Manchester City’s late spending flurry in the Summer 2012 transfer window yielded a hodgepodge of players that had varying degrees of success. Much like Arsenal in the summer 2011 window, late panic buying led to a mixed bag of results. But one purchase that could pay dividends next season and beyond is that of injury-prone midfielder Jack Rodwell. Considering how few games Rodwell featured in during the 2012-13 season, he is almost like a new signing.
Fitness has been issue for Rodwell since his early days at Everton. His bright start to professional life in the team he first joined when seven years of age soon gave way to injuries and moments of indiscipline. But Rodwell showed flashes of genuine quality before Manchester City arguably overpaid for him last summer.
Rodwell was bought largely for his versatility, tactical flexibility, and because he counts as a homegrown player. The thinking among many City supporters was that as Roberto Mancini tried to push a formation change last season to a 3-5-2, Rodwell may eventually fit into the side as a centreback.
With Manchester City letting Kolo Toure leave for Liverpool on a free transfer as well as likely losing Joleon Lescott, Rodwell can potentially play in central defense as needed next season. Javi Garcia, Rodwell’s fellow holding midfielder and expensive summer 2012 signing, proved adept at shifting to the back line when needed last season, one of the few redeeming qualities he demonstrated in an otherwise lost season for the Spanish international.
The development of Rodwell will be a key for Manchester City going forward. Gareth Barry is now 32 and beginning to show signs of age. Yaya Toure plays virtually every minute of every game when not on international duty and his consistency dropped off substantially this past season. James Milner was often played in a withdrawn role ahead of Garcia or Rodwell last season under Roberto Mancini if Barry or Toure were unavailable but that took the Englishman out of his preferred attacking midfield role.
The potential upside of Rodwell staying fit is so great for City, that should he come good this season, he could be considered the side’s best summer signing, even a year late.