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City Loan Watch: Hart’s game of two halves, Denayer in midfield, Zinchenko’s full debut

Welcome to the first instalment of City Watch’s new feature: City Loan Watch. Every week, I’ll be focusing on the development of the Manchester City contingent out on loan across the world and following their progress.

In the modern era of football, due to the premium talent that the big Premier League clubs have at their disposal, Chelsea and City have been the pioneers of loaning out their emerging talent to clubs far and wide across Europe as they look to give their most promising teenagers the platform to learn their trade in technical leagues such as the Eredivisie and La Liga. Chelsea (38) and Manchester City (31) have 69 players out on loan overall between them this season and although many argue that it is an abuse of the current transfer system, there is clearly method in the madness as Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola have both begun to integrate their youngsters into the first team squad in their debuts seasons at their respective clubs. We have seen Victor Moses (despite being 25) and Nathaniel Chalobah feature prominently in the last few weeks for Chelsea, while Pablo Maffeo and Angelino are both on the cusp of breaking into the City first team, so regardless of the ethics of the current loan system, evidently the big clubs are starting to reap the rewards and will do for many years to come.

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Of the current Manchester City class of 2016, 10 of the 31 players are currently playing in Holland. Some of these players include Oleksandr Zinchenko (PSV), Bersant Celina, Yaw Yeboah and Enes Unal (FC Twente), and Shay Facey (Heerenveen) playing in the top-flight Eredivisie. Meanwhile, in Holland’s second tier, City have utilised their affiliation with NAC Breda to send out on loan David Faupala, Brandon Barker and Ashley Smith-Brown. In contrast, some of City’s more prominent stars in the first team of recent years are also out on loan including Joe Hart at Torino, Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia and Wilfried Bony at Stoke.

This gameweek proved to be a difficult week for the Manchester City loan stars, with very few profiting from any success after the international break. Over in Italy, Joe Hart was vital in Torino’s 2-0 away victory at Crotone. The Englishman who recently revealed that he was encouraged by Patrick Vieira to make the move to Italy, had a shaky start as his inaccurate passes led to a couple of opportunities for Crotone in the first half – passing that Pep wouldn’t be proud of. However, Hart redeemed himself in the second half and in the end made 5 key saves to ensure that Torino kept a cleansheet as the Granata fired a late double in thanks to Andrea Belotti.

Closer to home, Jason Denayer featured in Sunderland’s 3-0 home victory to Hull City. The Belgian centre-half was making his 5th appearance under David Moyes this season, but this weekend saw a change in tac from the Scotsman who decided to play Denayer as a holding midfielder in front of the back two. The Black Cats were looking for their first home victory of the season against Hull and it was a hard-fought game especially due to the stoppage in the second half which saw a blackout at the ironically named Stadium of Light. After the restart, Sunderland never looked back and added two more to their current 1-0 tally to ensure their first home win of the season. Sunderland next travel to Liverpool away and Denayer is expected to start again as a holding midfielder after he was heaped with praise by the Sunderland fans with several online hailing him as better than former City midfielder Jack Rodwell. This will be an interesting test to see if the young Belgian natural centre-half can cut it against City’s title contenders and I’m sure the City scouts will be keeping a close eye on him.

Wilfried Bony was again in action for Stoke who hosted Bournemouth on Saturday, however the Ivorian was unable to follow up from his man of the match performance when Stoke were last at home to his former side Swansea, where he scored twice. Bournemouth proved to be too much on the day for Stoke with Nathan Ake’s 26th minute header proving to be the match winner on a frustrating day for Bony. Meanwhile, in Scotland, Patrick Roberts started again for City’s Champions League Group C opponents Celtic, the 19-year-old playing 66 minutes for league-leading Bhoys in their 1-0 away victory at Kilmarnock.

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In Spain, Eliaquim Mangala has formed a partnership with former Real Madrid centre-half Ezequiel Garay, which on paper appears to be a daunting prospect for most La Liga forwards, however the Valencia of recent times have struggled and this weekend was a continuation of that narrative. Los Che played host to Granada on Sunday evening, the side bottom of La Liga and one of only few sides in Europe still yet to pick up a win. Mangala struggled in the first half, especially on the 38th minute when there was miscommunication between the Frenchman and Dani Parejo which led to a big opportunity for Artem Kravitz of Granada. But, in the second half, he was much more composed after a tactical change by recently appointed manager Prandelli saw Cancelo move back to right back from right wing. It was a big opportunity wasted for Valencia as they were held in the end to a 1-1 draw and this sees Mangala’s side sitting 15th placed in La Liga, reminiscent of the days of Gary Neville. In the region of Coruña, two City players, Marlos Moreno and Samir Nasri were forced to sit out a thrilling encounter which saw Sampaoli’s Sevilla come from 2-0 down to beat Deportivo 3-2. Furthermore, Manu Garcia was on the bench for Alaves in their 1-0 defeat at home to Espanyol, one of City’s affiliated sides. In the Segunda Division, Bruno Zuculini was also in action for struggling side Rayo Vallecano who drew 2-2 at home to Huesca.

On to Holland. Saturday evening marked Oleksandr Zinchenko’s first competitive start for PSV in the Eredivisie. His side faced Willem II in a tightly contested battle, however PSV ultimately lacked the firepower to find the win and remain 6 points off the current leaders Feyenoord after a disappointing 0-0 draw. Zinchenko has struggled to force his way into the Dutch champions’ side, but a competent start from the young Ukrainian could see him hold his place ahead of their home game against ADO Den Haag. On Wednesday evening, PSV travel to Atlético Madrid – could we possibly see him make an appearance against the Champions League runners up?

Also in action were Enes Unal, the current joint-top goalscorer of the Eredivisie, and Yaw Yeboah, for FC Twente who were held to a 1-1 draw with FC Utrecht. It has been a positive start to the season for the two youngsters who have firmly held their position in the front three of Twente side and look to be forming a real partnership at the club. Also in the Twente side was Bersant Celina, the Kosovan attacking midfielder who has 4 goals to his name this season, and is highly rated at both Twente and City. In the second tier, City duo Brandon Barker and Ashley Smith Brown were in action for NAC Breda, while Faupala remained on the bench, but they were held to a 0-0 home draw with VVV Venlo.

The upcoming fixtures see some of the City loanees playing in crucial games. Next week’s report will have a focus on Jason Denayer’s trip to Liverpool, a special update on Eliaquim Mangala’s tie with Samir Nasri’s Sevilla on Saturday evening, and even a check-up on Shay Facey, as his side Heerenveen are up against it at home to 33-time Eredivisie champions Ajax.

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