Analysis of City’s new signings.

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Manchester City have been fairly busy in this transfer window as they look to respond to finishing second behind Manchester United last season. The club have brought in Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic, as well as offloading Carlos Tevez and Maicon and Mario Balotelli in the January transfer window. Txiki and Soriano are hell-bent on significantly reducing City’s mammoth wage bill as well as remodelling the squad and improving the sides chances of European and domestic success. But how will the new signings impact on City’s tactics next season?

Jesus Navas:

City’s first signing of the summer was Sevilla winger Jesus Navas with the fee believed to be £14.9m. City’s sale of Adam Johnson last summer left the club relatively light on wingers with his replacement, Scott Sinclair, failing to meet the required level expected at City. As such, City’s below par performances in 2012-13 were linked to a lack of quality wide options and a lack of a plan B in the tighter matches.

One area where City clearly struggled was when the opposition team played narrow. City had no plan B against team “Parking the Bus.” Scott Sinclair was called upon at times to stretch the play but a lack of quality was an issue. City’s core players such as David Silva and Samir Nasri tended to drift centrally, leading to significant over-crowding in the final third. The width was solely provided by the fullbacks and neither of Zabaleta or Clichy are great going forward.

A Euro and World Cup winning winger seems to be the answer for the problem of width for City, given his incredibly direct style getting down the right flank.

There aren’t many classic out and out wingers like Navas left nowadays since most managers prefer playing inverted wingers who can cut inside and shoot. Navas has all the right skills to adapt in England and to succeed at Manchester. Navas can provide that width to the attack which City currently lack. He isn’t scared to the take on the defenders/left backs and he has a great pace to add to this. He  also has good balance and acceleration.

Looking at his action areas for Sevilla’s 3-0 victory over Espanyol near the end of last season, we can see how direct he can be:

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Navas will hit the by-line, as we can see above, and look to fire crosses in. He made more accurate crosses (excluding corners) than any other player in La Liga last season with 51. It’s worth noting that he created 47% of his chances for team-mates down the right flank. As a result we can expect some more direct play at City with Navas in the team thanks to his dribbling skills and more penetrative wing play. Also, Navas will drag defenders out of their positions and open up space for the creative players like David Silva.

Navas isn’t the most prolific in front of goal though, having failed to score a La Liga goal last season but he is one of the best shooters around though and we can expect him to chip in few important goals. Navas’ home sickness is well known, but in his own words he has said he has overcome it and he is raring to play in the Blue colours.

Fernandinho:

Europe has been a huge disappointment for City, having been eliminated in the group stages in the last two seasons. One area where the European teams exploited City was the central midfield position. City have struggled to play teams that play high pressing football, which has happened in Europe (notably against Dortmund) and domestically against Southampton.

Fernandinho, who is a quality addition, was brought in to help City develop in this regard. Fernandinho is a seasoned campaigner and his experience with Europe could help richly. One could argue that his price tag (£30m) is quite high for a 28 year old, especially in the context that he is international understudy to Paulinho, who cost Spurs £17 million and is just 24, but no-one who has witnessed him feature for Shakhtar can deny his abilities.

Fernandinho is a box-to-box midfielder who is equally adept in both attack and defence. Breaking up the play is an important aspect of the game but is often ignored. Barring Barry and with De Jong sold,there was no one in the City team who could breakup the attack effectively.

Fernandinho can play a big role in this department with the Brazilian completing an impressive 3.4 tackles per game and 3.9 interceptions per game on average in Europe last season. This demonstrates that he is capable of winning the ball in defensive areas and then helping transitions to attack by utilizing his impressive range of passing and bringing the more attack minded players into play. In fact, he is also capable of breaking out from the base of midfield on his own with no player completing more successful dribbles than him in last season’s Champions League (with 31) despite the club being knocked out in the last 16.

Jovetic:

In the current market scenario were most of the players have been sold at an inflated price, Jovetic can be classified as a bargain. By no means is £22m a small amount but the quality and potential Jovetic possesses means that City got great value for money for a player who can step up and replace the outbound Carlos Tevez.

Jovetic in his own words said he prefers the number 10 position but he is equally capable of playing on the left side or starting as a lone striker (something that Tevez could also do). The only negative aspect of Jovetic’s game is that he isn’t very clinical in front of goal scoring just 15% of his chances last season. That being said, he does make up for it by creating chances for others, having created a solid 56 chances for his team-mates last season in Serie A.

Jovetic likes to cut inside and shoot from distance. His first touch is brilliant and he is a big threat on the counter. Primarily right footed, he doesn’t really have any weak foot. His dribbling skills are also excellent (65 Dribbles last season), something else he has in common with Tevez. Jovetic will likely slot in to a similar role vacated by Tevez, operating as one of the three attacking midfielders as well as being able to play up top.

Negredo:

Negredo had a successful time at Sevilla, scoring 70 goals in 139 matches. City scored 93 goals in Premier League 2011-12 compared to just 66 in Premier League 2012-13, which shows that goal scoring was a major factor behind City’s failure to retain their title last season.  Negredo enjoyed a decent conversion rate of 19.5% last season, a higher conversion rate than Aguero and Dzeko enjoyed last season.

Negredo is also good aerially. He is a tall, physical striker who can use his power to muscle out defenders, in a similar way to Dzeko. He could be very useful against physical teams like Stoke and Everton. Negredo can be classified as a member of the “fox in the box” category. Many people highlight the fact that Negredo missed the most clear cut scoring chances (29) in Europe but even Cavani missed 26 clear cut scoring chances and the fact that he still enjoyed a solid conversion rate shows he is still a good goal scorer. Negredo is very much a poacher though with all of his 25 La Liga goals coming from inside the box. Graphic showing from where Negredo scored all his goals:

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Pochettino’s Saints

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18th January 2013, the day Nigel Adkins was sacked from Southampton after a very successful two and a half year stint at Southampton, in which the Saints won back to back promotions. There was a huge furore over sacking Adkins as amny fans believed that the club were heading in the right direction under the guidance of the Englishman. Mauricio Pochettino was appointed as the new manager.

Pochettino, like Nigel Adkins, had a successful managerial start to his career. At Espanyol he gained many admirers including Pep Guardiola, who stated, “I feel very close to Espanyol’s style of football”, due to the team’s expansive attacking play. Espanyol were 3rd from bottom in La Liga and Pochettino didn’t had a good start but some divine intervention helped them to finish strongly to achieve a respectable 10th position. In the following campaigns Espanyol finished 11th, 8th and 14th respectively under him. Season 12-13 wasn’t his best of season however, and on the 26th of November 2012 following a 2-0 loss to Getafe, Pochettino left Espanyol. Perhaps Pochettino’s most notable contribution whilst at Espanyol was his revamp of the youth system, and subsequent promotion of many young players into the first team.

Pochettino’s Tactics:

Southampton usually played 4-2-3-1 under Pochettino with the fullbacks in more advanced positions. Southampton pressed from the word go, whilst maintaining a high defensive line. The defense were also helpful for the attack as they attempted more long balls under him. The tactic was simple: lose the ball, try to gain it immediately by pressing instead by retreating and waiting for the opponent to lose possession. Unsurprisingly thanks to the kind of football Soton played under Pochettino, they made the highest tackles per game(21.6) and highest interceptions per game (20.5) in Premier league last season. Also, they averaged 10.8 fouls per game. Soton were flexible in their approach too, for example: against Reading they changed their tactics from high pressing to more possession based football.

Here’s a comparison of how teams fared against Southampton’s pressing football under Pochettino:

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A key component in Pochettino’s pressing machine has been Schneiderlin, a player whose influence on the team cannot be undermined. Here is a numerical look at his 2012-13 season:

Pochettino has had a good start to his Southampton career, in spite of flirting with the relegation zone at one point. With new signings like Wanyama and Lovren, we can expect them to push on next season finish around mid table and who knows? even inside the top 10.

Special thanks to Soham Kamat for the graphics.
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