Thursday, 13 May 2010

Season ratings: defence

Dedryck Boyata (5 starts, 0 goals)

Our Young Player of the Year started his MCFC career with an appropriately wet baptism, starting at a rain-soaked Middlesbrough in what could have been a difficult cup tie. He played well, though, well enough to be trusted with starting both of the League Cup semi-finals - with Kolo Touré on international duty and Joleon Lescott injured. Even in those games he looked assured, such was the influence of his compatriot Vincent Kompany. When Lescott and Touré returned Boyata returned to reserve football but it was certainly a promising start. He must be one of the biggest players at the club physically, and while he clearly has a lot of development left in front of him his new five year contract shows that he could just make it. B

Wayne Bridge (28 starts, 0 goals)

It's too easy to forget about the football. This winter Wayne Bridge was caught up in one of the most distracting off-field stories in football's sordid recent history. The natural instinct is sympathy, and rightly so. But we shouldn't let those feelings cloud our rational judgement. Because there is no way of avoiding the fact that Bridge had a very poor season. The errors that stained his start at City are still here: the worst was letting the ball hit his back for Burnley's third at Eastlands. He is vulnerable defensively, too timid in the tackle too often. He makes clever runs going forward but his crossing is woeful; 47 attempted this season, and none successfully completed. I no longer see him on a big improvement on what we have, and am sure that we will upgrade here this summer. Could anyone honestly argue for his inclusion in the World Cup squad had he been available? C

Javi Garrido (10 starts, 1 goal)

Far down the pecking order at the start of the season, he looked set for a January departure. But like many of the remaining Eriksson buys he benefited from Mancini's blank slate, and came into the side in January. He did what we all knew he could: slow but technically competent left-back play, not keen on physical contact but effective with his left boot. He reminded us of his dead-ball clinicism with a free kick at Molineux, his second goal for the club, just as good as his strike against Liverpool last season. Along with Benjani and Martin Petrov he atoned for the 8-1 with that cup win at the Riverside. It can't have been enough to fully impress Mancini, though, as he was out of the side when Bridge got fit. Staying next season is possible but probably unlikely. B-

Vincent Kompany (27 starts, 2 goals)

For the second consecutive season he misses out on an A, and a real shot at Player of the Season only because of his injury record. He didn't start a league game until November; but once he did he played almost continuously at centre-back. We had always known he could play there, but I never knew he would be quite this good. At times - more often than not, even - he looks like one of the league's most natural centre-backs. His physicality, his authority, his gifts with the ball on the deck or in the air; he is certainly the most talented defender at the club and if not quite of the Rio Ferdinand/Ledley King bracket then not too far away. He would certainly be a better captain than our current incumbent - he's louder and braver, as well as being a better player. If he can stay fit through 2010/11 he must have a good chance. A-

Joleon Lescott (23 starts, 2 goals)

It's unfair to blame players for the money spent on them. £24million was always an inflated sum for Lescott, and I fear it will make his debut season look worse than it was. He certainly struggled at first, forging no sort of partnership with Kolo Touré, and costing those goals that cost those points that cost Mark Hughes his job. Just as his form was starting to improve he over-extended his knee and missed two months, allowing Vincent Kompany to return to the side. Lescott returned in February, quickly rediscovering his form and starting to look like the commanding defender so impressive at Everton. He even won TLDORC Player of February. But another bad injury at Sunderland put him out for the last two months of the season and cost him a World Cup spot. Like many he must fear that City will move on beyond him this summer, especially targeting cheaper foreign-based defenders. B

Nedum Onuoha (7 starts, 2 goals)

For all the club's assurances to the contrary, it looks ever harder fo Academy players to become first team regulars at City. Onuoha had an excellent 2008/09 season, playing centre-back alongside Richard Dunne from Christmas onwards. But we bought two centre-backs last summer and Onuoha went to the back of the queue. Naturally this curtailed his gametime and he made only sporadic appearances this year. He played well enough, filling in at right back and centre back. But the fact is he is further away from being a regular than he was last year, and with Mancini set to bring in more defenders this is only going to get worse. B-

Micah Richards (25 starts, 3 goals)

Unlike Nedum Onuoha, Micah Richards continued to play football this year. As with last season, he continued to rotate the right-back slot with Pablo Zabaleta. He probably improved on last year; there are fewer defensive calamities, fewer moments of ill-discipline. His performance at Old Trafford in the League Cup semi final was very good, and made up for his errors there in the league. The raw materials are still there: he is physically imposing, he is unstoppable while running with the ball, magnetic in the air and so forth. But he is not much better, technically or tactically, than he was when he broke into the side four years ago. And I think this means he's not in our first choice team. He's still only 21, though, so time is on his side. B-

Sylvinho (9 starts, 1 goal)

Brought in to provide cover and experience at left-back. He got his chance in those final games of the Mark Hughes era, where we conceded three goals in three consecutive games. This should not reflect too badly on Sylvinho, but he was painfully exposed up against Aaron Lennon's pace at White Hart Lane. He continued to play under Mancini, demonstrating on his occassional outings in midfield that while his pace has gone the sharpness of his touch and his football remain unblunted. As with Garrido, opportunities were limited once Bridge got fit. A contract for next year remains possible. C+

Kolo Touré (35 starts, 2 goals)

One of Mark Hughes' mis-steps last summer. Not just signing him from Arsenal for £16m, but making him captain, therefore depriving the team of leadership and making it harder to drop him. It's fair to say that Touré is not the player he once was. He is strangely diffident with the ball around him; just when you want someone to fill the Richard Dunne role of throwing himself the ball at any cost, Touré looks unwilling to do so. His positioning is suspect. His clearances are haphazard. To say nothing of the vacuum of leadership represented by his captaincy; such is his silence, his spells of panic, his lack of organisational rigour. That said, he improved in Mancini's final months - and has perhaps saved himself from being moved on in the summer. But more minuses than pluses, certainly. C+

Pablo Zabaleta (30 starts, 0 goals)

A season very similar to last year: solid and committed performances in a range of positions. He started off sharing the right-back role with Micah Richards, and had a fairly poor start to the season. His indiscipline - in terms of positioning and conceding silly free-kicks - let him down, as shown by his eventual ban for ten bookings. But he settled down as the season went on, filling in at defensive midfield - including a fantastic performance in the 4-2 at Stamford Bridge - and even putting a few good shifts in at left-back and right-midfield. He might not be a world class right back but he's capable at a Europa League level and a very useful squad player to have. Consistency, versatility, determination - it's an important combination and I'm sure he will be able to replicate it next season. B+

And let's not forget Richard Dunne - a genuine MCFC legend - who played the first two games of the season before being sold to Aston Villa to make way for Joleon Lescott.

1 comment:

longwayfromhome said...

I can't see how any of our current crop of "established defenders" will replace Kompany. He and De Jong have been outstanding in a largely mediocre defensive set up.
Lescott arguably had his better games at left back for Everton and that may be an option - otherwise he and Bridge have a mountain to climb to justify their fees.