This is the first installment of a two part series that will recap the seasons of the players Manchester City has loaned out this year. The club has a large number of players that fit this category, so we won’t be covering all of them for both logistic reasons and because likely will have little impact on City’s future. The cutoff has been made at players who’s current transfer value sits above a price of $1 million, based on Transfermarkt’s evaluation.
This criteria leaves us with twelve players spread out across a number of countries. The first six of which are brought to you here, and these are the individuals playing in the top division of the most prominent European leagues. Let’s get started!
Douglas Luiz – Girona
Douglas Luiz, a defensive midfielder the Blues originally purchased from Brazilian side Vasco da Gama in the summer of 2017 for around 10 million euros, has had the best season by far of the three players City have sent on loan to Girona FC. This is his second year with City’s sister club, though Pep Guardiola did want to keep him in Manchester but the visa paperwork was rejected prior to the season’s start. Luiz has rebounded from a disappointing 2017-18 that culminated in 450 minutes in 17 matches to become a reliable fixture of manager Eusebio’s midfield. The 20-year old has featured in 28 matches and spent almost 2,000 minutes on the pitch, numbers that would be higher if not for three muscle injuries that forced him to miss time throughout the season.
When Luiz has played, he has impressed with his poise, technical skill (85% pass success percentage) and ability to control possession in the center of the pitch. He does need to improve on the defensive side of the ball in order to attain the quality needed to succeed in a City kit though. Luiz’s tackle success rate was close to 50% (Fernandinho’s is around 75%, for context) and it was often to easy to dribble past him, though his overall defensive contribution has improved from 2017-18.
Regardless, it is impossible to ignore the promise Luiz has shown this season. Unfortunately, his individual success hasn’t translated to the team, as Girona finished in the bottom three and have been relegated. However, flashes of individual and team success have coincided at times this year, most notably in Girona’s 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid. The winning goal originated from a Luiz interception and quick dribble around Toni Kroos in the midfield, followed by a progressive pass up to eventual goal scorer Portu on the wing .
It may be difficult to quantify what the ceiling is for Douglas Luiz, but it is safe to assume he could earn a role with City as early as next season. He may have already done so if the visa process went in the club’s favor, but it may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. Luiz is not ready to operate as a lone defensive midfielder for City right now, but could function quite well as a double pivot next to Fernandinho/Gundogan if the circumstances required it. The areas for improvement are clear, and hopefully a season learning under one of the best defensive midfielders in the world will work towards filling in those deficiencies and building on the strengths.
Patrick Roberts – Girona
Not all City loanees have thrived at Girona however, as the 22-year old Roberts has struggled mightily in his first season in Spain. After impressing during his time at Celtic, it seemed like a great time for the Englishman to take on a tougher league. Roberts’ time in La Liga can only be categorized as a disappointment though, seeing less than 600 minutes on the field with 0 goals and 0 assists, though he did produce 1.32 key passes per 90.
Roberts featured in five consecutive matches from late October to early December, but a hamstring injury then kept him out for two months and derailed any chance of rounding into form. The underlying metrics don’t make his season look any better as Roberts has been far below average in almost every attacking statistic.
His poor form finally came to a head recently, when Girona manager Eusebio Sacristán said, “Patrick Roberts isn’t in the squad. There are other players in the team I believe that are better and there’s no point entering into further details.” The stagnation in Roberts’ development at his age is confirmation that he will never reach the quality to contribute with City, but now the transfer fee he could generate may be decreasing. A return to Celtic appears possible, where he was a fan favorite, while a move to the Championship would also make sense. Next season will undoubtedly be better than this one for Patrick Roberts, we just have to hope he can rediscover the player that once showed so much promise.
Aleix Garcia – Girona
The final Blue on loan at Girona is the 21-year old Spaniard Aleix Garcia, who saw the pitch for almost 2,000 minutes across 33 appearances in all competitions. Most often used as a defensive midfielder, similar to Douglas Luiz, Garcia had a less heralded season but showed signs of promise in his own right. His versatility allowed him to play in a number of different midfield roles, giving him a chance to expand his repertoire. This expanded freedom in the midfield allowed Garcia to contribute 2 goals and 1 assist in addition to 1.56 key passes per 90 , good for fourth best on the team.
He also showed some limitations defensively, rarely being chosen to control the deep midfield on his own unless required to due to injury/suspension.
Garcia showcased a knack for being the trigger man on set pieces, even scoring on one against Alaves on a cross played perfectly into the dangerous area of the box. The Spaniard is, without a doubt, a talented player but it appears he is direct competition with Luiz for a role on City’s squad next year at best. Given the fact that the Brazilian was favored in this Girona side and Pep has openly praised him in the past, it would be a good guess to think Garcia will be loaned out again next season if he is not outright sold. A return to Girona would also be less appealing now that the CFG-owned club has been relegated to the second division.
Yangel Herrera – SD Huesca
City’s final La Liga loanee is the 21-year old Herrera, who joined SD Huesca after spending two seasons with New York City Football Club of Major League Soccer. The Venezuelan had become an integral part of NYCFC’s squad, and their form was strongly linked with whether or not Herrera was in the lineup. The transition to move to Europe was always the plan however, and Huesca jumped at the opportunity to take on the midfielder in the midst of a horrendous season. Though they will still be relegated, Huesca has only been the 15th-worst team in La Liga with Herrera after being the absolute worst beforehand. Making a direct link between his addition and the team’s “improvement” may be a stretch, but Herrera has undoubtedly had a positive impact and become a fixture on the team sheet.
His offensive numbers won’t stand out (0 goals, 0 assists, 0 etc.), yet the young midfielder’s value exists in possession retention and defensively. Herrera prefers to play short passes in the midfield and let his teammates do the progressive work, but brings a physicality and intelligence far beyond his age. It appears unlikely that Yangel Herrera will ever see serious consideration for City’s first team considering his passing limitations. That doesn’t mean he is without value as his stock will only improve with more time in European football, leading to a potentially useful future transfer. A return to Spain is a logical next step, and even a season in the second division with Huesca or Girona would be useful based on his skillset.
Manu Garcia – Toulouse
At 21 years old, Garcia joined the French side, which was recently rumored to join CFG, after a season at NAC Breda and expanded on the promise that City fans already knew he had. The Spaniard is an attacking midfielder (with the ability to play on the wing as well) that has compiled 2 goals and 4 assists across 33 appearances in all competitions for Toulouse. Garcia started consistently for most of the season’s first half but his playing time has gradually deteriorated into an even timeshare between the starting eleven and substitutions. Regardless, it is great to see him contribute so much on a team that comfortably avoided relegation in Ligue 1.
Among qualified players (> 1000 minutes), Garcia had the team’s highest expected goal buildup chains per 90 minutes, a stat that quantifies the quality of chances created from possession you are involved in. This statistic, along with the obvious technical skill and creativity Garcia naturally possesses, lends credence to the idea that the youngster is ready for a tougher challenge next season. Expect to see him with City for the preseason, but his short term future seems murky at the moment. Either way, look for Garcia to be put in a position where he face tougher challenges in order to continue his growth.
Daniel Arzani – Celtic
Arzani is a 19-year old Australian who joined Manchester City from Melbourne City last summer, and was immediately sent to Celtic on loan. A promising season in the A-League inspired the move to Europe, but Arzani never got the chance to show his abilities before suffering a season-long knee injury. The right-footed attacking midfielder/winger was eased into the squad by then-manager Brendan Rogers in order to quell some of the hype surrounding Arzani, who was the youngest player at last year’s World Cup. Unfortunately, when his time did come, he only managed 20 minutes before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. The Australian has returned to training though and looked good doing so, he seems determined to fight for minutes at Celtic next season.
That’s a wrap for part one of the Manchester City loan review for this year! Keep an eye out for part two coming your way next week with the players you need to know from the lower division of English football and less prominent European leagues.
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