As the ink now dries on Jack Rodwell’s newly signed Manchester City contract, the obituaries are already being written in some quarters for the 21-year-old’s immediate career prospects. A move to the Etihad brings with it a serious roadblock of world-class talent to the now ex-Evertonian’s development. No one expected Rodwell to turn down the overtures of Roberto Mancini. But the task ahead now involves trying to displace the likes of Gareth Barry, Yaya Toure and Nigel de Jong in the City engine room. Welcome to Manchester, Jack.
As Roy Hodgson announced the likelihood of having to pick players for the national team that weren’t necessarily club regulars, you couldn’t help but wonder quite what the England boss made of Rodwell’s summer switch. His comments of course weren’t aimed at Rodwell in particular, but it seems as if a concerning trend is making an emergence. Jack Rodwell has certainly placed himself on the cusp of being part of it.
Roberto Mancini’s feelings about his central midfield haven’t been of any secret to anyone. The Italian has craved investment in his side all summer and he’s been pining for a central midfielder in particular. The challenge for a team defending the title is to improve on what you’ve got and for Mancini, it was thought he could purchase an upgrade on Nigel de Jong and someone to push Barry and Toure in the engine room.
Whom Mancini really wanted and craved more than any other, were the services of dynamic Roma enforcer, Daniele de Rossi. He ended up with Jack Rodwell. To fall short of the quality of a payer such as De Rossi is by no means a shameful thing but however David Platt may like to frame it, Rodwell is a compromise. Albeit a highly talented and very young one, but he’s a compromise, nonetheless. No one can necessarily dispute the City hierarchy’s decision to reign in the spending and Mancini must live with the realities. Signing Jack Rodwell is one of them.
And there’s nothing to say that Rodwell can’t have an impact next season. If Mancini really is keen on getting rid of De Jong, then instantly Rodwell’s first team chances have increased. He will likely feature prominently in the cup competitions, maybe even the Champions League and if Barry’s injury woe continues, then he will get his chance to prove himself for City in the Premier League. But more pressing questions lie ahead.
At the age of 21, there is no denying that there is still plenty of time for development and nurturing in Rodwell’s game. Under the likes of Mancini and especially Platt, Rodwell is only going to improve playing with the galaxy of talent that abides within the City ranks. But the onus for Manini at the moment, is on the present. He’s here to defend a league championship. And any chance that Rodwell gets in the first team isn’t going to be in some developmental environment where the pressure’s off. He will be coming into a side where he is expected to play well and win. There’s no time for complacency and rookie error when you’re part of a well oiled machine.
The question is, is Rodwell up to it? This is, so to speak, the £12millin question. Not a lot in City’s world, but if you consider the silverware that they’re chasing, it could prove to be quite a lot. The answer to such a question is difficult to negate. Rodwell suffered a frustrating season last term with injury and he was restricted to making only 14 league appearances for the Toffees. But since he burst onto the scene in his breakthrough term of 2008, he hasn’t quite lived up to all the heady expectation put upon him.
Jack Rodwell has all the technical tools to survive in this Manchester City team, but he needs to have a bit more about him. Because at the moment, it’s difficult to define where his real stand-out assets lie in central midfield. He’s very adaptable and solid in his positioning plus he can string a sequence of good passes together too. But he never massively imposed himself when he played for Everton. He always participated with plenty of neat work in midfield but it’s difficult to recall a string of games where he’s come out and really left his mark on the occasion.
At this stage of his career, he doesn’t seem to possess any real, standout eye for goal and his nine goals in 109 appearances for Everton seem to back this up. His passing is very neat and accurate, but he doesn’t possess a hugely eclectic range. And again, his tackling and positioning is relatively faultless but you wouldn’t imagine opponents find him outlandishly imposing. He needs to add a little spice to his game and create a niche for himself in the Premier League. The thing is, it feels hard to perceive that Manchester City is the best place for him to do that.
One thing’s for certain, the last thing Rodwell needs at his age is to spend half a season sitting on the bench. The need for game time isn’t just vital to his development but after enduring such a stop-start season as he did last term, he is desperate for a long run of games to get his Premier League sharpness in order. He’s going to make mistakes along the way. But whilst the pressure of playing in front of the masses at Goodison Park is one thing, doing it for the champions of England is quite another. Everything Rodwell does will be under the microscope and every mistake will be magnified in column inches. It’s an awful lot to ask for a player in his position.
Mancini is no mug and whilst it may have been Brian Marwood who struck a deal for the youngster, the Italian must have seen something that has caught his eye. Rodwell has some of the attributes that remind you of the old-school mould of Italian footballer; technically primed, tactically faultless and defensively minded. If he can craft Rodwell into anything resembling that sort of player, City could be onto a winner. But it will take a lot of time and time isn’t something you get a lot of at the top.
It’s foolish to write off Jack Rodwell’s chances in this Manchester City team. He has the skillset to flourish at this level and that isn’t really in any doubt. Whether Manchester City is the platform where he can achieve his goals, only time will tell.
How do you feel about Jack Rodwell’s prospects at Manchester City? Destined for the top or a terrible career move? Let me know how you view it on Twitter: follow @samuel_antrobus and bat me your views.