Nicknamed the ‘Beast’ by his adoring fans, Alvaro Negredo, aged 28, is quickly becoming a Premier League sensation for Manchester City. Standing at 6 foot 1, he is a fairly average height for a centre forward, however, he accompanies this stature with tremendous bodily strength, which defenders cannot cope with at this moment in time. The fact that Negredo combines this bodily strength with beautiful footwork is what’s really making him one of the best strikers around.
He has cemented his place not only in the City team, but also with World Champions Spain. Many fans and pundits alike are purring at the partnership Negredo is building with Sergio Aguero. Robbie Savage was quoted on Match Of The Day 2 as saying they may even “be the best strike partnership in world football”. That is a bold statement, and in the wonders of football it’s one which is most likely to change from week to week. However, it is absolutely correct that the man they call ‘The Beast’ has a beauty to his game that is flourishing with the superb Sergio Aguero.
The two tables above outline Negredo’s breakdown of creativity and attacking play. As we can see, Negredo has scored a respectable if not outstanding amount of goals so far. Five in the league (nine in all competitions, including a hat-trick in the Champions League) which is a steady but satisfactory rate; it is his first season in a new team, different league, and a foreign country. Many players can take time to settle, though Negredo has hit the ground running in his overall gameplay. He provides chances for his teammates, creating eleven in the league.
Negredo also shone in his first Manchester derby, creating two goals, one of which demonstrated incredible creative play, fooling Nemanja Vidic, turning him inside out, before squaring to his strike partner Aguero for an easy finish. It is this link up play that is cementing his place in the team. Edin Dzeko was often caught out in Manchester City’s system last year. He struggled to play in sync with the likes of Silva, Aguero, Tevez, Toure etc. Negredo is not suffering the same problem. He is not a traditional centre forward who stays in the box waiting for service. It was he who held the ball up on the half way line superbly on Sunday, acknowledging Toure’s bursting run for City’s fourth. A quick precise lay-off took out the remaining Spurs defence, leaving Toure with a clear run on goal to provide Aguero with a simple finish. His ability to play in a similar fashion to the rest of the creative players within the City squad is the key reason he has been able to settle so quickly.
At Sevilla previously, Jesus Navas, a current City teammate, assisted Negredo with a large percentage of his goals. Many believed this was the reason for both being purchased this summer. The fact is though, with respect to Sevilla, Manchester City have quality and creativity in abundance. So much that opposition defences cannot solely focus on any one player, thus creating space and opportunities for all. His goal on Sunday against Spurs was absolutely incredible skill to evade the experienced Tottenham captain, Michael Dawson. Once he spun his marker, he took a quick glance to see where Lloris was positioned and thrashed the ball past him into the corner of the net. His goal against Bayern Munich in the Champions League was of similar high standard, spinning his marker again with his first touch and hitting the ball sweetly first time into the net.
City have scored 26 league goals in their first six matches at home this season, a Premier League record. Another eleven were scored in their three cup games so far at the Etihad. City fans are certainly getting value for money at home this year. The only question remains is why they cannot do this away. Pundits are saying it is risky playing Negredo and Aguero away from home, with too much emphasis on attack in the modern tactical game. The truth is though, ask any defender if they would like to deal with one or both of these two and majority will plead for one. Pelligrini can adapt his style to accustom both, dropping Aguero slightly deeper into the no.10 role, and attacking more directly, with Negredo focusing on being the target. Chelsea away was a key example where City lacked the mastery of both strikers. Aguero often isolated, no target for the high balls, and Toure in no man’s land for much of the game as he was pushed further forward. When reviewing the build up play from the back, it was Silva and Aguero who were often being picked out with high balls, both of which are well under six feet.
In my opinion City should not focus on the opposition as much as leaving key players out; successful football teams are made up of top players playing consistently well. City have quality and strength in every area of the pitch, their away form can’t get any worse for a title challenger but they remain in fourth, six points off the pace. If City manage to get results away like they are doing at the Etihad, it is impossible to see anyone rivalling them for the Premier League crown.
At 28, Negredo is in his prime years, with an opportunity to spearhead the Spanish national team in Brazil next summer. Spain won Euro 2012 without playing a recognised striker in all their matches. Are the bookies correct in placing them fourth favourites to win next year’s World Cup? Have they really gone backwards since Euro 2012? Or in actual fact have they now added a striker in fabulous form, with the same outstanding creative players that have dominated world football. Could they now produce beauty and ‘The Beast’ on the biggest stage of all?