Good grief. The season’s not been over for a week yet and I’m bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. The end of the football season always brings about this feeling every year and every year I forget that I’m going to end up feeling this way. August arrives and I’m excited about the new season, but can’t take too much seriously because there’s a long way to go. Mid-way through the season, the table starts to take shape and you know if you’re challenging for Europe, struggling against relegation or ploughing into a title challenge. Then April comes and I just want it to be over, so I can have the definitive sense of achievement on where we have finished. Or disappointment, as has been the case for nearly all of my City-supporting life.
Then, the next day, I miss it all and want it to be August again, so we can start the whole cycle one more time.
Naturally, there’s going to be a lot to keep us City fans entertained over the next two and a half months. Every man and his dog will be linked with the club (I suspect there are rules against pets playing professionally, though admittedly, I do need to check that). And, although no matter how much it’s jazzed up, signing players, selling players, open-training sessions and pre-season friendlies are just not the real deal. They’re like the piece of fruit that’s waiting for you after your meal: better than nothing, but you’d rather be having the chocolate gateau.
And, of course, the one thing that is going to plough on like a steam train rumbling towards a train station in a James Bond film, is the whole will-he-won’t-he situation on the Carlos Tevez front. Stories speculating about the Argentinean’s future will be as predictable as finding Top Gear and Dragons’ Den on Dave during the day time. Don’t get me wrong, I quite like Top Gear, but there is a bit of overkill sometimes.
I’m no more informed than my cat when it comes down to whether Tevez will be departing for a new club this summer. In fact, my cat could probably give just an accurate answer as I can, and she’s not even that interested in football. She much prefers leaving dead rodents on the doormat and scratching you when you least expect it.
For what it’s worth, much as I don’t want it to be the case, I do believe Tevez will not be playing for City next season. I’d love to be wrong, but I fear that the resolution to last December’s transfer request was, in fact, ‘give us until the end of the season and we’ll see where we go from there.’ Perhaps automatic Champions League qualification and lifting the FA Cup for the team might, hopefully, persuade him to stay, though I worry the conclusion was reached a while ago.
If we assume that Tevez is transferred out of City, then there’s a little Argentinean shaped hole that will definitely need filling. While some of his actions this season might have caused some fans to question his commitment to the club – handing in a transfer request or missing the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley, for example – his Golden Boot winning contributions on the goals front can’t be denied.
Okay, so there was a spell when Tevez was absent through injury and City didn’t do too badly: they won four of the five games he missed. But those victories all came by one goal, despite plenty of chances heading the team’s way and the points (and, in one case, cup progress) were earned the hard way. What those games proved, really, was that City were reliant on Tevez for goals, but just not to the extent that the Sky Sports Soccer Saturday team thought.
The problem for City is that few strikers do the job that Tevez does. I like Balotelli and I like Dzeko, but they just don’t play the lone striker role in the same way as the little Argentinean. City’s formation and system is geared up to the focal point of Tevez as the striker; his ability to defend from the front not only eases the pressure on the midfield, but it also forces opposition defenders into mistakes or sloppy passes, meaning City can be back in possession of the ball.
Overall, it’s Tevez’s ability to craft goals from absolutely nowhere that has helped City so much, this season. That’s not to detract from the rest of the team, either, because City didn’t finish third by accident: the defence was more solid than my mum’s gravy (served in slices) and the midfield was nicely balanced between protecting the defence and supporting the attack. Though, Tevez doesn’t need as much support as the other strikers in the squad – which isn’t a slight on those other strikers, either, because I’d go as far as saying Tevez is one of the best, if not the best, lone striker on the planet.
Without Tevez next season, should the club decide to sell him and he decides to leave, then his goals will need to be replaced. Whether that’s with a change in Roberto Mancini’s system or through trying to replace him like-for-like, it doesn’t matter. But the goals will have to come from somewhere.
The interesting decision for Roberto Mancini, though, will come if Tevez stays. A large number of City fans have expressed the opinion that City’s captain should be more of a leader. Sure, Tevez has led from the front and his effort on the field can’t be questioned, but there were quite a few eyebrows raised when he was given the armband.
When it comes to commitment, ability and leadership, one player has shone in this past ten months; one player who would, perhaps, be a better candidate: Vincent Kompany. Personally, should Tevez leave the club, there would be no question who would be the skipper next season, but should he stay, would it be worth risking alienating the striker by taking the captaincy from him? After all, there’s no denying how vital his goals are to City.
So there’s going to be a fine balancing act for Roberto Mancini this summer.