Man City Player Ratings 2019/20 – Part One – The Defence

What a season it’s been, and by season, I mean spring – we’ve had no losses, no injuries, we’ve not even conceded a goal. Having said that, we’ve played no games either, and I’ve not left the house in five weeks, and David Silva’s last game in a Manchester City shirt may well have been a scrappy 1-0 away win at Sheffield Wednesday – that’s like Gordon Ramsay’s last ever signature dish being a Rustlers Chicken Burger, or Tom Hanks’ last ever film being a guest appearance in ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop 3’ – it just shouldn’t be that way.

He’s the best to ever do it in blue. I’ve not grown up watching him and waiting 10 years only to celebrate his achievements in such lacklustre, disappointing fashion… mind you, at least I’ve not had to wait 30… that really would’ve stung. And at least his last ever game wasn’t a 6-1 loss at Sto-ANYWAY, the player ratings, ah yes.

So, I’m writing these assuming the season has finished, whether we get to see David play in blue again remains to be seen. Who knows, we may even end up in Istanbul in August. But for now, I’m writing these ratings as of 18th April 2020 – so many of Nicolas Otamendi’s kamikaze acts of faux-valiance are still fresh in the mind. However, of all the challenges that man has committed to, none of them have been as hard as the challenge of writing something meaningful about Joao Cancelo.

So please go easy on me if you’re not happy with some of the ratings – I got a death threat off some Malaysian guy on WordPress last season for giving Claudio Bravo a 1/10, and for all I know he could still be after me – all I’m saying is I don’t want City Xtra to get caught up in the plot of Taken 4, it’s only football at the end of the day, no man deserves to be shot at point blank range whilst reading a Tuttosport transfer rumour article. So, let’s get to it.

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GOALKEEPERS

Ederson – 6

Last season the main man got a 9/10. I lauded him as being ‘reptilian’, and whilst this was praise at the time, it was praise that has come back to haunt me. I guess this season he has been a reptile, but more in the biological sense than the figurative – reptiles are cold-blooded, meaning they can’t produce their own body heat. As a result of this, they naturally tend to stay stationary for long periods of time, which is exactly what happened in the first home game of the season, when Erik Lamela passed the ball into the middle of the goal from 25 yards apropos of nothing.

He’s been by no means bad, but certainly frustrating at times. Of course the collective drop off of the squad with the added omission of Aymeric Laporte for large periods doesn’t help at all, but realistically there were many games where he just underwhelmed and complimented it with the odd suicidal mistake, like the one he made in our most recent game at Old Trafford.

A world class keeper who I wouldn’t swap for anyone – he just needs to switch on again whenever the football restarts, nothing drastic – he’ll be back to his best in no time.

Note: I was going to score him a 7, but had to deduct a point for his incessant willingness to get about in SikSilk gear – I don’t make the rules.

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Photo via Instagram: ederson93

Claudio Bravo – 4

If you’re reading this Mum, it might already be too late. After foolishly giving Claudio Bravo a 1/10 last season, I’m now very much on borrowed time – this is a formal apology to the Malaysian man who wants me dead. In an attempt to put an end to this manhunt, I considered giving Claudio a 10 to appease you, but I’d rather die with some dignity, so he gets a ‘4’.

So why a 4/10 you ask? Well, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is; Claudio Bravo had to play at Anfield in which he let everything past him including a tame driven shot that was hit at toddler height by Fabinho. He also came on in the Champions League and immediately got himself sent off, meaning Kyle Walker had to play in goal… I know – gutting. On a more positive note: he made a big save in the Carabao Cup final, so… every cloud. You’re still thinking about the bad news, aren’t you?

Look, I think at this point I’m just better off admitting that I have a grudge against Bravo due to the fact I held him accountable for many of the world’s social and geopolitical problems throughout the 16/17 season. His performances genuinely scarred me for life. Each season now, I recover ever so slightly, and I think I’ve finally reached the point where I can say “you know what Claudio, despite the fact you’d only be tall enough to go on about five rides at Alton Towers – I admire your persistence when it comes to being a goalkeeper”.

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Scott Carson – 1, but also a 10 at the same time.

Scott Carson is three years younger than Claudio Bravo – you didn’t know that did you? It’s even weirder given the fact I thought he was 35 in 2008, he just sounds old.

Anyway, Scott Carson’s job is literally to train Claudio Bravo, which speaks volumes of the man. There’s two ways of looking at it – you’re either one of those people who says, “Scott Carson is rubbish, he couldn’t save a word document, or catch a cold, my Nan is better than him”, or you’re one of those who can see the truth – no man should be training another man three years his senior. His raw untamed power is almost frightening – he’s like a Padawan that’s more powerful than his master, only this time with a seat on the council.

Scores a ‘1’ because he doesn’t play, but he also gets a 10 because well, him and Richard Wright are taking the absolute p*ss and it’s great to see. The man won a Champions League in Istanbul at 20 – perhaps he’s here to do it again at 33.

DEFENDERS

Kyle Walker – 7

Better than last season, but still with the same erratic tendencies – in many ways, his off-field antics are a fitting metaphor for his on. It was only the other week that ‘man-like Kyle‘ hosted a sex party, now I can’t have a pop at him for that – if I was a footballer I’d probably do the same. Unfortunately ‘Content Creator at City Xtra’ hasn’t quite reached that level of status yet, but that’s what we’re aiming for so make sure you’re following us.

Anyway, Kyle got his end away – fair play. But what he then proceeded to do was address his 3.2 million social media followers, telling them to ‘Stay home, protect the NHS and save lives’, all while keeping a straight face knowing that hours before he’d been bonking a stranger.

Now, I have no doubt that his PR team made him do that, but I find it equally as irresponsible when we get well beaten by Manchester United at home, with Kyle dropping one of his occasional hap hazardous performances, only to see his response to the defeat is him showing us his take on the ‘Dolly Parton challenge‘ – I don’t need to see what your tinder profile picture is Kyle, you evidently have no need for that app.

All jokes aside though, he’s improved massively on last season and has probably been our most capable, readily-available defender throughout this season. I said it after the game and I fully stick by it – he was my MOTM away at Real Madrid. It was a performance with a level of assurance I’ve not seen at right back since Pablo Zabaleta, and I think give him Aymeric Laporte and another competent centre-half to play with next season and we can get another two years out of him at a minimum.

He also scored the winner at home to Southampton and saved a free kick – something Bravo is yet to do. So yeah, given that last season I thought his days could be numbered at the club, he seems to have recovered from whatever physical/mental fatigue he was enduring back then. Chapeau.

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Joao Cancelo – 4

I am ambivalent about Joao Cancelo. I think he’s a very gifted footballer, but probably more of an auxiliary winger than a traditional full-back. I just don’t really know what to think of him, given the fact that we signed him at the expense of Danilo. His listless performances have been all that harder to take.

I don’t want to go ‘full Graeme Souness‘ here and say that if a player wants to reach the top, his personal trainer needs to be an S.A.S counter terrorist operative who will beat you to within an inch of your life if even your kids try to download TikTok, but I just feel that Kyle Walker will always be a much better suited right-back than Cancelo because he’s just a bit more tough.

It really feels at the moment like Sean Dyche could stick Chris Wood out on the left-hand side and Cancelo would have a tough time of things. I’m willing to give the guy a chance though. I stuck by Riyad Mahrez and I’ll stand by him – he didn’t get the most assists for Juventus last season out of sheer luck. I just miss the defensive assurity and versatility that Danilo brought, and I sincerely hope that Joao can add that to his game.

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Nicolas Otamendi – 3

About five or six weeks ago, after the 2-0 defeat to United, I decided to tweet this:INLINETwitter

Now it may be a slight exaggeration to call a man who kicks a ball for a living a “war criminal”, but he barely does that does he? He just falls to the ground like a human bowling pin and then immediately scrambles to get back up as if to create a visage that resembles some form of concerted effort.

If Franz Beckenbauer was your Elvis Presley, and Franco Baresi and Paolo Maldini were your Michael Jackson and Freddie Mercury – Otamendi is your ‘Tekashi 6ix9ine‘. He’s been good in the past, but this season the art of defending seems to have escaped a man so premature he screams in the queue for a roller coaster.

His under-hit back pass to Ederson at Carrow Road was so lazy it was contemptuous. The team then picked themselves up again, only for him to repeat his same scornful antics at home to Wolves – how many setbacks can one team face at the hands of a single individual before collective heads begin to drop?

The only reason I can’t go lower than a ‘3’ for Nico’ is because the club are partly at fault here as well – the decision to sell Vincent Kompany without replacing him was, as we all know now, suicide. As soon as Laporte was ruled out for the half the season, the responsibility of maintaining an assured back-line rested on the shoulders of a man who was probably thinking about leaving in the summer. It’s little surprise that within a couple of weeks, that responsibility had to be transferred to the shoulders of a 34-year-old holding midfielder who was meant to be playing significantly less games this season – it’s a joke really and our languid defence of the title this year boils down to those individuals and the decisions made by higher-ups that have affected them. Having said that, he simply doesn’t cut it anymore and has to be moved on in the summer for me.

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Taylor Harwood-Bellis – 6

Looks a real prospect, and although he is yet to face a real challenge, he has barely put a foot wrong so far – only lost a mark because he let that Tom Pope beat him to a header and score, which was mildly annoying because it inflated his ego way beyond where it should’ve been and had all the LADBible gang saying “Pure class!” or “What a guy!”, followed by about four or five ‘crying laughing‘ emoji’s – just to eradicate any comedic insecurity and reinforce the fact that this is actually a funny event that you should be laughing at, just in case you weren’t whatsoever.

Eric Garcia – 7

He’s got something about him – his appetite for the game is apparent on and off the pitch. His ability to seamlessly transition between lavish Spanish footballer, to University Challenge hermit is powerful. Almost definitely has 800+ hours on a single football manager save. Whether he makes it at City or not, he’s going far in the sport.

John Stones – 4

If a footballer were an unpaid invoice, it’d be John Stones. So much promise, so much potential, and if we’re being totally honest, you kind of owe us something substantial now. I want him to succeed just like we all do, but he’s 26 soon – he should really be at a stage where a consistent level of nous and maturity is apparent week in week out.

The blunder in the Carabao Cup final was the archetypal John Stones error – part of him wanted to head the ball, part of him wanted to meet the bounce and clear it, in the end time ran out and he just malfunctioned, collapsing to the floor and costing us a goal. He just doesn’t know what he’s meant to be, not because Pep’s instructions are lost in translation, but probably because he’s grown up with people like Paul Merson and Richard Keys in his ear telling him that anyone called John must defend wearing clogs with a pint in their right hand.

He’s shown glimpses of what he’s capable of in past seasons but it’s still not happened for real. By now you’d have hoped he’d be able to fill the boots of a Laporte, and be that leader and focal point of the back four, but he just hasn’t, and I’m not sure he ever will.

The good thing is that Stones fits the system, so there’s not a chance the club will let him go in the summer – if he’s supplemented by the return of Laporte and another top class defender, we’ll probably see the best of him once again, just like we did in the first half of our previous two seasons – consistently playing alongside leaders on both occasions.

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Aymeric Laporte – 7

He’s the difference maker. Forget De Bruyne – you saw what we did last season without him in the team. As soon as Laporte pulled up at home to Brighton, that was the nail in the coffin, and it was the only nail – one great big nail. It was the one injury that made the 19 other teams smell blood, and yes, I include bottom of the table Norwich in that, because they immediately set the trend by sieging and swamping our centre halves to frightening effect.

For the next few months after Norwich, Manchester City had fewer clean sheets than Alan Brazil after an Indian takeout. We tried to put a stop to the chaos by playing literally anyone there – Stones, Otamendi, Rodri, Fernandinho, Walker, Garcia, Harwood-Bellis – it reached a point where I half expected Brian Kidd to say “f**k this” and roll back the years.

The reason Laporte gets a ‘7’ is based off one game alone, and that was his return away to Sheffield United – one of the hardest games of the season statistically speaking. It was like he’d never been gone! All of a sudden, Otamendi didn’t look like a competition winner – we took control of a very tough environment and ground out all three points. That’s all we’d missed those months gone by and for the whole season really – we’d probably have had 20 odd points more with him available.

Had we replaced Vincent Kompany; I wouldn’t even be saying all this. But more on that later.

I would’ve given him an ‘8’ if it wasn’t for his recent twitter antics – calling yourself “Waporte” and tweeting “Big dub” is simply unacceptable at his big age – I bet he walks round the CFA calling Aguero a “stat-padder” and De Bruyne a “crossing merchant”. Rare L.

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Benjamin Mendy – 7

On performances alone, he probably merits less than a ‘7’, but context is very important in this instance. This is a man who’s barely been able to walk for his first two seasons at the club – I thought it was going to take a South African pastor to resurrect his mobility this season but apparently Dr Cugat suffices just as well.

An ACL injury is the worst injury possible for a player like Mendy, who relies so heavily on his explosive and quick-off-the-mark actions, so for him to come back and somewhat rediscover the ability to do that is no mean feat.

Has he excelled this season? Not at all. Has he played football to an adequate standard though? Yes, and that’s all you can ask for having been a glorified cheerleader for the past two years. As expected; his own body has been inhibiting him this season. If he can break free from those shackles – much like Kompany did in around 2017 – then we could still have a very good left-back on our hands. Let’s not forget who this guy was at Monaco just yet.

I still want another actual left back in the summer though, someone who can come in for Mendy and we can all say “Yes, he’s definitely a left back” and not just some lad who’s quite clearly a mid-table level attacking midfielder who’s somehow managed to go under the radar at left-back amidst all the domination and trophies due to the fact he’s tidy on the ball… more on him now.

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Oleksandr Zinchenko – 5

Firstly, there’s not one player I admire more from a humanistic viewpoint than Zinchenko – a real rags to riches story, plucked off the streets of Ukraine as an adolescent only to be winning the Premier league a couple years later. Not only that, he also turned down to opportunity to leave for more game time in the summer of 2018, instead deciding to fight for his place in the face of adversity, with a helping hand from Mendy’s Meccano ligaments.

But the glib truth is, and always will be, that he’s simply not a left-back, nor is he adept enough going forward to be a useful attacking asset in our team.

He occasionally blends in when the team are at their most imposing, cohesive best, but if he played at left-back for any other team in the league, he’d be replaced by anyone who even ticks a single box of the basic requirements of a left-back. He can keep the ball and that’s about it – most of the time that’s all you need to do when Kevin De Bruyne and co are in front of you. But he can’t overlap, he’s weak in the air and generally speaking he just can’t defend properly when someone gets at him – he just simply exists on the pitch for 60% of the season, having little tangible effect on any game.

This may sound really harsh, but my point is, and it’s just an opinion of course; if you took any tidy left footed player, Jack Wilshere for example, and you stuck him at left-back in this Pep Guardiola team, the result would be almost identical and we’d get away with it most games as we tend to do.

But when we don’t get away with it, Zinchenko sticks out like a sore thumb. It’s nothing against him – it’s not like how Nicolas Otamendi has the audacity to walk around Alderley Edge or wherever he lives, telling everyone he’s a “central defender” – but Zinny’s just pretty vapid in a position that’s most likely near the very bottom of positions he’d prefer to play.

A work ethic like few others, but if we’re going to build a team to compete on four fronts, I don’t want to have to solely rely on a left back that’s in a toxic relationship with his own quadriceps – so I’d move Zinchenko on.

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Angelino – 5

Imagine landing your dream job as a chef at a Michelin star restaurant. It’s the best restaurant in the country, possibly the world, record numbers of people are turning up to this restaurant and it’s projected to go on to do bigger and better things.

You rock up on your first day and the head chef suffers a knee injury forcing him to go home. You turn to your colleagues, “what ingredients do we use for the beef bourguignon?” you ask, expecting them to give you a helping hand since they’ve been working there a while. They all look at you and shrug their shoulders “f**k knows mate” they say – you suddenly realise the head chef must’ve been the only competent one upholding the restaurants elite reputation, the rest are just winging every meal hoping to keep complaints at a minimum.

That day one of your colleagues – Nicolas he’s called – accidentally used chicken in the beef bourguignon instead of beef. Complaints flooded in and he defended his actions by saying that once he’d committed to putting the chicken in the oven, “there was no turning back”. The other chef – John – saw what Nicolas was doing and started to second guess whether you actually put chicken in a beef bourguignon, even though he knew that the word “beef” must mean you use beef. He didn’t raise the issue to Nicolas and instead he stressed himself out so much that he didn’t end up cooking anything at all. So not only were the meals made wrong, there wasn’t enough of them either.

It’s pandemonium, everyone is asking to see the manager, he’s sat in his office sipping Harrogate water and sweating profusely. He orders the 34 year-old accounts manager to go downstairs and do a shift in the kitchen to sort everyone else’s mess out. The manager then goes down to the kitchen and demands answers from his staff, the blame quickly shifts to you – the new guy – as the more senior chef’s reputation and past records are unspeakably impressive – it couldn’t possibly be their fault.

After the shambolic evening, redundancies are promised from the higher ups in order to stop Gordon Ramsay sniffing around for a new TV gig. You and the other new chef, Joao, are in the firing line. Unfortunately, you take the hit since Joao’s previously worked at another top restaurant and “just looks like he can cook”. After working so hard for your dream job, you’re let down and thrown under the bus by others…

…Or maybe he was just bang average, I don’t really know to be honest – best of luck at Leipzig anyway.

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You can follow Adam on twitter here: @_adammonk

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