What to make of man City's midfield last season? Well, we had the peerless beast in Toure. The aging steady hand in Barry. The disappointment in Garcia and the talented but oft-injured prospect in Rodwell. In short that group probably wasn't good enough and it came as no surprise that a midfielder of genuine talent and experience was purchased.
Let's first look back at how Man City's midfielders performed last year.
2012/13 Premier league
Shots And Goals
Pretty clear what we have here.
Toure was the midfielder who was the creator, the shooter;the all action midfield star. Toure posted some excellent shot numbers when we consider that although he did play in attacking position at times last year, he was also playing quite deep against certain teams.
Gareth Barry was, is not and never will be a player who generates shots for his team or scores goals. Barry was a mere cog, a cycle player who kept the ball moving and was always an available pass option to his team-mates. Barry's shortcomings are pretty well known.
Garcia, a little like Barry, will never be a shots player or a creative midfielder. Garcia has some nice skills at set pieces and his anticipation in open play is pretty good but it's fair to say more was expected.
Rodwell posts some pretty nice shots numbers here which may be a small glimmer of hope about what type of player he may be in the future. It must be said that Rodwell hardly played and this may be boosting his numbers. If Rodwell can reproduce numbers at a shade below those in the chart above whilst playing ~50% of PL minutes (ToP%) then we may all feel more optimistic about his future.
Michael Johnson would be in that chart if the tools he has to cope with life and it's pressures were a little bit stronger than they actually are.
Passes, Giveaways And Takeaways
All numbers per 90 minutes.
Some pretty interesting information here. Toure is the beast, the high volume hub of the midfield. Barry posts some excellent takeaways (interceptions+tackles) numbers while Garcia isn't too far off that. Rodwell needs to play more for us to know who he is.
Passes per 90 is pretty interesting. It shows that Toure is the player who controls most of the play in Man City's midfield. Although Garcia may well be a replacement for Barry, his passes per 90 is pretty short of what may be required. The gap between Garcia's passes per 90 and Barry's passes per 90 is bigger than the gap between Toure and Barry. That is pretty telling.
Let's visualize this.
Size of the bubble indicates the +/- in giveaways/takeaways.
Now, I really don't like using a +/- stat to analyse anything. But I included it here for reasons I can't explain. Garcia wins it.
Toure is a low takeaway player when judged against his City team-mates and he has the joint highest giveaway number. What to make of this? Toure isn't a great presser of the opposition and his defensive awareness isn't great. The high giveaway figure is probably caused by the high risk high reward forward areas that Toure operates in at times.
Rodwell is a pretty low event player and we can't judge him too much. Barry is a player who excels at taking the ball from the opposition (tackles+interceptions) but his giveaway number is pretty high. Garcia, the player with the best +/- very rarely gives the ball away (10 yard passes only?) but is a fine player at getting the ball back from the opposition.
Horses for courses. Average player position with and without the ball would really add to that chart above. If we knew the zones in which these midfielders operated in it would really help. Higher up the pitch=more giveaways and less takeaways. Lower down the pitch=more takeaways and less giveaways (safe passes). Knowing this and looking at that +/- chart again would it be fair to conclude that Toure and Rodwell would be more advanced midfielders with Barry slightly deeper and Garcia never venturing far his defensive responsibilities?
We know what types of players these boys are, we know how they performed last season but what would be the reasonable expectations in terms of performance be for this group next season?
Depth Chart & Expectations
#1 Yaya Toure No real doubt here, Toure is our number 1 midfielder. he is a player who can control play from deep or take off on rampaging runs that break the opponents lines and score goals. He cannot win the win ball back so in order to for Man City's midfield to excel he needs to be paired with an athletic ball winning midfielder. Will play every minute when fit.
#2 Fernandinho Man City's new and most expensive summer signing is summed up in the last sentence of the blurb about Toure. Athletic, can play a defensive and offensive game if needed but his most striking tool is his pace and 5 yard agility. fennandinho eats up the ground and has quick feet to boot, this enables him to strip the opposition of the ball and it also enables to dribble around or outpace the opponent in attack. #2 midfielder will see heavy minutes once up to speed with the new league.
#3 Rodwell I know this is somewhat of a contentious choice but I believe he has the ability to usurp the aging Barry in the depth chart. Rodwell, if fit, and it's a big if, will see a lot of time from the bench where his athleticism can change the game. Rodwell is a good all round midfielder who can sit deep but is probably better suited to the type of game Yaya Toure plays. He's a roamer who can generate shots and score #3 impact sub and occasional starter who will improve with playing time.
#4 Barry Gareth is placed here for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he is a risk to be transferred and secondly his ability to win the ball and keep the ball ticking over has been replaced by a younger, quicker and more versatile man who well get the pus due to the size of the fee paid. It's a little harsh on Barry, but his age and slowing limbs meant this was always likely to happen. An understudy and steady hand when selected. Could see a drastic reduction in his minutes played.
#5 Garcia Could be a long term replacement for Barry in this Man City squad. Very good at winning the ball back and anticipating attacks but lacks the pace and a multidimensional game to be able to play consistently at a top club. best hope is to be converted into a center back. Will get minutes in midfield but only due to injury and possibly in games where Pellegrini feels we may be over matched in midfield (rare).
It is an exciting time for this Man City midfield. Toure is still the beast, we have added a multi-skilled midfielder in Fernandinho who, if he clicks with Toure, could form a devastating partnership. Rodwell is a nice piece for the future and some decent service could be squeezed out of Barry and Garcia.
Toure and Fernandinho could absolutely dominate the Premier League.