Landon Donovan can continue his successful spell in England on Saturday evening when Everton hosts Manchester City at Goodison Park. Donovan will find the Manchester City backline to his liking, and for the second consecutive week he will face a third string left back. This provides the American superstar with a unique opportunity to make his impact felt in the Premier League.
Javier Garrido’s name will not strike fear into most Premier League attacking players. In fact, the left back did not feature for a single minute for former Manager Mark Hughes this season. When new manager Roberto Mancini took over the side, he featured Garrido as a left sided midfielder before dropping him to the backline. Garrido replaces Brazilian International Sylvinho who had been an injury replacement for Wayne Bridge.
Manchester City has given up the most goals of any team in the top half of the Premier League table. Many, if not most of those goals have come down the left side of defense, where Donovan can exploit City’s weakness as he did with Arsenal, last Saturday.
On the left hand side of midfield, Mancini has preferred Craig Bellamy to Robinho in recent matches and started Sylvinho at left wide midfield position in the recent FA Cup clash with Championship strugglers Middlesbrough. Bellamy is a fighter who tracks back defensively well and has the speed to match Donovan. Still, the Welshman’s fight does not negate the weakness City has at the left back position which Donovan should exploit.
Going forward, it will be interesting to evaluate how quickly Donovan’s confidence from the first game versus Arsenal, translates to more aggressive attacking intent. In his 2009 loan to Bayern Munchen, Donovan’s lack of confidence in front of goal seemed to be a reflection of the haphazard performances he was putting in out wide. Armand Traoré, Arsenal’s replacement left back last weekend was badly outclassed by Donovan, consistently throughout the match.
But in his first match at Everton, Donovan showed a quality on the flank he never demonstrated in Germany. The big question is whether that will translate to more confidence in front of goal. Three Americans playing currently in Europe, DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey have developed a flair and confidence to slot home many of the chances they get in front of goal.
When you factor Manchester City’s inept defending into the equation it is clear that Donovan has a unique opportunity to stamp his place on English football tomorrow. The big question is whether he fulfills his opportunity.