Monday, 2 January 2012

Mid-Season Player Review

So we're now at the half way point in the season having played 19 of the 38 games. 2 weeks ago Mancini stated that before the season had started he thought we would be in 2nd position within touching distance of the top spot. As it stands we're top of the league on equal points with United but with a better goal difference.

As this is only a mid-season review, I wont go into too much detail about each player. We'll save that for the end of the season. What this will be though, is my brief opinion about how the players have performed so far. It isn't just how much they have contributed in cold stats, how important they may or may not be, or how well they have played in games, it's a mixture of all of these and as you may see in the snap poll results, a little player bias. ;)

The layout is as follows;

Name: My Rating (Average poll rating)
General performance summary
Plus points
Areas that need improvement.

Joe Hart 7.5/10 (7.6)
It was going to be difficult to top last season, and it has proved as such. Although 7 clean sheets in the league out of 19 isn't all that bad and should have been 8 had the linesman been any good at Sunderland. Joe has largely been a spectator for most of the season so far and has generally been up to the task on most occasions. However, there have been a couple of lapses (only a couple though) in concentration that have lead to goals being conceded. Thankfully, Joe is man enough to realise his mistakes and has worked hard to improve and has put in some outstanding performances.

+ Superb and composed shot stopper.
+ Commands his area well.
- A few lapses in concentration have resulted in a couple of goals.

Costel Pantilimon 6 (5.7)
A bit part player used for cup competitions for quite obvious reasons. However despite a shaky showing to start with, Costel has proved to be a reliable deputy when required. An outstanding performance against Arsenal in the Carling Cup showed just how good he can be. How he would fare if handed an extended run in the squad I don't know, but lets hope the opportunity doesn't arise.

+ Has grown in confidence after a couple of starts.
+ Great reactions for such a big guy.
- Doesn't look totally confident dealing with crosses despite his height advantage.

Micah Richards 8/10 (8.1)
Should have been 1st choice right-back last season but there's no disputing it now. Micah provides a significant threat going forward and has managed 6 assists and 1 goal so far. He is also very defensively sound, has incredible ability to time a tackle and rarely gets beat in the air. He does have a habbit of making himself look stupid when tackled in the opposing half though as even genuine fouls look like he's diving. He has improved the technical side of his game and can improve even further.

+ Incredible strength on the ground and in the air.
+ Has developed his reading of the game immensely since Mancini took over.
- Could be a little more agile. His sheer size prevents him from being the complete modern full-back.

Pablo Zabaleta 7/10 (7.6)
The guy is tenacity personified, you just can not get rid of him. He doesn't have the physical attributes as the other full-backs in the squad but he is much more versatile than any of them too. Zaba can play on the left as good as he does on the right as well as being able to fill in in the centre of midfield. He will run through walls for the team and his effort on the pitch is more than matched by his commitment off it. His zeal for the game has got the better of him a couple of times this season, most notably in the Champions League but has been as dependable as always.

+ Hugely versatile and willing to play where required.
+ Fantastic work rate that rivals anyone in the squad.
- Not as impressive or effective as the other full-backs going forward.

Nedum Onuoha 5/10 (6)
It's a shame Nedum has only featured twice up to now, with him being in the 25 man squad I was hoping he would get a few more opportunities to prove himself. However that hasn't happened and he is left facing having to move on to get regular first team football. There are far worse defenders in the league that are getting regular games I know that much. Nedum isn't particularly bad at anything, but doesn't quite excel at anything either, apart from pace. Don't get me wrong, I thik he is a good player but falls just short of being able to get into the team.

+ Very quick on his feet
+ Good all-round defender
- Not quite good enough in a few areas to break in front of Zabaelta and Richards

Gael Clichy 7/10 (7.3)
In his first 6 months at City, Gael has bedded in well and has put in a number of solid performances. Undoubtedly the most agile of the full-backs and one of the quickest players in the squad. He usually sees more of the ball than other full-backs as the tendency of the team is to play more on the left. It's quite surprising that he hasn't got any assists yet, but he has been a part of a number of attacks and goals coming from the left of the pitch.

+ Great technical and passing ability.
+ One of the quickest in the team.
- Despite his actual ability, his defensive averages are a little below par at this point.

Aleks Kolarov 6.5/10 (6.3)
Although he hasn't featured as much this season as he did last, he has improved in all areas of his game. I don't think I've seen anyone with quite the same power in their shot as Aleks, although that same plus can be a negative when crossing the ball. His defensive contribution has improved, but it is still the weakest part of his game. Aleks is also quite inconsistant and rarely puts in a stand out performance.

+ Good outlet on the left.
+ Powerful shot and better free kick accuracy than last season.
- Lacks pace which leads him to be caught out of position a little too often after going forward.

Wayne Bridge 1-5/10 (1-5)
Yes he has actually played for City this season although if you blinked you might have missed it. Told 2 years ago that he wasn't part of Mancini's plans, he has turned down several permanent moves away from the club because they couldn't match his overinflated wages. His last appearance in a blue shirt was for the EDS in the Manchester Senior Cup where he was totally average and outshone by several of City's up and coming young players.

+ I'm struggling here, I really am.
+ He's good at shopping, and has a fit girlfriend.  
- Don't get me started.

Vincent Kompany 7.5/10 (8.3)
It says something about a player's ability when they've not really been in top form but have still been one of the best players in the squad and in the league. That's exactly how Kompany has been up until recently. He certainly hasn't been at the top of his game for much of the season so far but his last 2-3 performances have been stark reminders as to just how good he actually is. If he keeps the form he has recently rediscovered then I don't think I'd be too brash in saying he is the best centre-back in the league and one of the very best in Europe.

+ Incredible ability to read the game and totally committed.
+ Due to his history as a midfielder he is very technically sound. A complete defender.
- As last season, so far this term he has had a tendency to give away a few more fouls than he should, leading to more bookings.

Joleon Lescott 8/10 (7.6)
Since getting his chance in Kolo Toure's absence he has set about proving City made the right choice in signing him. This season I personally feel he has been our on form defender in the centre. The understanding between him and Kompany has been the best I've ever witnessed at City (I'm 27 btw). Yes he isn't the most mobile player and has made a few mistakes, but Kompany has actually made more at this point so he edges it between the two at the moment but I suspect  that will have changed by the end of the season.

+ Good positional awareness.
+ Very consistent performer and slowly improving all the time.
- Not very agile and finds it difficult against quicker opponents.

Kolo Toure 6/10 (6.4)
I'd rather forget some of his performances after his return to action from his ban, they were truly shocking. He looked totally out of shape and played as though he was more suited to performing in a circus after committing some absolute howlers. Thankfully his last few games have been much better, better than the whole of his last season in fact. Sadly his return to some sort of form for City is interrupted at the busiest time of the season so far by the African Nations tournament.

+ When fully fit and focused is a match for Lescott and both will push to improve.
+ Can read the game very well and is at his best when keeping it simple.
- Is prone to making some howlers.

Stefan Savic 6/10 (6)
It's never easy for a young foreign player to come into the Premiership, even more so for a defender. Stefan hasn't quite caught up to the pace of the Premier League just yet, although this is his first season with us and his chances are few and far between for obvious reasons. His physical stature raises a question as to whether he will really make it in England but he has shown glimpses of what he is capable of.

+ Always seems calm and composed.
+ Despite not looking much physically, he can leap like a salmon and is good in the air.
- Has yet to find his feet in England and his size raises question about his strength to deal cope in the long run against tough strikers.

Yaya Toure 7/10 (6.9)
Spoken of in the media as the midfield force that drives the City team forward. There is no doubt that when Yaya is on one he is a handful for any defence to cope with. We saw as much last season, but with him mostly occupying a deeper position this term he has taken on a slightly different role. He certainly divides opinions among fans. For all his strength going forward, for a defensive midfielder he certainly isn't the strongest in the squad. Not even 2nd either. He does simple things quite well and can launch a ball 50 yards to feet, but will make really simple passing and positional mistakes.

+ Great vision and able to pick out some great passes.
+ Almost unstoppable with the ball when going forward.
- Very slow to get back in position if City lose possession, much more noticeable if he's just made one of his runs.

Gareth Barry 8.5 (8.4)
Mr dependable, and the player who in my opinion is the glue that holds the defence and attack together from midfield. Last season Barry saw more of the ball, and ran the furthest distance at a higher average speed than anyone else (yes that is a statistical fact). This season he started where he left off, tireless, disciplined and rarely gives the ball away cheaply. The average rating given in the snap poll tells you just how highly regarded and important a player Gareth Barry actually is at City. This season Barry has stepped up his game yet again and rarely gets the credit he deserves.

+ Great work rate and very consistent.
+ Superb awareness and ability to read the game.
- Lacks overall pace.

Nigel De Jong 6.5/10 (6.1)
Since being injured in the first game of the season against Swansea, De Jong has rarely featured, making most of his appearances in cup games. He hasn't managed to pick up any kind of consistent form this term, although he was progressing towards his best he took a step back at Sunderland. It doesn't really come as a surprise that City have conceded several needless goals this season whilst he has been in and out of the side either. The fact that his contract negotiations stalled in the summer may be a little cause for concern, especially with the diminished game time this season. His chance will be when Yaya leaves for the African Nations, he really needs to grab hold of it with both hands otherwise we may well be seeing the end of his time at City come the end of the season.

+ One of the best tacklers in the game.
+ Doesn't complicate the game resulting in hardly ever giving away possession.
- Although one of the best defensively, he doesn't offer much versatility for going forward which Mancini likes from his players. 

James Milner 7.5/10 (7.6)
A versatile workhorse, he can play in the holding mid role as well as being deployed further up the pitch or as a box-to-box player. This season has seen Milner emerge as the player we all thought he was when he first signed. He is quite possibly the most professional footballer you are ever likely to see, 100% dedicated to his craft both on and off the pitch. He is always in peak physical condition and never gives anything less than his all. The only thing missing from his time at City so far has been goals having scored only 4 since joining in 2010.

+ Tireless, will run from the first to the last whistle.
+ Hugely versatile player and has played everywhere in midfield and even at right-back without complaint.
- Hasn't scored as many as hoped, possibly due to being deployed in so many positions.

Owen Hargreaves 5/10 (5)
Possibly the surprise signing of the season. Owen Hargreaves was really a last minute option as Mancini looked to replace the retired Patrick Vieira. It was always going to be a long shot though but as a free transfer and minimal wages it was worth the punt. It hasn't really payed off though as he has played less than a hand full of games, although he did score a cracker on his debut.

+ Great vision and awareness
+ Provides great passing ability
- Only fit enough to play once in a blue moon

Adam Johnson 7/10 (6.9)
One of the players in the squad that is steadily improving. Once again this season he has featured mostly from the bench and in Cup games but he has given quite a good return from his appearances so far with 6 goals and 5 assists in all competitions. Although improving, the same problems persist in his game the prevent him getting more chances in the starting 11. His lack of overall work rate and failure to track back on a lot of occasions has contributed to several goals conceded this season. Still, Mancini believes in him enough and Adam is one of the players that has been given a new contract this season.

+ Great with the ball, a nightmare for full-backs to deal with.
+ Eye for goal, and what goals they are!
- Really needs to vastly improve on the defensive side of his game.

David Silva 8.5/10 (9.5)
Wow, just wow. Described as the best player in the league by fans and pundits alike, he was in scintillating form when the season started. He is able to see passes before they're even there, evade tackles before they've even been made, almost like a higher power is directing his movement at times. Because of his ability some teams have taken to man marking him or systematically roughing up the diminutive Spaniard. His form has dipped slightly in recent games as teams start to pack defender in and around the box but his overall contribution so far has been nothing short of magnificent.

+ One of the best footballing brains in the world at this moment in time.
+ His vision, awareness and ability to pick a pass is simply world class.
- Horrendously one footed which is the only thing preventing him being the most complete player on the planet.

Samir Nasri 6.5/10 (6.2)
After an astounding debut where he made more assists in 90 minutes than he managed in the whole of last season for Arsenal, Nasri has blown a little hot and cold for City. It is only his first few months with the squad so he is getting used to how everyone plays and visa versa but his understanding with Silva is already forming into quite a formidable combination. When he's played well Nasri is one of the best in the squad, but there have been a few games where he has gone missing and made little to no impact. I don't expect to see the best of him quite yet anyway.

+ Very creative, possibly the 2nd most creative in the squad after Silva
+ Great dribbler and can get himself through packed defenses with the ball at his feet.
- Has a tendency to over complicate things at times when the simple pass is the better option.

Carlos Tevez 1-5/10 (1-5)
Once the talisman of the Club, I don't think I can recall a greater fall from grace in such a short space of time. Despite his obvious contributions last season, his time was marred by several public outbursts and spats with the Manager. Since coming back this season he was nothing but trouble, failed to follow the fitness program to get him back in shape after returning overweight, 'failed to warm up' during the Bayern game preventing him from being subbed on. I could go on, but we all know the story by now. Despite appearing a few times as sub and even starting 2 games he contributed little to nothing on the pitch. Such a waste of fantastic talent.

+ Tenacious and works hard when on the pitch.
+ A natural goal scorer.
- I really don't know where to start.

Mario Balotelli 7/10 (8.4)
From pantomime villain to media darling, the rest of the world is finally seeing what City fans have seen for some time. Not a week goes by without another fantastical rumour emerging from Twitter or the back pages. Thankfully his ability on the pitch is getting more and more attention as he is one of the most improved players this season. He had to wait his turn though, but since getting it in the Carling Cup against Birmingham and in the league against Everton he has pretty much replaced Edin Dzeko as 2nd choice striker.

+ Supreme natural talent and flair.
+ One of the few players who can make something out of nothing.
- You're still never quite sure which Mario will show up, but it all adds to the excitement of the game.

Edin Dzeko 7/10 (6.6)
After an average start to life in the Premier League, Dzeko hit the ground running when the season started. Dzeko had vastly improved from last season and that showed in the number of goals he scored. Of course his best performance came away to Spurs when he bagged 4 goals that day, one of which was a stunning first time strike with his left foot from 20 yards out. Edin has found it difficult to find consistent form though as Mancini likes to rotate his players and all of his 12 goals have come in 8 of his 21 appearances and hasn't scored for 2 months. He has contributed 6 assists too though which is always welcome.

+ Has the ability to score with either foot.
+ Good attacking awareness and gets himself into good positions in the box
- A little too inconsistent and reliant on very regular football to keep his form going.

Sergio Aguero 8/10 (8)
Considering the money spent on strikers in the Premiership over the last 12 months Sergio is probably the best buy of the lot. He has taken to the Premiership like a duck to water and will only improve with time. When Nasri, Silva and Aguero click it is a joy to behold and a nightmare for oppositions defences. Incredibly strong for his size and supremely agile and he certainly knows where the back of the net is. His goals tally could be much higher though, for all his ability in front of goal he has missed some glorious chances. Whether this is because he is trying to rush his shots knowing that the Prem is tougher and faster paced and thinking he has less time on the ball I don't know, but he could, and perhaps should have another 6-7 goals to his name. Considering he already has a rather impressive 15 goals and 6 assists in his first 6 months at the club it shows you just how good Aguero actually is.

+ Is lightening quick and agile
+ Great strength for his size and good goal scorer
- Needs a little more composure at times and will score even more than he already has.

There are a few players that rated higher than I expected in the snap poll as you can see from my own ratings. Just to illustrate it a little easier here are the ratings side by side.

A more in depth review will be undertaken at the end of the season and I expect a number of those scores to change, some more dramatically than others.

The main players looking to improve will be Samir Nasri, Edin Dzeko and Nigel De Jong. Vincent Kompany has recently found his best form so I fully expect his score from me will improve by the end of the season too. Kolo Toure will also be looking to build on his recent performances when he returns to Club football in February.

The player in most danger of dropping is Edin Dzeko. His number of assists helped him get a 7 from me, as although his goal haul is impressive he has only scored in a small number of games overall. That will have to improve over the season when he gets his chances.

Do you agree with those scores? I know several people who wont agree with some of my scores, but it's all about opinions, so leave a comment and have your say.

Twitter: @MikeWalsh1880
Facebook: David Silva's Left Foot

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