How Will Manchester City Cope With the loss?

Well it’s another transfer window, and thus it seems Carlos Tevez might be changing football clubs. It was ever thus. However, with a move to Corinthians looking very likely/quite likely/it’s been called off/it’s back on/Kia wants £4m, as long as everything can be wrapped up before the Brazilian transfer window slams shut on Thursday morning, the cynicism over his motives should have diluted somewhat, a move to Brazil leaving him a mere 2400 miles from his family.

His possible exit will be a blow to City, but it will not be the end of the world, and his exit will only confirm what everyone knew would happen at some point – Tevez was never going to stay five years or more at City.

So how do you replace a player involved in 43% of his team’s goals? How do you replace 53 goals in 86 appearances? Well the most obvious answer is that you don’t. You adapt, and play differently, so that others are given the opportunity to contribute more. But with Tevez it is not just about goals. His work rate cannot be bettered, and whatever is happening off the pitch, he never gives less than 100% on it. There are not many players you can say that about. The work-rate he has showed leading the line would be a loss to any team. On the rare occasions he came off the bench, his energy and determination lifted the team almost immediately without exception.

It is the way of football fans to re-write history after a player joins or leaves. Thus so many Arsenal fans have written off Clichy as a liability, in the same way many will understate Tevez’s contribution should he leave. That would be foolish – his exit would be a blow to City, there’s no denying that, but he will be replaced, and the team will move on. He is not the ultimate player, and City are far from a one-man team.

Like many great strikers, Tevez can be rather selfish. He also took penalties, (averagely, in my opinion, but few seem to agree with me on that – Balotelli takes a far better one, and Tevez missed a penalty as Argentina crashed out of the Copa America this week) which helped the goal count, and I think I am right in saying City got more penalties than any other Premiership team last season.

Interestingly, he does not seem to affect results much. Stats only tell half a story of course, but with him in City’s team, they won 52% of matches. Without him, they won 50%. Not a big difference, unlike when De Jong is in or out of the starting eleven, though two seasons and only the odd injury are not long enough to give comprehensive results.

As for team morale, I can only see it being a good thing. I don’t like to take rumours as fact, but it was reported in a few newspaper reports that some City players were fed up of him and his attitude. As I said, it might be true, it might not, but when you see the excellent videos put up on the official site it is clear that there is a great camaraderie amongst a lot of the players – but not Tevez. I guess him speaking the same language would have helped. And there cannot be a City fan on earth who thought he should be captain – now it will surely go to the right person – Vincent Kompany. Either way, the club will be better off without the contstant speculation surrounding the player.

City got a taste of life without Tevez after he hobbled off against Liverpool in April of this year. And their great form in the run-in, claiming an FA Cup along the way, showed that they can cope already without him. It was Tevez who lifted the cup, but it was others who propelled City towards the finishing line, Balotelli shining brighter than most. As Patrick Vieira said this week, “the players will take more responsibilities on their shoulders and that will make them better players.” However, when/if Tevez leaves, a replacement will be bought – Mancini will not settle for what he already has.

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The obvious replacement seems to be Kun Agüero, who the Mirror newspaper claim is prepared to take a pay cut to come to City, as he earns a huge amount at Atletico Madrid – with the British tax system, City would have to offer him £240,000 a week for him to come out with the same money as he does now. The similarities between the two players are many – similar height, same nationality, same positions on the pitch, but it would not quite be a complete like-for-like switch. However, he certainly seems to be of similar pedigree – he has superb control, is great like Tevez at control in tight positions and at spinning away with the ball, is two-footed, and more of a traditional centre forward, though one journalist suggested he would be better at coming deep. Agüero also has four years on Tevez, so should not yet have reached his peak, and will have a re-sale value. Agüero has something of Romário, a capacity to create in the most difficult circumstances,” Jorge Valdano, Real Madrid’s sporting director has said. “He has no fear.”
“He has the ability to make scoring look very easy” Ossie Ardiles has said. “He is very sharp, quick around the box, give him one yard and, with his pace, he will put the ball in the back of the net.” And what’s more, he wants to play in England.

In their second seasons at the club, Dzeko and Balotelli should become better players and will take up the mantle. For the first time they will have a full pre-season at City, and this should help their cause. For all their injury worries, the crazy antics of Balotelli and the slow start of Dzeko, they still chipped in with 16 goals between them.

It has been said that Dzeko performs better as part of a front two. Part of his problem (though he needs to settle and control the ball better for starters) is that he didn’t really link up too well with Tevez. As a supposedly superb header of the ball, he could be better served with some service from out wide. As for Balotelli, whilst he might not yet have the explosive power of Tevez, he can become one of the best strikers in the world, if he applies himself. Whilst Mancini might play two up front at times at home, it seems likely his preferred 4-2-3-1 will still be used more often, with Aguero (should he sign) at the top, especially away from home. Balotelli can drift wide, but Dzeko will not be as flexible.

Goals are not just about strikers of course. Next season, the slack will hopefully be taken up by the midfield players, who have the capacity to contribute more goals. David Silva is a truly wonderful player, but his only weakness seems to be in front of goal. Yaya Toure chipped in with a more than acceptable tally of goals (10, and a couple of rather important ones to boot), Adam Johnson weighed in with a fair few as a super-sub, but elsewhere there were slim pickings from the likes of Barry (2) and Milner (1). De Jong can of course be excused from this particular discussion.

What’s more, Premiership winning teams have not historically had to have an out and out goal scorer in their ranks to be successful – more often than not the goals are spread out amongst the team. Manchester United won more trophies after the departure of scoring-machine Van Nistelrooy, and seem rather unconcerned as to whether their top scorer of last season stays or goes, having dropped him for the run-in last season. Arsenal’s top scorer is injury-prone and Chelsea’s reaching the twilight of his career, so all of the big clubs will have to adapt over the coming seasons in what is truly a squad game.

Whilst the stats suggest there is no downside to having a player like Tevez, when the goals are concentrated too heavily on one player it can often cause its own problems – too often the ball may go towards Tevez rather than a potentially better option, in the same way that a team with a very tall striker have to fight the urge to lump it up to him at every available opportunity. With no stand-out striker on the pitch (ie one that is far outscoring everyone else) there is a greater chance for an all-round team performance, and a greater variety of play. With Mancini looking at the likes of Nasri and Aguero, it is hoped that City will have a more fluid system, an exciting prospect.

Some of the points above might sound like the aforementioned re-writing of history, like trying to claim Tevez isn’t really that important a player. Far from it. As I have said, he will be a big loss. He will be difficult to replace, very difficult, and any new players, however good they may be, will inevitably require a bedding-in period. However, this week I have been praying that the Tevez deal to Corinthians deal goes through, the exact opposite of what I should logically be feeling. I feel that City and Tevez have reached a point of no-return, a point where it suits neither side for him to remain at the club, a point where it is best to get rid and move on. History might prove otherwise, but the endless transfer rumours revolving around the player benefits no one, and perhaps the time has come to accept that he won’t be a Manchester City player next season. And whatever happens, City will adapt and be expected to challenge for the title next season, in what should be a fascinating title race for a number of teams.