Manchester City today confirmed that they had finally got their hands on Wilfried Bony– even if the Ivorian Football Federation tried to steal their thunder–but this author believes that the Citizens may have made something of a pointless transfer.
The Ivorian striker has lit up the Premier League in 2014 scoring 21 goals across the calendar year and has been linked with several of the big clubs in England’s top flight.
The question on everyone’s lips though is, of course, where Bony will fit in at the Etihad? And if you find yourself posing that conundrum with a sprinkling of scepticism in your voice, well, you’d probably be right to do so.
This season, Manuel Pellegrini has become increasingly fond of playing Sergio Aguero in a lone striker’s role opting to support him with a five-man midfield.
And he’s been so dogmatic in that approach that the 4-2-3-1 system has been used even when Aguero has been injured and Pellegrini has had no recognised strikers available.
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Too good for the bench, not good enough to start
Theoretically Bony could slot straight into Aguero’s place in that system as it is very similar to the set-up that has been built around him at Swansea under Garry Monk – but this is Aguero we’re talking about here.
It’s no disrespect to Bony to hold Aguero up as in a completely different class. But I do disagree with anyone who has branded the Ivorian as too slow to fit in at Manchester City.
Faster than you think
He is certainly faster and more mobile than Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko, who both enjoyed periods of relative success at the Etihad.
Dzeko’s impressive League Cup haul of six goals in five games last year helped the Citizens win that trophy and his partnership with Aguero in the league saw him as a regular fixture in the majority of Fantasy Football teams–an impressive feat indeed.
And of course not too many City fans will go around forgetting Balotelli’s role in the dramatic 2011/12 Premier League campaign with his Old Trafford brace and his role in setting up Aguero’s historic title winning goal against QPR particular highlights.
Bony has the qualities of both of those strikers and then some. Not only is he better at holding the ball up he has a more nuanced approach to finding space and exploiting it.
In an article last week I likened him to a lovechild between Michael Owen and Emile Heskey and I continue to stand by that.
You won’t find many more players as complete as Bony; he can hold on to the ball better than anyone, spread it round his team creatively and also get in the box to finish off moves with a deadly poacher’s knack for finding the back of the net.
Wilf the star-man
But no matter what he can offer Manchester City, I can categorically say that he will not be able to displace Aguero. That is a fact, and we all know it.
And that sets up a variable that could come back to bite Pellegrini; that being how will cope with competition for places in general – let alone from the likes of Aguero.
The Ivorian has been the undisputed star player at Swansea for the last 12 months. The disgraced Michu earned himself an exile’s loan move to Napoli over the summer and new-signing Bafetimbi Gomis proved a lot less prolific than scouts had initially suggested.
And when he was at Vitesse Arnhem he was part of a consistently selected strike partnership with Japanese international Mike Havenaar.
So you have to go back a long way to find a time when Bony wasn’t the key man at his club – how he’ll deal with that cannot predicted with any real degree of accuracy.
But you only have to look at the club’s precedent to discover that a transfer like this is, at the very least, odds-on to end in disaster.
The last two Manchester City players to wear the number 14 were Roque Santa Cruz and Jo – a pair of players who had been the undisputed star strikers at Blackburn Rovers and CSKA Moscow respectively – and once they were smothered by the atmosphere of big egos and far too many so-called superstars in one team they became instant flops.
How many Premier League goals do those South Americans combine for during their time in Sky Blue? Four.
And the stories of Scott Sinclair, Jack Rodwell, Wayne Bridge and Emmanuel Adebayor read fairly similarly.
Two’s a crowd
But what exacerbates the issue is that Bony will hardly be able to bank on being deployed alongside Aguero as Pellegrini’s forays into setting up with two strikers have been few and far between this campaign.
Between the end of October and Saturday’s draw with Everton, Aguero has been deployed alongside another striker on only four occasions.
A look at those fixtures does demonstrate that the decision to set up in that way was entirely reactionary as they came in games against Manchester United, CSKA Moscow, Swansea City and Southampton – sides that most teams need to adapt to in order to get a result.
Too determined for the bit-part role
So if we make the logical assumption that Bony would have to replace the role Stevan Jovetic has played at City this season, are we really expecting the Ivorian to be content to play the bit-part striker who only comes in when the manager wants to shake things up tactically?
I don’t think so.
Bony has certainly earned a shot at Champions League football; anyone who averaged just over 24 goals a season in the last four years (in three different leagues too) deserves the chance to compete at the top level.
But City were probably the last club that could allow him to do that on a consistent basis. Even though any flop on Bony’s part won’t necessarily affect the champions in any detrimental sense it will certainly prove to be something of a missed opportunity to get the best out of an incredibly talented footballer.