later farmed out to Valencia. One feels there may be unfinished business at the Santiago Bernabeu for the attacker. Finally, even Sheik Mansour’s unlimited financial resources would probably not stop David Silva doing all in his power to forge a move away from Manchester City if one of Spain’s big two came knocking.

Spain’s World Cup-winning golden generation is currently the best crop of players in the game, with the country’s top two domestic teams the biggest clubs on the planet. For an English side to snag a leading Spanish player must be seen as a massive coup, however it should be advised that over-reliance on this superstar may end in tears; only time will tell in the case of Romeu.

PublishedFourFourTwo

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