From Milner To Dzeko: VMC Forum On The Ball 2
The VMC Forum Posse's review of last season's Man of The Match City Chat vote winners continues with a part two packed with more superb writing. Get a brew on and read on...
The VMC Forum Men of The Season Review
Part Two: From Milner To Dzeko
12. James Milner, 2 awards
reviewed by Rojo2010
(VMC Forum MoTM versus Salzburg H,ELGS, Leicester A FAC3)
Having played and scored in the first of Aston Villa's Premier League matches against West Ham, James Milner finally signed for City in late August 2010 after a relatively drawn out will he - won't he transfer saga. He cost a combined transfer fee of £26million (£18million cash + Stephen Ireland).
Milner hit the ground running at City, providing the assist for Gareth Barry in our 3-0 demolition of Liverpool. He continued in that vein for the next two months, starting in every game and putting in some solid performances to boot.
But in the run up to Christmas and continuing into the New Year, Jimmy's season took a bit of a dip as he found himself warming the bench and playing more of a bit-part role as the City Funbus parked itself on every conceivable goal line it could find.
Cue the Jimmy bashing. All of a sudden City had been duped into buying the next best British flop; another unhappy multi-million pound mercenary on the books causing dressing room unrest and fighting with our much maligned manager. The hacks were out in force.
Away from the Premier League in early January, Milner scored his first goal for us in the 2-2 FA Cup draw with Leicester. It was a poignant goal, scored in the 24th minute of the game, the point at which the red & black clad City fans turned away from the action to honour Neil Young, the late Great who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The goal itself was a moment of pure class as he collected a return pass from Tevez before ghosting behind the defender and firing past the Leicester keeper.
His most telling contribution to City's season for me came in his performance against Spurs in what was a season defining game - his clever return play from a quick corner allowing him the freedom of Eastlands to dash into the box and fire a fierce shot across the goal that was deflected into the Spurs net via what appeared to be a giraffe. Although match reports have accredited the own-goal to one Mr. Peter Crouch, I'm still not convinced.
City were Champions League bound.
Milner is a 'traditional winger' with the ability to pass a player and fire a cross into a box with ease. He does all the simple things well and always tracks back to help defenders out. But the age of the traditional winger has passed. It's all about pace, power and trickery now. Teams don't use wingers anymore, they deploy 'wide men' and I don't think Milner fits the mould of yer Walcott's, Lennon's and Nani's.
This isn't a bad thing because I think that Milner only prospers when he is played in the centre of the park anyway. His ability to pick out a pass through the centre is second to none and he has a great read of the game from that position. He rarely dithers on the ball, is a solid and quite aggressive tackler who knows how and when to break up opposition play. A brilliant footballer who many argue still has it all to prove, but in his 24 PL starts last season he did more than enough to convince me of his ability. If he gets the chance and is played in his correct position, this kid will only get better.
Depending on who we bring in this summer, I would expect Milner to be pushing Barry to the bench and adding a bit more flair to the defensively minded midfield that our Italian Bobby is so keen on.
11. Nigel De Jong, 2 awards
reviewed by PhillyBlueMoon
(VMC Forum MoTM versus Birmingham H, Reading H, FAC QF)
Nigel de Jong - City's Player of the Year. A lot can be said about Nigel de Jong, and if you're a fan of Spain, Newcastle United, and the United States, it probably won't be nice. However, if you bleed Blue like I do you might just feel he's been our Player of the Year. Let's take a look at City's overall performance last season in the Premier League:
League (with de Jong)
Played - 32
Wins - 20
Losses - 6
Draws - 6
GF - 51
GA - 21
CS - 17
League (without de Jong)
Played - 6
Wings - 1
Losses - 3
Draws - 2
GF - 9
GA - 12
CS - 1
The fact that City's winning percentage with de Jong (62.5%) is almost 4 times higher than without him (16.7%) speaks volumes in itself.
The team let in, on average, 2 goals per game with de Jong on the sidelines while only allowing 1.6 goals per game with him on the pitch. His physical style, coupled with his attitude of never quitting or backing down makes him, in my opinion, one of the most important players City have had in quite some time.
In conclusion, the £18m spent on de Jong during the January transfer window two seasons ago was, quite possibly, the best bit of business done by Mark Hughes during his time at City. Say what you will about Tevez banging in goals and being the talisman, Nigel has never had a bust up with the manager, never wanted to leave the club, and certainly never brought drama aside from the stunning first goal he scored for the club from 25 yards out. Most players wouldn't come back on the pitch with minor injuries, but Nigel, bandaged head and all, will always be on the pitch unless he's suspended or hospitalized, and that is why he is clearly City`s Man of the Season.
10. Mario Balotelli, 2 awards
reviewed by pacific ocean blue
(VMC Forum MoTM versus Villa H, Stoke FAC F)
Mario certainly made a huge impact in his first season at Manchester City.
He came with a reputation for brilliant play and moody demeanour and did not disappoint in either category.
His first appearance for our boys was as a substitute in the Europa League road trip to Timisoara in which he scored a sharp goal and picked up a caution in his cameo role which set the tone for the rest of the season.
Stories of being homesick, hating the food in Manchester, training ground bust-ups with colleagues, lawn darts using youth players as targets, moody demeanours even after scoring and a pretty horrible disciplinary record (not all of it deserved) kept the scummier elements of the press busy with cheap shock-horror stories for slow news days.
On the field, however, there was much to admire with a respectable scoring rate and as the season progressed, a more rounded team player. He saved some of his premier performances for the biggest occasions with an awesome display against the old enemy in the FA Semi Final and was named 'Man of the Match' in the Final against hapless Stoke City but in true Balotelli fashion he ended the season injured and missed the homecoming parade due to an international call-up which once again provided fuel to the haters' fire.
My view of his first season here is that it confirmed what we expected. That we have a very special young man on our hands but he is high-maintenence and will never be to everybody's taste. He is an intelligent, generous and sensitive young man who will improve to be a world star if he can keep his head together and not be distracted by a hostile, cheap-shotting press and the sheep who swallow their trash.
9. Joe Hart, 3 awards
reviewed by Stu MCFC
(VMC Forum MoTM versus Spurs A, Blackpool H, Arsenal A)
Few could have guessed that Joe Hart would improve on his breakout season on loan at Birmingham in the season just elapsed.
In fact, we City fans weren't even sure he would be our number one until the opening day of the season against Spurs when Mancini picked him ahead of Shay Given. What an inspired move that turned out to be as he single-handedly earned a City team looking not quite ready for the new season a draw with a masterclass in goalkeeping that will be remembered for many a year. Hart went from strength to strength after that and by the end of the season had broken Nicky Weaver's club record for most clean sheets while at the same time winning the Barclays Golden Glove award for most clean sheets.
This was also the season when Hart made himself England's Number One, a position he is almost unchallenged for now and looks set to hold for many a year with the lack of quality English goalkeepers around. Hart has all the attributes of a top class goalkeeper and has already been praised by goalkeeping giants Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon as one of the best young keepers in world football.
Hart is by no means the finished product and at times has made mistakes but a telling sign is that he has not allowed any errors to destroy his confidence like many other English goalkeepers have. With another year of experience behind him and one of the Premier League's meanest defences standing guard in front of him, Joe will look to improve even more next season as City look to push on in the Premier League while entering the prestigious Champions League for the first time.
8. Adam Johnson, 3 awards
reviewed by Cochise
(VMC Forum MoTM versus Blackburn H, Juventus A ELGS, Leicester H FAC3R)
Pace, sublime skills and being a great finisher make Johnson one of City's true game breakers and a joy to watch. The issue for Johnson and Manchester City as seen over the season is that his best performances have come from cameos from the bench, highlighted when he scored the winner against Newcastle at home.
However, when he starts, his consistency is questionable where he tends to either drift in and out of games or in some cases completely fades away. Not starting regularly proved frustrating for Johnson which led to Mancini questioning his attitude, essentially setting up a challenge for Johnson. He responded to this by coming back early from a longish injury lay off to play a strong part in the crucial end of season games in both the PL and FA Cup.
7. Edin Dzeko, 3 awards
reviewed by Johnny Baguette
(VMC Forum MoTM versus Aris A, ELR32 1L, Notts County H, FAC4R, Aris H, ELR32 2L)
Dzeko came to town from Wolfsburg amid a blaze of midwinter publicity and to be frank, was unfairly expected to hit the ground running with an immediate goalfest.
The giant young striker is by all accounts tremendously likeable, intelligent and has fitted in smoothly to Mancio's strict team ethic. The lad might not be the quickest forward around but you get the feeling that once one of his bullet headers goes in he'll be weighing in next season with a fare share of goals.
He gave City that added bit of muscle up front that gave defenders something to think about and some of his lung bursting performances put previous pisspoor efforts from erstwhile big target men Crocky Santa Cruz and EmmanuReal Adebayor to absolute shame. His crucial goal at Notts County must never be forgotten in the scope of City's first trophy win for three decades.
Part Three, From Richards To Silva follows shortly...Stay Tuned...
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