CITYWATCH: A View From Spain and Pick of the Players #3

On a day where a handful of goals, controversial refereeing decisions and unsavoury scenes between players were widely expected in the first El Clasico of the 2016/17 La Liga season, it was the English lunchtime top of the table clash between Manchester City and Chelsea which offered all of the fireworks one would traditionally expect of a Real Madrid and FC Barcelona derby. Just like his former Barcelona side, Pep Guardiola was unable to come away with all three points with both Barcelona and Manchester City later rueing the number of missed chances which both clubs had at aplenty to kill off the game earlier on. In a similar fashion to City’s fate against Chelsea, the longer the game went on and FC Barcelona failed to capitalise on a 1-0 goal and completely put the game at rest with another vital goal, it would only prove a matter of time until the opposing team, in this case Real Madrid, struck back with a goal. Leaving both City’s and Barcelona’s title chances well and truly in the balance, whilst City were completely taken apart by a Diego Costa inspired Chelsea in the final 30 minutes of Saturday’s tie, FC Barcelona may still have came away with a draw but already being 6 points adrift of their Clasico rivals, their journey to the top just got that bit steeper after Saturday’s result and Madrid’s late goal.

Just as City’s defeat has produced a number of talking points heading into the halfway point of the season so did Barcelona’s result yet with a full fixture list taking place during Gameweek 14, City players in their masses have been once again involved throughout the Spanish first and second divisions. Without further a due we take a look at the present City La Liga loanees, before a look at City’s past and future players.

Players out on loan:

If you dissect City’s several defeats this season most notably last weekend in defeat to Chelsea, aside from the obvious question marks over Claudio Bravo which is another debate entirely, many fans have pointed the finger of blame at City’s defence and particularly at centre-back. Whether the club should have trusted and kept with Jason Denayer or just a made greater attempts to sign Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus, both have been raised widely in the many post-mortem’s concerning Saturday’s defea as has the decision to allow Eliaquim Mangala to join Valencia on loan. Of course every fan is entitled to an opinion on the matter but if we analyse both Mangala individually and Valencia’s most recent performance against Malaga last weekend, there is every reason to suggest that he would add little more stability than at present if he was still at the club. As a throwaway remark it is often very easy to suggest that keeping Mangala would have in some way helped City to a victory this weekend as well as the other fixtures in which City have been defeat. The Frenchman however is not having the best times of late with loan club Valencia a mere two points above the relegation zone and only picking up three points out of the last eighteen available. Most recently on Sunday in a tie against a mid-table Malaga side, Valencia looked to have secured all three points before Malaga’s late goal confined Mangala’s side to another league defeat. Mangala, for all of Valencia’s criticism was in fact successful with all his attempted interceptions and only failed to clear the ball successfully on one occasion but with the club reportedly unwilling to sign the Frenchman permanently unless he agrees to a substantial wage deduction, his performances so far have failed to justify the price-tag that City forked out in 2014.

With nothing at this time of writing to report on Colombian Marlos Moreno with his loan side Deportivo La Coruña in action against an in-form Real Sociedad this Monday evening, all eyes turn away from the bottom of La Liga and up to the top half of the table, particularly Deportivo Alavés the home of City youngster Manu Garcia. In a week starting with the great news that parent club Manchester City had decided to increase the young Spaniard’s contract by a further two years, there was to be no positive ending to the week with the promising youngster failing to make the bench for high-flying Alavés. Both Garcia and City will be hoping the he is offered playing time in the latter half of the season with the City loanee struggling for first team football so far this season at Alavés, ironically being kept out of a team by a player in the exact same position with the exact same name! Fellow Manchester City loanee of the same club Ruben Sobrino also failed to make the bench as Alavés continued their good form with a 1-1 draw against fellow La Liga new boys Las Palmas. Meanwhile Samir Nasri’s Sevilla, with the benefit of hindsight, failed to capitalise on both Madrid and Barcelona dropping points as they slumped to an incredibly surprising 2-1 defeat at the hands of bottom of the league Granada. Nasri, who is still battling with an injury problem did not feature for Sevilla and will he hoping to back in action within the next few weeks and recapture his good form from the early part of the season to help Sevilla compete both in the league and also Europe too.

Finally dropping down in to the second tier of Spanish football and Girona made it four consecutive league wins in the Spanish Segunda Division, beating top of the table Levante to move within a point of the league leaders after 17 games played. Manchester City loanee Pablo Marí once again featured and played a full 90 minutes as the Catalan side continue their league charge with the Spanish first division increasingly in their sights. On the flip side, Rayo Vallecano and loan side of Argentinian midfielder Bruno Zuculini sit in 16th place with a game in hand and despite a 2-0 home victory this weekend, Zuculini has failed to feature regularly including during this league victory as he continues to recover the quality and consistency which originally earned him a move to Manchester City.

Ex Blues in La Liga:

Denis Suarez came on as a second-half substitute for FC Barcelona in their 1-1 derby draw against Real Madrid. In a midfield three complemented by the return of the experienced Andrés Iniesta, Suarez replaced Neymar in the latter stages of Saturday’s game to help bring a mixture of youth and experience either side of lynchpin Sergio Busquets in the Barcelona midfield. However following his late introduction into the game, Madrid’s equaliser soon followed and both Suarez and Barcelona had to make do with a solitary point during a game in which they would have expected to win with a matter of minutes remaining. Across Madrid to rivals Atlético and Stefan Savic could only make the bench during the club’s somewhat surprising goalless draw against RCD Espanyol. In a game which Atlético were unlucky to walk away with all three points, a rejuvenated Espanyol under the rule of former Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores even turned to former City man Felipe Caicedo in an attempt to sneak a late goal against the run of play but it eventually proved to be honours even between both clubs. There was, however no place for Martin Demichelis this weekend as City’s former Argentinian centre-back once again played no part in proceedings for Flores’ side.

In keeping with former City central defenders, Frenchman Florian Lejeune’s Eibar were unable to prevent a heavy defeat at the hands of Athletic Club with Lejeune’s club side, arguably the surprise package during the current league campaign, falling to a 3-1 defeat at the San Mamés in Bilbao. Heading one place below Eibar in the La Liga table meanwhile sit Celta Vigo, home of Swedish and former City striker John Guidetti, who were involved in a six-goal thriller and aside from El Clasico providing one of the stand-out games during Gameweek 14 in the Spanish top flight. Whilst Guidetti was unable to contribute anything for Vigo, remaining as an unused substitute during his side’s 3-3 away draw with Real Betis, former Liverpool man Iago Aspas proved once again to be the stand-out performer and contributed two important goals to help Vigo sustain their position in the top half of La Liga. Finally dropping down as we always do into the Spanish Segunda and former City man Jose Angel Pozo played a full 90 minutes for Almería but was unable to prevent a 1-0 away defeat to Numancia on Saturday.

Pick of the Players: Pablo Fornals

After last weekend’s defeat you could say City’s problems are certainly in defence with serious questions asked about the current crop of defenders alongside the ability of former La Liga and Barcelona goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, especially considering the departure of Joe Hart in questionable circumstances last summer. Admittedly whilst I would agree that these are both undoubtedly serious causes for concern, I could not however let Gameweek’s 14 View from Spain pass without commending the performances of Malaga’s Pablo Fornals who after a season of impressive performances so far, once again produced an impressive individual show of his quality to help Malaga come from behind to rescue a point against Valencia. Understandably I concede that the club’s priorities should lie elsewhere heading into the January transfer window yet during a week of shock results in La Liga, for me Fornals’ stood out more than anybody else and I honestly feel that he would be a perfect fit for a future thinking Manchester City going forward.

In the application of his traits to the current Manchester City side, however unpopular of an opinion it may be, I do regrettably think that now could be the time that City look forward and seek a potential replacement for David Silva. When City play well, David Silva also plays well or at least his performance can often go unnoticed in a City side which are capable of finding a goal from anywhere in midfield on occasions. His impact and star quality however, when compared to the David Silva of a few seasons ago when City are up against it, is slowly fading and as good of a player as he has been for the club, stand-out Silva performances are now few and far between, however capable he may still be of amassing a double-figure number of assists each season. Therefore as a creative midfielder built in a similar mould to David Silva, Fornals could well be a natural successor to City’s own magician. Fornals, a player who single-handedly earned Malaga a point last weekend would for me still benefit from a full season to develop at Malaga playing week in week out rather than being brought in quickly by the club for him to be only sent elsewhere on loan or sit patiently in the youth team or on the substitutes bench and wait for an opportunity in the first-team. Fornals as an exciting of a prospect as he may be will be certain to have potential suitors already, if not more by this time next year and whilst he is most certainly one for the future, the club would be silly to not already have an eye on him if they do not already do so.

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