City Youth Loan Report (Part 2)

Following on from Thursday’s piece, which featured Evans, Ntcham, Zuculini, Yeboah, Horsfield and Byrne, I’ve taken a closer look at the seven remaining loan players. Brandon Barker, Jason Denayer, Shay Facey, Angelino, Seko Fofana, Ian Lawlor and Enes Unal are all featured. As ever, it’s been a mixed bag, which is the norm for loans, regardless of the player’s ability. There’s seemingly an underlying train of thought from most that would lead you to believe that for a loan to have been successful, a player must have excelled during their temporary move. This, in general, isn’t necessarily fair or true. Successful loans, on the surface at least, are a rarity. Given the nature of the move, the chances of a player becoming one of the star players almost immediately is highly unlikely, even if they are exceptionally talented. That’s the case for players of any age, be it 18, 25 or 34. There are countless examples of players taking several months to adapt to a new team or environment. It took months before Yaya Toure found his feet in Mancini’s team initially for example. It’s only natural.

Now bear in mind that these are young men, most hugely inexperienced, and it’s only reasonable to expect that things will be a little tricky. A youth loan isn’t about being the key man, creating goals or being a match-winner. That’s great, obviously, and it will happen sometimes, but it isn’t always about that. These moves are designed to test whether the player can adapt to the increased physicality and pressure that comes with professional football. If they’re a little quiet in terms of their influence, so be it, but the important thing is that they don’t look out of place. A club can tell if a young player can handle themselves amongst adults, but perhaps isn’t necessarily connecting with the team through various reasons, be it stylistically or tactically. The players are at Manchester City, so they’re certainly already very capable footballers, technically speaking. The performances will come later when the player has found their feet in the right setup around them. It’s all too easy to dismiss a low-key move as a failure, when it often isn’t the case at all. A young David Silva would most certainly struggle in League One, with his teammates likely on a different wavelength entirely, but the club will know and understand that. Elite prospects develop best alongside elite players with elite coaches, not out on loan. Loans are temporary, designed to test them in a certain way. These moves need to be viewed with those thoughts in mind. With that in mind, on to the players.

Brandon Barker

A curious one, and a perfect example of how depressingly bleak the loan system can be. Exceptionally talented, and arguably the star of last season’s EDS team, it was perhaps surprising that Barker didn’t get the slightly more glamorous loan that his talents deserved – Byrne went to Cambuur, Ntcham joined Genoa, and Angelino left to the glitzy world of the MLS. Barker ended up in a relegation dogfight at Rotherham United. So be it. Even more surprising was the outcome. The winger was named in the starting XI immediately by Neil Redfearn and though Rotherham lost 5-2, he left the pitch as their MOTM having scored a stunning long range strike. Promising, and enough to whet the appetites of the Rotherham faithful. And then he disappeared. He was benched for four games in a row before City recalled him. Hugely baffling and most certainly undeserving, it showed just how unpredictable loans can be – ones to the Championship in particular. There was rumours that club politics came into it; their left midfielder met with Redfearn, bemoaned his lack of an appearance fee and just like that, he was back in the team. It wouldn’t be surprising, and it won’t be the last time a loan move will turn sour through no fault of a player’s own. Either it way, it happened. For now, Barker is back at City. Perhaps January will be kinder to the hugely talented winger and he can pick up a move where he can test himself in a better environment. He deserves it.

Jason Denayer

It’s been a stop-start move so for the exceptionally talented defender. He joined Galatasaray at the start of the season and he was initially thrust into the team at centre-back, before moving over to right-back as their usual choice picked up an injury. He was good, performing with the same assured brilliance that those who’ve watched him closely had come to expect. Technically magnificent, intelligent and composed, he used all his skills to great effect as he slotted in naturally. He was by no means the star man, yet he was performing more than admirably in a position he had no prior experience in. It was encouraging, yet, typically, misfortune struck and his progress slowed. The curse of the Etihad’s injury list seemingly struck the young defender down from a distance and a spell on the sidelines followed. He’s had a couple of niggling setbacks and so far his appearances have been limited. 2016 should hopefully see him free of any knocks and he’s expected to return to full training any time now. There was calls from some quarters for City to recall him as Kompany broke down once again, though I’d be surprised if this an option. Only in exceptional circumstances can clubs recall players from a season long loan. It has to be written into a contract prior, and this is extremely rare. With a little luck, a strong run of games will perhaps be the platform he needs, and deserves, to convince those in charge that he can be a huge part of City’s squad rehabilitation over the summer, especially with the ageing Demichelis surely on his way.

Enes Unal

The eighteen-year-old Turkish striker has found life a little testing in Belgium. He moved to Genk after work permit problems meant he couldn’t kick-start his career over in Manchester. He’s been a regular in the squad, but mainly as an impact sub. There’s been twelve appearances in total, which is a decent amount, yet he’s only managed three starts so far. He has however scored a couple of times, despite mostly being introduced late on to freshen things up. It’s a little hard to gauge his performances, what with the paucity of information available online, but one thing that is for certain is that time is still on his side. He doesn’t turn nineteen until May and he’s an intelligent, considered player if his interviews are anything to go by. He’ll hope for more in the new year.

Ian Lawlor

Life has been good to the Irish u21 keeper so far this season. He spent the vast majority of last season out injured in what proved to be a hugely frustrating campaign. A small twist of fate saw him back in goal for the EDS as his main rival, the hugely talented Angus Gunn, picked up a small knock of his own. He impressed as City’s u21s beat Chelsea 2-0 in a televised game on Sky Sports, and that display, plus his already good reputation gained from representing Ireland’s u21s, saw him join Barnet a couple of weeks back as an emergency loan move. He’s done well so far, with the scorelines perhaps unfairly representative of his performances. He made a whole host of saves as Barnet claimed a 4-2 victory at Shrewsbury, and he pulled off a stunning save too as Barnet beat Newport 2-0. It hasn’t been all perfect, however. There’s been some slight hesitancy – the kind that plagues any youngster as he makes his professional league bow, but in general its been a promising move and his confidence has visibly grown with each game. He’s warmed himself to Barnet’s fans and its a move that will act as a nice starting point to his career.

Seko Fofana

Fofana’s done well so far at Bastia. Whether it’ll be enough to further his career at City remains to be seen, but he’s clearly improved as a player. His time at Fulham last year was hit and miss, in and out of the team as Fulham fought relegation. He was likeable, all energy and full of boundless, powerful runs, but it often wasn’t enough to rely on as the Cottagers craved more experienced heads and consequently he spent a lot of time on the bench. Bastia seem to be caught up in a similar predicament, yet Fofana’s been a mainstay, encouragingly praised for his tactical awareness and calm displays at the heart of midfield. He’s always had raw talent, plenty of it in fact. Yet it was his composure that often let him down, but the signs are good. I’ve caught a couple of games and he’s playing with considerably more intelligence, positioning himself well, sitting far deeper than he ever did for City’s EDS and Fulham. A little more Yaya-like, if you like, dictating play from deep. He’s becoming a key figure at Bastia and that will surely only help his development as he gains a sense of seniority and belief in his own abilities. With 17 starts already, and still only aged twenty, he’ll surely continue to improve. He’ll have to reach a high level if he’s to succeed at City, but there’s time yet.

Angelino & Shay Facey

Angelino and Shay Facey returned to City from New York in November as their loan spells ended. It was a curious move for Angelino. It started well, yet it ended on a relatively lower note. His initial energy gave way to some uncharacteristically conservative displays, with his all-action approach seemingly fading a little as the weeks passed. Given his age, it was no surprise, and it could have been entirely circumstantial too. The MLS is a tough league, in the sense that it’s a crazy one. There’s very little organisation over there and games often resembled a basketball match. Free for alls, with little cohesion or sense. He’s surely learned something, though it’s unlikely to be defensively – those around him offered little in that field and he looked far too naive around his own area at times. It’s a shame as it is the one side of his game that he needs to work on. He’s clearly a very good footballer – his four assists being clear proof. He shuttled forward well, adding a huge amount of skill and intelligence to New York’s attacks, yet we knew that already. The next move will be crucial. He’ll be physically stronger than he was, at very least, but you can’t help but think what he would have learned playing in a settled, organised back four for a few months. A lesson learned perhaps.

As it stands Angelino’s back training with City’s first team as he’s currently ineligible to play until January due to the stipulations of his loan. I’d suspect Angelino will move again, and rightly so. Facey already has. He confirmed a loan move to Rotherham until the end of season on Saturday morning and he was immediately thrust into the starting eleven at right-back. Though Rotherham lost 2-1, going down to a last minute own goal, he drew praise from Neil Redfearn for his energy, reading of the game and tenacity. It’s an interesting move, especially considering how Barker’s loan panned out there, but I guess there’s enough trust from City to allow Neil Redfearn a second player. How he develops in the Championship will be fascinating. He was functional at NYCFC, usually played at centre-back, where he went through a similar run of form to Angelino. He started well, then struggled a little as his inexperience showed, clearly in dire need of a composed, wiser head alongside him. Facey was good when played at right-back for the EDS, and it was heartening to see him start there for Rotherham. He seems to have all the attributes to excel out wide. Fast, tenacious and good on the ball, perhaps a little Trippier-esque. The Championship is a tough league, and Rotherham are struggling too, so it’ll be a baptism of fire so to speak, but his debut showed some promising signs and he’ll learn a lot. I had initially suspected Vieira may have decided to bring him back to NYCFC but for now that won’t be the case. He’s still only twenty and he signed a two-year contract when he returned to City, so the door clearly isn’t closed on him yet at the Etihad. Time will tell.


Elsewhere, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vieira takes another one or two with him – there’s rumours that Pablo Maffeo has been lined up to make the move. That’d be a tad disappointing from a personal perspective. I don’t mind then MLS, but I think he deserves better, even a shot in the first team given his excellent EDS form, or perhaps a move to a strong European league. Hopefully under close watch from City the move could run a lot smoother. If that comes to fruition, don’t be surprised to see another of his EDS teammates join him come the start of the season. NYCFC, though a team in its own right, will clearly be used as a sort of finishing school for City. The ties with Girona in Spain are intriguing too, especially given Pere Guardiola’s involvement at the club. Pep’s brother, of course.

If injuries subside, expect loan moves for a few of the EDS’s stalwarts. Ambrose, Aleix Garcia and Kean Bryan are all out injured, so they won’t be going anywhere, and that may also put on hold any temporary moves for the likes of Celina and Glendon, even Bytiqi who has now recovered from his injury problems. There simply isn’t the numbers in reserve otherwise. Still, do expect more to move on over the next couple of months. Barker will likely move out again. Roberts, too, has spent far too much time watching from the sidelines and his game has stagnated recently which is understandable given his lack of competitive football. The experience is necessary, and they will surely get it in due course. If, and when, it happens, there will be reports on here following their progress.

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