Sunday’s defeat against Wigan in the FA Cup Quarter Final was frustrating on many levels for Manchester City supporters. Of all the, mostly deserved, criticism levelled at City in the wake of the game Alvaro Negredo came out relatively unscathed. That is understandable given some of the more obvious talking points of the day. However, Sunday was another in what is becoming an increasingly long line of anonymous Negredo performances. It was the point, for me, where it became more than just a blip.
The Negerdo we see today is a shadow of his former self and it is a struggle to think of the last time that he played well. Earlier in the season, Typical City’s Alex Timperley epitomised everything that was great about Negredo and feeling that City fans have towards him. With that in mind, it is baffling to see a player struggling so desperately for form just a few months later. Of course, no player can be expected to be at the top of their game for the entire season but Negredo’s decline has been dramatic and was somewhat unforeseen.
All too often Negredo sits on the periphery of games struggling to make an impact and when he does get near the ball his touch deserts him. Manuel Pellegrini has been forced on a number of occasions to withdraw him from games well before their conclusion. Against Wigan, Edin Dzeko replaced Negredo and was immeasurably more effective (despite not being that effective) in his short time on the pitch than Negredo. When Edin Dzeko outperforms you in the space of half an hour you know it is bad. It’s all a far cry from the form that has already seen Negredo score two hat-tricks this season and pull of arguably the assist of the season against Fulham in December.
There is no clear reason why things have changed so dramatically. Perhaps the gruelling demands of the English footballing calendar have caught up with him. After playing his entire career in Spain where they have a winter break the number of fixtures actually increases during winter in England. Moreover, Negredo was almost certainly used more than was intended throughout January and December with both Stevan Jovetic and Sergio Aguero injured for most of that time. It is understandable that he has perhaps struggled to acclimatise to the hectic schedule and is simply burnt out.
The absence of Sergio Aguero in recent months may well have also taken its toll on Negredo. They have a great, almost telepathic partnership and when that is forcefully split up you are always going to look worse off, especially when the replacement is Edin Dzeko. It is clear to anyone who has watched Negredo / Dzeko partnership for more than 5 minutes that it doesn’t work. They are very similar types of player, who occupy the same space, make the same runs and ultimately cancel each other out. There is no doubt in my mind that Negredo profits from Aguero’s presence and vice versa.
Whatever the reasons are behind Negredo’s slump, City have a player on their hands who looks bereft of confidence and in desperate need of a goal and a good performance. With Stevan Jovetic almost permanently sidelined and Edin Dzeko as frustrating as ever Manuel Pellegrini will be relying on Negredo heavily during the run in.
Negredo’s performances in the first half of the season demonstrate that he is an extremely talented footballer. His record in Spain is excellent and suggests that his early season form for City was no flash in the pan and that he will recover at some point. Time is not on City’s side at the moment with three games in hand in the Premier League causing a fixture pile up. In this crucial time of the season, City cannot afford to pin all their hopes on Sergio Aguero so it is vital that Negredo is able to find his form again sooner rather than later.
Now I’ve said all that watch him score the winner against Barcelona tomorrow…
Written by Rob Toole