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Do Manchester City have the best strikers in the Premier League?

New Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini is excited about the club’s new strike force. He was asked whether he thought other clubs in the league would be envious of these riches and he said ‘Yes, I think so, it’s very strong…we have four very good strikers and that’s what you need if you play in the Premier League and Champions League as a competitive team’. The new boys Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo will join Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko at the club which now once again has four striker to utilise, a key aspect of their charge to the 2011/12 Premier League title. So, is this the best striking group in the league?

Well, it probably is. Of course, one of the reasons for that is that not many teams are going to be playing with more than one striker at a time which means they don’t need to stockpile them in quite the same way. Only Chelsea could really get in to the discussion over the best group of forwards with City at the moment. Lukaku, Torres, Schurrle and Ba are not far off. In fact, in future, it could become just as good if Lukaku develops as expected. The difference between the two units at the moment is Sergio Aguero. Assuming he can re-find the form that fired City to the title rather than his injury plagued season last time out, he is better than any of the other strikers on the table. At full tilt he is as good as any in the league, including Van Persie and Suarez. By and large, the rest are pretty similar. For the youth of Jovetic see Schurrle. For the power of Dzeko see Lukaku and for the intelligence and work of Negredo see Torres. But it’s Aguero that gives City that extra quality.

Stevan Jovetic

The only other club who boast four strikers that they could start are Man United, but at the moment their group isn’t quite at City’s level. Although van Persie is the best striker in the league, and a fit and in form Wayne Rooney is in the top five, the drop off to Hernandez and Welbeck is much greater than City would suffer if Aguero and his partner were injured.

The big question for City to answer is how they are going to be able to find game time for all these players, but as Pellegrini says, they have two major competitions to try and win, and for that, they will need to keep their forwards fresh. Realistically, Dzeko and Negredo are competing for the same spot as the pivot up front with Aguero and Jovetic in the deeper role with roaming license. Both have the capability to play on the left if needed, although this is a catastrophic waste of Aguero’s talents, it does give them another option.

Last season City’s title defence suffered because of a lack of consistent goal output. They’ve spent over £40m in order to correct that. Now, if one or two of them are struggling for form, they have other quality players to turn to to carry the load. Unlike last season they won’t need to play Aguero in to the ground and they can use Dzeko as an impact sub if that is best for the club. Manuel Pellegrini now has the luxury of a deep forward group which, with the headline act of a back to his best Aguero, looks to be the best in the league.

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Could Manchester City regret selling Carlos Tevez?

Man City have agreed to sell Carlos Tevez to Juventus for about £9m. The interesting thing is that all the reporting of the deal is focusing on how City are justifying such a small transfer fee, a loss of £16m on what they paid, because they save £17m on wages and bonuses.

City need to be compliant with UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules. It’s also why they have backed out of the Edinson Cavani negotiations as the price climbs up to £50m. All very responsible, but all caused by strange decisions in the past in the markets. City have essentially had to sell Tevez and not replace him with Cavani because of deals like spending £34m on Fernandinho. £24m on Lescott. £16m on Javi Garcia. They’ve backed themselves in to a corner and now not only do they no longer have Tevez, there isn’t any sign of a replacement on the immediate horizon.

That City have sold Tevez isn’t a massive shock. After going AWOL in the title-winning season his time was always going to be limited. However, despite this, he was a consistent performer last season. Never quite reaching the amazing levels of his 2010/11 campaign, but a reliable presence nonetheless. What is surprising though, is that he has been let go at a time when the game of musical strikers is well under way around Europe. In the spring City were linked with Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani. Barring a dramatic chain of events, they’ll get neither. They won’t get Robert Lewandowski and they won’t get Luis Suarez. They didn’t get involved in the bidding for Gonzalo Higuain and Real Madrid haven’t given any indication they would sell Karim Benzema.

Carlos Tevez

Now, in Sergio Aguero they have a truly world-class striker already. Edin Dzeko cost £24m and has shown that he can score goals. After that though, with the departures of Mario Balotelli and Tevez, the four strong forward line is down to two. They have the highly regarded John Guidetti waiting in the wings but do they want to rely on him? City want to win the Premier League and the Champions League, they can’t do that with two forwards. They couldn’t do it with four, let alone when shorn of two of those.

There are still a few options for them to consider. If they wanted to replace Tevez’s deeper creative game, Fiorentina’s Steven Jovetic offers similar qualities, albeit at £20m+. As they seem to be missing out on Isco, they could involve themselves in the bidding for Christian Eriksen of Ajax or perhaps Schalke’s Julian Draxler. Again though, both would carry significant costs. If they are looking for a pure goal scorer, they can look at Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo or perhaps even David Villa. They may even be tempted to have a look at Christian Benteke.

By selling Tevez, City have gotten rid of an off field headache for themselves, but an on field headache for opponents. By selling him, and in all likelihood missing out on Isco to Real Madrid, they are going to have a creativity hole to fill. As things stand, their quite shallow squad has been made thinner. At the moment, if Aguero is starting with David Silva, Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri behind him, the next man up is Scott Sinclair.

Manchester City strike force: What would Van Persie’s arrival mean for Balotelli, Tevez and co?

After securing a last-gasp Premier League title success last season, Manchester City were expected to push on and splurge in the transfer market, as they look to challenge on all fronts next term. However, despite a slow summer to date, Robin van Persie’s admission that he will not extend his current deal at Arsenal has triggered Roberto Mancini’s interest. Although other sides are also circling and Arsene Wenger is by no means guaranteed to sell, what would the Dutchman’s arrival at the Etihad Stadium mean for City’s other strikers?

Sergio Aguero

The diminutive Argentine forward took to the Premier League in his debut season like a duck to water, and scored the division-winning goal in injury time on the last day. Despite reported Real Madrid interest, the South American has pledged to stay with the English champions, and Mancini has no intention of selling him. Van Persie’s most likely strike partner, Aguero is the one attacker at City assured of a place and his future.

Carlos Tevez

Controversial, petulant but brilliant, Carlos Tevez had quite the 2011-12 season. Initial transfer requests, a refusal to come off the bench and a prolonged AWOL period back in Argentina meant that the forward’s time in England looked over. However, after an apology, Mancini reinstated Tevez in his side and the ex-United attacker has stated that he is now happy at the club. Despite this, Van Persie’s arrival would surely restrict Tevez’s opportunities and break-up his partnership with countryman Aguero, which could well lead to more ill-discipline and problems for City.

Edin Dzeko

Despite at times looking lethal in front of goal in 2011-12, the Bosnian has slipped down the Etihad Stadium pecking order and looks certain to be sold. Van Persie’s arrival would mark the end of Dzeko’s City career.

Mario Balotelli

The most interesting scenario of the four, should Van Persie arrive at City real questions over Balotelli’s future will be asked. One only has to look at how the temperamental attacker acted when dropped by Cesare Prandelli at Euro 2012 to see his thoughts on not playing. Balotelli needs attention, to feel loved and to be centre-stage; Van Persie’s arrival would mean a lot of bench time for the Italian, and a pain in the neck for Mancini.

Van Persie would be an asset to any team, and certainly be a signing of intent by City. However, with a number of other big egos and outspoken characters vying for a place in the side’s attack, Mancini’s man-management skills would be stretched to breaking point.

Published – Soccerlens

Drogba, Berbatov and the Premier League strikers up for grabs this summer

With the big clubs looking to strengthen their squads for 2012-13, there is a likelihood that a number of fringe players will be sold on. Here are six Premier League strikers likely to be looking for a new club this summer.

Edin Dzeko

Although experiencing a great start to the 2011-2012 season, scoring seven goals in the first four matches for the Blues, a year spent in the shadow of Argentine team-mate Sergio Aguero has been disappointing for the Bosnian hit-man. Already proving himself as a dangerous Premier League forward, Dzeko will look for new ground come next season and with another big-money forward likely to join Roberto Mancini’s men in the summer, the £27 million forward will want to get first-team football elsewhere and there are many clubs that will want him.

Dimitar Berbatov

It has been a strange season at Old Trafford for the Bulgarian forward, who has experienced a game drought at the beginning of the season, a fantastic December – scoring six goals in three games – and a disappointing finish. The Manchester United outcast will want to find a new club next year after demonstrating his ability when he has had the chance. Valued at around £10 million, the 31-year-old forward would be a great signing for any club in need of a goal-hungry poacher. Although known for his laziness, there is no doubt that many sides will want him come the summer.

Marouane Chamakh

For Marouane Chamakh it has been an awful season, scoring only one goal in 21 appearances for the north London outfit, and although signing on a free transfer from Bordeaux in 2010, the Moroccan forward has been a big disappointment. With the signing of Lucas Podolski, there will be no space for the target man in Arsene Wenger’s plans and it is possible he could make a move back to France very soon. The Premier League has proved to be just too much of a challenge for the 28-year-old striker, who will be frustrated with his unhappy time at Arsenal.

Jermain Defoe

Super sub Jermain Defoe, much like the others mentioned, has had a year spent watching from the sidelines, as Manchester City loanee Emmanuel Adebayor has led Tottenham’s front-line this season. The unsettled 29-year-old has been linked to a £10 million move to Anfield and has also been connected with a transfer to promoted side Reading. Although Harry Redknapp is keen to keep him at Tottenham in the summer, Defoe is dying for first-team football and there will be a number of new options for him if Spurs are willing to sell.

Didier Drogba

With an expiring contract in the summer, 34-year-old Didier Drogba is set to make a departure from his beloved Stamford Bridge after eight years of dedicated service. Scoring vital goals in the cup competitions this season, the Ivorian target man will play a vital role in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich and will be intent on having a last surge for European glory. It is rumoured that Drogba could make a mover to either Shanghai Shenhua – to join former teammate Nicolas Anelka – or possibly back to former club Marseille if a contract extension of two years is not offered by the Blues.

Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt has been a loyal servant at Anfield since signing in 2006 and has proved a important player for King Kenny’s side this term, scoring the equaliser in the extra time of the Carling Cup final and leading them on to win on penalties. There has been much speculation over a return to Dutch side Feyenoord, after admitting that he wants to go back, but for the 31 year-old the deal would be now or never and with a Liverpool team on decline, it looks like the Dutchman is set to make a return to Rotterdam.

By Jacob Tucker

Manchester City, Newcastle and the biggest Premier League winners of 2011-12

A fantastic last day of the season capped off one of the most memorable Premier League seasons in the recent memory. 2011/12 has had it all; a topsy-turvy title race that literally went down to the wire, a bitter battle for the top four, heroics in the Champions League and a breathtaking relegation battle. Now that the dust has settled, here are Ninety Minutes Online’s top five winners of 2011/12.

Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City mindgames

An incredible title race has been consisted of champions and perennial favourites Manchester United being confronted by cross-town rivals Manchester City, with the noisy neighbours claiming victory on a captivating last day. The Etihad Stadium outfit looks almost unstoppable at the start of the season, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s men struggling to keep up at times, before the Red Devils recaptured the advantage and found themselves eight points clear at the summit. After a derby victory for City, the battle went down to the last day, with two goals in stoppage time by Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero against QPR unbelievably giving the Citizens their first top-flight title since 1968.

Ferguson is usually the king of managerial mindgames, but on this occasion the imperious Italian has seemingly got into the United players’ thoughts, and City provide worthy winners of the 2011/12 Premier League.

Alan Pardew and his Newcastle team

Despite missing out on the top four with a last-day defeat by Everton, Newcastle have been exceptional under Alan Pardew this season, and have defied the odds to be in the race for Champions League qualification. The likes of Cheik Tiote, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye have proved to be astute signings, whilst the January acquisition of Papiss Cisse has resulted in a new number nine hero for the Tyneside club.

Pardew and his side must be given credit for finishing above the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool this season and providing some exceptional football at times.

Newly-promoted sides

Norwich, Swansea and QPR faced an uphill battle to stay in the Premier League this season, and many prophesised a speedy return to the Championship for the trio. However, all three sides have proved that they are good enough to cut it in the top-tier, and will look to push on next term. Swansea have been one of the teams of the season, and an 11th place finish, with a stylish brand of football to boot, is an exceptional achievement. Norwich, led by talisman Grant Holt, were not far behind in 12th and also claimed some scalps this term.

Meanwhile, although QPR escaped the drop on the last day, the Loftus Road club have beaten Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool to show their worth. All three will provide motivation to Southampton, Reading and either West Ham or Blackpool for next season.

Roy Hodgson

With Fabio Capello’s decision to walk away from the England manager’s post, a media frenzy has brewed over who the man to lead the Three Lions to Euro 2012 would be. With Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp the frontrunner and favourite, the press had us believing that it would be a matter of when and not if the White Hart Lane supremo took charge.

However, Roy Hodgson’s excellent achievement of lifting West Brom to 10th in the table has been recognised, and the Hawthorns man will now lead England to Ukraine and Poland.

Football

Football has been a massive winner this term, as the 2011/12 Premier League season has been the most competitive, spell-bounding and enthralling campaign for many a year. Whether it was the race for the title, five teams slugging it out to stay in the division, the heroics of the new boys or the quality of the sides in the top six, 2011/12 will take some beating next season.

Honourable Mentions

  • Roberto Di Matteo – The Italian has completely rejuvenated Chelsea since taking over from Andre Villas Boas, and after winning the FA Cup is 90 minutes away from lifting the Champions League crown.
  • Paul Scholes – The ageing veteran came out of retirement to show that he still has what it takes to compete at the top level despite his age. Rumours are circulating that Roy Hodgson will take Scholes to Euro 2012.
  • Arsene Wenger – Many had lost faith in the French manager at the start of the campaign when the Gunners lost four of their first seven games, but Wenger has led the club to a third-placed finish despite the criticism.
  • The FA Cup – With the emergence of the Champions League, over recent seasons the FA Cup has had to take a back seat, but some enthralling games between the nation’s best teams have been a joy to watch this season.
  • David Moyes – The Scottish coach continues to overachieve despite a shoestring transfer budget at Goodison Park, and leading the Toffees to seventh place is an excellent return.

Published – Soccerlens

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

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