The summer of 2012 is widely regarded by Manchester City supporters as a disaster and the catalyst for their disappointing 2012-2013 campaign where they failed to retain their Premier League crown.
It is believed that the boss at the time, Roberto Mancini, had firmly put all his eggs into one basket with regards to prying Daniele De Rossi away from Roma and spent the majority of the summer focusing on that one deal. When it eventually became apparent that the Giallorossi icon had no intention of leaving his childhood club it was very late in the day and Manchester City had to panic buy the trio of Jack Rodwell, Richard Wright and Javi Garcia.
The latter was a deadline day signing with an impressive reputation from his time at both Real Madrid and Benfica and cost a significant £15.8million however by Manchester City’s standards that may not seem all that much. Garcia has since struggled at Eastlands with the Spaniard being forced to remain on the bench or play out of position at centre half such was the depth of City’s defensive crisis at the start of the 2013-2014 season.
Garcia has become a bit of a scapegoat for when things aren’t going well for City with fans citing his lack of mobility as a real problem, particularly when partnered with marauding Yaya Toure in the heart of City’s midfield. Garcia wasn’t helped by the fact Roberto Mancini never seemed to trust him despite giving him twenty four Premier League appearances, it was clear he wasn’t a Mancini signing.
This arrival of Manuel Pellegrini as Manchester City head coach has improved fortunes for Garcia significantly due to the fact the experienced Chilean knows the Spanish league very well and appreciates the technical intricacies that are present in Garcia’s game. Pellegrini’s 4-2-2-2 system with the powerful holding midfield duo of Fernandinho and Toure is not something Javi Garcia is going to break into nor change, that is clear however Garcia gives Manchester City something different to Toure and Fernandinho which is absolutely essential in winning the trophy Manchester City seems to desire most of all, the European Cup.
Seldom do you see a team win the European Cup with such dominance that they can keep the same system throughout the whole of the competition and not make slight tactical changes depending on the style of opposition they face. You can probably use the fingers on one hand to name teams who have held such dominance over the rest of Europe, the great Cruyff inspired Ajax side of the early seventies, Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan side or more recently Pep Guardiola’s possession based Barcelona team. You could even make a point to suggest that the current Bayern Munich team under Guardiola is good enough to retain their system however Manchester City are not yet there.
As a result City will have to approach every single knockout match in the European Cup with knowledge of their opponents and how to find weaknesses within other team’s games rather than just boldly stepping out onto the pitch in Pellegrini’s accustomed 4-2-2-2. We saw how Bayern Munich swatted Manchester City aside at Eastlands earlier on this term with Pellegrini keeping to the 4-2-2-2 system and Bayern Munich’s powerful midfield simply bypassed City’s.
This is where Javi Garcia becomes vitally important to Manchester City. The club now has a coach who is tactically astute enough to know when and where to use the Spaniard best and the player himself can offer something which both Fernandinho and Toure cannot. He can anchor the midfield, sitting just in front of the defensive line and make Manchester City both difficult to break down and difficult to take the ball from.
Garcia is never going to be the mobile, energetic, ball winning midfielder some supporters want him to be but in certain matches, especially against teams who boast a lot of midfield power and craft Garcia will be able to stem the flow of attacks. Garcia’s passing completion is excellent with ‘WhoScored‘ statistics showing Garcia has a 91 percent pass completion across all the matches he has played this season. This is again something incredibly important when going for success on the continental front, if you can retain possession and make the opposition work harder than normal to win it back then you are instantly in control of proceedings.
Garcia can sit behind two central midfielders and act as a lynchpin, receiving the ball short from a goal kick and just moving it on calmly to either one of the wide players or central midfielders just as Andrea Pirlo does for the Italian national team. It is a very niche role but when you have a player who has all the attributes to play the role well, you take full advantage.
If we look at the specific example of Manchester City’s upcoming trip to Barcelona you will find very few supporters who want Javi Garcia anywhere near the starting line-up in the Camp Nou. However if you head into that match with the two holding midfielders being Toure and Fernandinho there is a risk one of the two will move forward to supplement an attack and it will leave the other completely isolated and if there is a team who can take advantage of a gap in the midfield with quick one-two passing it is Barcelona. Just look at how they dismantled Arsenal in April 2010 with quick, clever passing finding Messi with so much space in good scoring positions.
If you sacrifice one of the wider midfielders within the 4-2-2-2 and put Javi Garcia just behind the midfield two of Toure and Fernandinho then you have a much more solid base to build from and should one of the midfielders charge further up the field City will not be left with a gaping hole as Garcia will be there to fill it and put a stop to a counter attack.
Garcia is not going to be a regular starter for Pellegrini’s Manchester City, and I think the player accepts that. There is very little talk of despondency from Garcia himself as there would be from other players in this situation. He seems very much a player who is focused on the team’s success and if utilized correctly in the important matches where City may not be favorites, he could be pivotal to City getting their hands on the trophy their hierarchy covets the most.
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