Monday, 2 February 2009

On our January transfer dealings

On New Years' Eve I identified what I thought ought to be our priorities in the January transfer window. In a rough order: a centre forward, a central midfielder, a centre back, a left back, a goalkeeper and a new contract for Danny Sturridge.

In our dealings in January we have met four of these requirements. The signing of Nigel de Jong (and movement of Zabaleta into midfield) has in a sense bought us a new centre back, in that Vincent Kompany can now focus on playing there. So make that four and a half out of six. Which I suppose constitutes success.

What has been pleasing about our dealings has been that they represent an absolute triumph of the 'Hughes list' over the 'Mansour list'. While the Kaká deal was close, there were no successful moves for any galacticos, wunderkinds or 'marquee signings'. No risks were taken on a Karim Benzema, a Sergio Agüero, Davids Villa or Silva or any other ludicrously talented foreign star who may take a bedding in period that our league position could not afford.

Instead, those signings we did make are all of a distinct character themselves: all with at least 30 international caps, all in their 20s (barring 32 year old Given), all with years of Premier League experience (barring de Jong, whose time in the Eredivisie and Bundesliga is as good a preparation as any), all with Champions League experience, all fit, athletic and hungry. In all of those ways our four new buys represent smart and sensible additions to a rather unbalanced squad.

And, as players brought to the club by Mark Hughes, they significantly tip the scales towards the pro-Hughes element within the camp. I wrote in December that it seemed as if the squad was divided between those players who approved of the Hughes regime, and its analysis of the Eriksson failings, and those who did not. Ireland, Kompany, Zabaleta and Wright-Phillips were on his side, Elano, Jô, Hamann, Ben Haim and Ball were not. Robinho, Dunne, Hart and Richards floated somewhere in between. But with the exiling of Ben Haim and Jô, and the introduction of de Jong, Bridge, Bellamy and Given (who if they were not latent 'Hughes players' would surely not have come in) the balance is firmly in the manager's favour. Regardless of what you think of Hughes this is surely a good thing: the manager must have a monopoly on authority to succeed at a football club. And now we should be able to move forward with a more unified squad than he had more most of 2008.

While it is a shame that we have not tied Danny Sturridge to a longer deal - and it must be the immediate priority of the club to rectify this - it is good that we have not lost him yet, nor any of the other Academy graduates linked with moves away. The 'Ireland to Arsenal' talk could never have been serious, but the Sturridge to Villa, Richards to Villa, Johnson to Fulham and Johnson to Newcastle rumours were uncomfortably regular in recent weeks. But in the rejection of Newcastle's £8million bid for Johnson we demonstrated that the Academy players still form a big part of our future plans. And rightly so. I don't know why Ched Evans didn't end up at Celtic or Cardiff City though.

And finally, it is a relief to see that Robinho is still at the club. Not merely because of his quality, but because of the humiliation of the preposterous Ian McGarry that it ought to represent.


Quester said...

Well said Sir, I concur with the majority of your comments. The only thing I am sort of disappointed about is the messing about with RSC and our failure to bring him on board. We definitely needed his height in the box, and he very much wanted to join City and knew Hughes well, so I feel sorry for the player himself.

On the other hand I am very happy that we told Fat Sam where he can shove it and the lack of RSC may well open the gates for Danny Sturridge to get more games - so it's not all bad.

Overall, it should make for a team that gel together better and I just hope we start getting the results we so desperately need and so definitely deserve.

jason said...

A superb summation of recent weeks and of the position between Sven's men and Hughesy's. Your balanced opinion is the main reason why I regularly visit your blog. I'd go so far as to say a far better and more intellectually put piece than I could've hoped to have read in the broadsheets.

As to the future of City. I think you've got it bang on. Hughes has bought in some exceptional players - de Jong, Kompany and Given, for example - the sorts of players that wouldn't have lived up to Erikson's ego.

I'm thoroughly looking forward to the rest of the season. Glad to see the back of Jo and like EVERYONE else - hope to see Sturridge sorted out ASAP.

Jack said...

Very succinct article and spot on. Now to to the long drawn out RSC saga. Whilst I agree that Sturridge has a wonderful long term future, he is by no means the finished article yet and needs nourishing slowly, which I am sure Mark Hughes will do. My view is that Bojinov will be back in 2/3 league games and if he does the business, and I think he will, RSC wouldn't get in the team anyway. So we would have paid 25 million for 2 or 3 prem matches.

Wigan Blue said...

Afraid I'm not a MH happy clapper. While I don't have a problem with de Jong, and to a certain extent Given, and whichever way you look at it Bridge had to be an improvement in view of Hughes' refusal to play Garrido (one of our most improved players), I can only assume he has started a special training section with Bellamy and Fernandes as the "Headless Chicken Department".

His latest excuse, the lack of physical presence, makes a joke of his signings. He bought them (the previous excuse that he had inherited a set of misfits from Sven no longer holds water).

If Bojinov and Petrov don't come back very, very soon, and make an immediate impact, this guy is going to take us down.

The two best purchases of the transfer window (Keane and Nolan) slid past under his nose. Presumably they didn't have enough physical presence....

ChrisR said...

Excellent article, but have to disaree with Wigan Blue's comment. I think saying Hughes will take us down is exaggerating slightly. And if we're talking about a lack of height and presence in the box, surely Petrov will be fairly needless, given his main skill is sprinting in behind and whipping in a good cross that nobody will be able to head! If we signed a good header of the ball I would be far more excited by the return of Petrov. As it is, im hoping he's already visualising some low pull-backs from the physio table.

mcfc bc said...

Overall a decent January, and lets not forget that Petrov, Bojinov, and Johnson are all on there way back. Although RSC would have been nice I believe the price tag was far to high. I am still concerned with MH ability to change a game, far to many times I believe he is to slow to react. Stoke was a prime example. I do enjoy reading this blog

Henry Crun said...

An excellent blog, sir and I will add you to my blogroll.

Initially, I had my doubts about MH but have since joined the "needs a season or two to prove himself" school of thought. The latest transfers represent the type of player MH would have brought in had he had the cash at the beginning of the season. He had very little time to assess the squad he inherited from Eriksson and very little money to dabble transfer-wise. So far, the players he has brought in have proved worthy buys(with the exception of Robinho who, to use your turn of phrase is one from the Mansour list). Now he needs the time to gel them into a team. Already two of the main dissenters have been moved on. Whether Jo will suddenly find his scoring boots or will sabotage Evertons UEFA Cup hopes remains to be seen.

With regards the Sturridge contract, rumour has it that young Sturridge is asking for £100k pw hence the lack of contractual agreement.

Wigan Blue said...

mcfc bc

So do I. Well reasoned arguments (for whatever viewpoint) are always welcome, and increase all our footballing knowledge.


As you're so glad to see the back of Jo (a striker with undoubted physical presence) I'd just remind you of our best performance of the whole season - against Liverpool. Who was the lone striker holding up the play, and making space for our buccaneering midfield to wander through the Liverpool defence at will? Yes, it was.

MH soon trained all that spontaneity out of him (and the rest of the midfield as well), and it only took him 3 months. That was the last league match he played Jo and Elano together. Moyes will have a field day with him, but it won't be MH's fault - there'll be another excuse. Maybe he had too much physical presence.

Simon said...

Good article. I'm a bit disappointed that we didn't get a 'target' man - as we saw against Stoke, we lack presence in the box when we need to be delivering crosses and putting the defense under pressure - but the rest of the purchases are good. We also have Petrov and Bojinov to come back, which will add attacking options, and as you rightly say, hopefully Danny will get more pitch time. Keeping the faith. CTID