Negredo’s transfer deadline day departure from Manchester City, on a season long to Valencia, with an obligation to buy at the end of the season, was a head-scratcher for many. Surely for a team that prides itself on having two world-class talents in every position and tends to play with two strikers up front most games, letting the Beast leave without signing a replacement is a serious oversight. Given Aguero’s and Jovetic’s potential injury problems, it might all come down to Edin Dzeko picking up the slack as the sole target man in the squad, as he did for much of the latter half of the season last year.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom at the Etihad. In Aguero, Dzeko and Jovetic, City still have arguably the most potent strike-force in the league, and with a large squad Manuel Pellegrini should be able to cope pretty easily with any injury or rotation issues that tend to happen over the course of a season.
Plenty of backup available
With Negredo’s form dipping drastically in the second half of the season, Pellegrini had to contend with choosing between “only” three of his front men for most games. Jovetic is looking to start afresh after a forgettable first campaign in England, and he looks fresh after a full pre-season under his belt for the first time; he showed glimpses of his potential against Liverpool and Newcastle when playing off Dzeko, and he looks set to make a big impact in the coming season. His positional flexibility allows Pellegrini to utilise him almost anywhere in the attacking third – either up top, as a No. 10 or on the flanks as someone looking to cut inside – and his excellent link-up play with Silva and Nasri can provide the Chilean manager with an extra dimension to City’s attacks.
Of course, a lot will come down to the form and fitness of Sergio Aguero. On his day, there are few strikers in the world that could match his output on the field, but an injury-laden campaign has taken some of the gloss off his unique striking talents. He has been used sparingly in the first few weeks of this campaign with Pellegrini quite rightly opting to play the long game with his fitness, but he can be expected to make a significant impact when called upon during City’s quest for titles this season.
Yaya Toure and David Silva
At 31, it is unlikely that City will ever get another 20-goal season from their talismanic Ivorian midfielder, but unshackling him of his defensive midfield duties and pushing him up behind a striker could be effective for both City and Toure. With Fernando and Fernandinho (and possibly Milner or Lampard) playing at the heart of midfield, City can offer better protection to their back four, especially given Yaya’s tendency to drift forward and leave the defence exposed.
Fernando is the anti-thesis to Yaya; he rarely strays forward and is almost a third centre-back when City’s full-backs attack down the flanks, and his inclusion also allows Fernandinho to bomb forward occasionally, a role he is comfortable in playing as evidenced by his World Cup performances.
Playing with a single striker up top also frees up the No. 10 role for David Silva. Silva was mercurial in that role when played there last season, and Jovetic’s flexibility allows room for an attacking trident of Jovetic-Silva-Nasri/Navas behind either Aguero or Dzeko, and their interchangeability will wreak havoc with opposition defences. Silva’s creativity is never in question – he’s made 30 assists in the final third in the last three seasons, the most in the Premier League – but he’ll arguably improve when pushed inside more often with the pace of Navas and the trickery of Nasri or Jovetic working off of him.
A five-man midfield also gives City’s apparent wantaway midfielder James Milner an easier route to more game time this season. The City top brass are anxious to keep their Mr. Reliable, but Milner has decided against signing a new contract till he feels happy with his playing time (having played only 9 full games for the Citizens last season), and has reportedly sought assurances that he will be played more often in a central midfield role. He was usually left on the bench when there were only four spots up for grabs in midfield, but Pellegrini will now find it easier to slot in the utility man either on the flanks or as a central midfield backup when required.
Of course, it is important to remember that Negredo’s departure ultimately frees up a spot on the roster for any foreign player that City might want to pursue during the winter transfer window. If Pellegrini isn’t happy with his strikers in December, it is more than likely that City will dip into the transfer market once again. Reinforcements can be bought if necessary, given that Negredo’s ultimate sale will also allow them some breathing room in terms of FFP rules, with a reported fee of £24mn agreed upon between the two clubs.
It ultimately comes down to how Pellegrini manages his troops, but if the Chilean can keep everyone happy, there’s no reason Negredo’s departure needs to derail the Citizens’ title hopes and perhaps more importantly, their Champions League aspirations.