Transfer Deadline Day Reflections

Robert Cianflone

Three games. Just 270 minutes of football.

A mere drop in the ocean in comparison to a whole season but nonetheless enough to convince Manuel Pellegrini (and Txiki Begiristain) to make a late move for Martin Demichelis to shore up a defence that has largely failed to answer the questions posed of it so far.

City had been lauded throughout the transfer window for their ability to have identified their targets, concluded their business early and stood by as the majority of the Premier League descended into meltdown this past week.

Possessing what appeared to be a set of players he was happy with, Pellegrini saw his City side rebound from the shock defeat at Cardiff to defeat Hull 2-0 on Saturday and place themselves amongst the leading pack.

A clean sheet was also a welcome sight following the three goals conceded in South Wales but if anything, the defensive performance against Hull was one that was of graver concern to Pellegrini than against Cardiff and necessitated the late move for Demichelis. The move had more than a hint of panic but was one borne out of necessity.

When Vincent Kompany fell to the turf just 71 minutes into the season concerned eyebrows were raised. This was amplified of course by the fact that Matija Nastasic was also missing the early season games. Nastasic may have recovered to start against Hull, but it was an at times rusty performance and the twin absences provided stark evidence of the lack of quality depth in the central defensive positions.

All of which reflects poorly on Joleon Lescott of course. A player who not much more than 12 months removed was celebrating a Premier League title win on the back of arguably the best form of his career and, with the travails of Rio Ferdinand and John Terry, started England's Euro 2012 campaign. Against Hull, deployed on the right hand side of defence and operating in a high defensive line, Lescott's lack of mobility and sure footedness was exposed.

He is a player of qualities undoubtedly, but his limitations were exposed none moreso than when Sone Auko comfortably breezed past him and only a poor finish prevented City from falling behind. Equally telling, there appear to be no moves to extend his current deal which expires at the end of the current season.

There were those, and I include myself in this group, that did think the depth City possess would be sufficient, that Lescott as a backup supplemented by Javi Garcia and/or Micah Richards would suffice, that the defensive pairing is not an area you generally rotate; familiarity and understanding key components of any partnership.

The injuries suffered by both Kompany and Nastasic have sharpened minds however and perhaps even with Pellegrini arriving early in the summer and, one presumes, having plenty of time with the squad, was not unable to foresee how City exposed against the live bullets of the Premier League. If this wasn't the case it begs the question as to why this move wasn't made earlier in the window, in similar fashion to the arrivals of Fernandinho, Jesus Navas, Alvaro Negredo and Stefan Jovetic.

After all, the presumption is that the principal attraction of Demichelis was his familiarity to Pellegrini having played his most recent football under the Chilean. Why then, given that the Argentinian was available on a free transfer in the summer, was he not added earlier in the window, a time when other alternatives may even been have available?

City have been rightly praised for their recruitment policy over the summer but proved that even they are not averse to some last minute panic buying.

Amidst the myriad of loan moves for some of the younger members of the squad was the late departure of someone at the other end of the scale - Gareth Barry. A permanent fixture under both Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini (and it would make eye watering reading to see the list of players signed since he arrived four years or so ago) he has anchored the City midfield whilst the flashier lights around him garnered the praise.

So to see him cast aside this season, effectively bringing about the end of his City career (with just one year on his deal remaining) has an undignified air to it. The signing in particular of Fernandinho has pushed Barry down the pecking order and he is also in competition with James Milner and Jack Rodwell, the latter hoping for a full injury-free season, for a space. One thing City have done well this season is rid themselves of plenty of dead money from the wage bill and it is not a stretch to imagine that Barry is at the high of end of earners at City and there is a real desire to mak cuts (which is likely playing against Lescott too), so to trim even more for a player who Pellegrini does not appear to favour makes practical sense.

Equally you cannot fault Barry for making the move in what is a World Cup year and his last real chance to feature in one, however slim his opportunity may be. Having fallen out of favour he will unlikely get enough minutes at City this season which the move to Everton affords him.

That said, there will undoubtedly come a time during the course of the season where Barry's presence on the side will be sorely missed.

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