After a nervy first half on Wednesday night, Edin Dzeko’s fifteenth and sixteenth Premier League strikes of the season kept Manchester City on course for their second title in three years. The Bosnia and Herzegovina striker’s recent hot streak in front of goal couldn’t have come at a better time for the Citizens, who now likely only need a point from their final fixture at home to West Ham to finish the season as champions.
Having now been at the club for nearly three and a half years, is Dzeko finally being appreciated at City?
The striker was Roberto Mancini’s ninth signing back in January 2011 when he arrived from Wolfsburg for a cool £27 million. Dzeko had announced himself on the European footballing stage through his strike partnership with Grafite. In 2009. the pair were integral to the German club’s inaugural Bundesliga triumph, scoring a German record fifty four goals in just thirty four matches. In doing so, Dzeko and Grafite surpassed the legendary former Bayern Munich partnership of Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness.
But like so many foreigners, Dzeko initially struggled to adapt to the demands of the Premier League. In his first half season in Manchester, the forward could only muster two league goals from fifteen appearances.
Under Mancini’s management, Dzeko came to be regarded as something of a “super sub” at the club. From the beginning of the 2011/12 season up until the Italian’s sacking, the striker delivered a healthy return of twenty eight league goals from sixty two matche, a ratio which becomes even more impressive considering thirty of these appearances came from the bench.
Despite these strikes, Dzeko never seemed to completely win over the faith of his manager. When given the opportunity to start, more often than not the striker struggled to impress. With Mancini regularly favouring a 4-2-3-1 formation, Dzeko understandably found it difficult to dislodge Sergio Aguero from the starting lineup.
City fans have at times been heavily critical of the forward’s performances. Accusations that he is cumbersome and lacks the work rate of the Argentine fan favourite have frequently been levelled at the striker. Dzeko has also been criticised for not offering much other than a goal threat who is occasionally guilty of missing simple chances.
During his time in Manchester, the striker has frequently found himself behind many in the pecking order. Considering the embarrassment of riches at the club’s disposal, the £27 million man has often found himself as City’s third or even fourth choice option. Aguero, Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and more recently Alvaro Negredo have have all enjoyed the manager’s favour ahead of the former Wolfsburg striker.
But under Manuel Pellegrini, Dzeko has enjoyed something of a renaissance. The Chilean’s preference for 4-4-2 has given the striker greater game time, making twenty two starts so far this season. In the current calendar year, Dzeko is the Premier League’s top scorer with twelve strikes so far, with so many of these proving crucial in City’s title pursuit. The striker opened the floodgates on Wednesday night and delivered braces in crucial away day victories at Everton and Manchester United.
This recent hot streak has seemingly finally won over the City faithful. But the statistics show that the formerly maligned striker was arguably subjected to some particularly unfair criticism.
A recent report on CaughtOffside, published prior to City’s victory over Villa, shows that Dzeko is incredibly sixth in the all-time Premier League minutes per goal record for strikers. Despite being a “super sub” for so much of his time at the Etihad, the striker has, on average, netted once every 136 minutes. Even without ever managing to win over Mancini’s favour, Dzeko still managed to bag fourteen league goals in consecutive seasons.
Bearing this goalscoring return in so few starts, it is remarkable to think that the striker has only now seemingly won over the City supporters. It has somehow taken nearly three and a half years for the Citizens to realise that they have more than one prolific striker currently on their books.
Unfortunately for Dzeko, the struggle for recognition is an issue which has plagued him for both club and country. Despite netting ten in ten appearances during Bosnia and Herzegovina’s successful World Cup qualifying campaign, the striker was still subjected to booing from his own fans during a recent friendly defeat to Egypt.
If City do indeed secure the point needed on Sunday to lift the Premier League title, much of it will have been down to Dzeko’s contribution in the current calendar year. It may have taken them a while, but it seems City fans are now finally appreciating the efforts of their £27 million striker.