Javi Garcia: 29 Appearances: Rating 5-8/10
I'm taking the coward's way out with Javi Garcia. You know as well as I there were matches where the best looking player to wear the shirt was all but invisible. You know as well as I there were matches down the stretch where he was all but indispensable. For nearly a year and a half, in every game after his first in a City shirt, Javi Garcia was thought to be the worst regular we had. Kolarov at his lowest didn't reach the depths of Javi; at least Kolarov was always a monster on set pieces; Javi didn't seem all that good at anything he tried, be it Center Back (atrocious), Central Defensive Mid (horrific) or the few times he was played at Central Attacking Mid (less said the better). And in the last two weeks of the season, Fernandinho was essentially benched in place of Javi Garcia. That would be the Fernandinho who rated a 9 a day or so ago by the inestimable kmoney (seriously, Danny, give the guy a raise already).
So what happened? What turned the worst regular in a City shirt to one of the best? If I weren't incurably tired from being a teacher, I'd do the research that shuddertothink and Zac are so good at so I'll just speak from the cuff and say the difference between the Javi of last season-the one we would've literally traded for a bag of balls and a case of Gatorade-and the Javi of this season is this: Manuel Pellegrini saw value where Roberto Mancini saw none.
Recall last season. I know. I want to forget it, too. But let's take a moment. Nasri was all but out the door and playing like it. Dzeko was in year 2 of wondering aloud if like really wasn't better back in the Bundesliga. Kolarov was invisible except for the aforementioned free kicks and Javi Garcia was invisible, period. What we now know is that Mancini essentially had a system where there was competition at every position and if you finished second in your position, you were essentially in the doghouse. There were players Mancini had use for and players for which he had no use; James Milner spent the early part of last season so low in the roster, most of us assumed he was injured. Except he wasn't all the hurt, it's just Mancini didn't see any value there. Milner worked his backside off, as he always does, didn't complain and he was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise desultory season. He made it out of the doghouse. The other four above never really got out. If Mancini stayed, there is but no doubt in my mind that all four move one in some way, shape or form.
Enter Pellegrini who grants Edin Dzeko the well-publicized number one slot as striker (Dzeko played himself out of it and then right back into it). He granted Nasri all the playing time the Frenchman could stand. Kolarov was rejuvenated. But less well publicized was what he did for Javi Garcia. Two players who were treated like saints from the moment they wore the uniform were Milner and Gareth Barry. I believe Barry was allowed to walk not just because we had Fernandinho. No, I believe Barry was allowed to walk because Pellegrini honestly saw him as fourth best behind Yaya, Fernandinho... and Javi Garcia. Yes, I know Barry played well in Everton but let's ask ourselves this: would you rather have Barry down the stretch or Javi? That would be the Javi Garcia who was instrumental in some enormous wins, and those wins led us to lifting the league title for the second time in three seasons.
All but left for dead as a player. He played some stinkers (I'm thinking of the execrable 1-0 loss to Sunderland, among others) but he played more matches where he was essential on the pitch. Manuel Pellegrini saw value in Javi Garcia where most of us saw none. Fernandinho gets a knock in the last few weeks? In comes Javi and City doesn't miss a beat. Fernandinho gets healthy? Javi still played. And he played damn well. And I'm damned if I know how to rate him. Between 5-8 is 6.5 or so but 65% is a below average mark in my business. He gets extra credit from this instructor for his yeoman effort when the matches mattered most. I'll settle for a 7.5 and close with a statement no one wanted to make after last season, at least not with a straight face: I really hope Javi Garcia is wearing a Man City shirt in the next campaign.