For a 27-year-old footballer like Wilfried Bony, one and a half seasons is enough time to prove yourself at a top club. Bony was signed to much fanfare and many were certain that he’d be an upgrade on Edin Džeko. The grass isn’t always greener, though, and he’s turned out to be no upgrade on Džeko, who was far from perfect, but did bag hugely important goals for City.
Bony’s signing always confused me. It was during an injury crisis that City made their move to sign the prolific Ivorian from Swansea. And yet, despite those injuries during a period where we had to play James Milner as a ‘false nine’, Bony’s signing was never going to fix that specific problem because he had to head off to AFCON. He joined City on January 14, but it was a month before he could actually train.
— Manchester City FC (@MCFC) February 16, 2015
By the time Bony returned from Africa, Agüero, Džeko and Jovetić were all available for selection. So, why buy Bony? The best guess is that City genuinely thought he’d be a good long-term signing as opposed to a January panic buy. Mario Mandžukić had been linked in the same transfer window, so despite already employing Agüero, Džeko and Jovetic, the club either felt one more was needed or were looking ahead. Months later City chiefs decided that only two established strikers, not four, were needed when Džeko and Jovetic were offloaded to Italy.
Here’s a stat that will make you scratch your head. From the 2011/12 season until the day he joined City halfway through the 2014/15 season, Bony missed only 24 days and 5 games in total (for FC Twente and Swansea). In just under one and a half seasons at City, Bony has missed 103 days and 18 games in total.
It’s safe to say, injuries and illness haven’t helped his cause at a club where, nowadays, Optimus Prime could pull a hamstring despite not actually having any hamstrings.
Despite injury woes, my own eyes tell me that even had Bony been fit every day at City, the signing was doomed to fail. Wilfried Bony is not only a good footballer, he’s a good Premier League footballer and proved it at Swansea. He’s just not a good footballer for the style used by Manchester City, and for this a well-paid scout should be sweating as Bony joins a growing list of poor recruits. Managing just 10 goals in 40 appearances for a high-scoring team, it hasn’t worked out and there haven’t really been any major signs of improvement.
There have been others like Bony. They look great in a comfort zone where there is very little pressure and where the team is largely built around them. And the natural thought is, “Just imagine what he could do around top players!”. It doesn’t always work like that, though, for a number of reasons. For some, they struggle with the mental aspect of playing for a top club. With Bony, I put it down to the style of football. He’s been asked to adapt to a style that is totally incompatible with his strengths and has come across as a poor man’s Álvaro Negredo (that’s the purple patch Negredo, not the shadow often found warming Valencia’s bench these days).
When he’s partnered with star man Agüero, there has been no real understanding between them – nothing like the unplayable Agüero/Negredo partnership that tore apart the Premier League for a while. Bony said just under a year ago that he wanted to form a “scary” partnership with Kun, but there has been nothing scary about it, except maybe for the kids up in Row U of the Family Stand having to dodge Wilf’s wayward shots.
It’s very damning of Bony’s stay at City that Kelechi Iheanacho appeared from the youth system, and having never kicked a ball before at competitive level, instantly looked better. Leading the line for Swansea, it’s quite likely Bony would be better than young Kelechi. But Kelechi integrated quite seamlessly into the City jigsaw, while Bony is that piece you can’t seem to find anywhere to squeeze in.
Speaking of damning, it’s also very damning of Pellegrini’s management that despite Iheanacho looking a superior talent, he’s been reduced to a nothing role again since Bony returned from injury. It’s that sort of stubbornness or loyalty, or whatever you want to call it, that is one of the reasons so few are going to miss Pellegrini when he heads off to Valencia, Saint Petersburg or Timbuktu soon. But I already wrote that article, didn’t I?
It’d be best for all parties now if Bony moves on. If he looks out of place in this City team, try to imagine him playing for a Pep Guardiola team. Lewandowski, he ain’t. Bony can still be a very effective striker in the Premier League if a club plays to his strengths. West Ham were heavily linked with a move yesterday, and perhaps being their star striker in the new Olympic Stadium would make that a perfect marriage.
West Ham could turn to Bony if they're unable to land main target Michy Batshuayi. City are open to selling £20m-rated Bony. [Telegraph]
— City Watch (@City_Watch) March 30, 2016
Let’s be blunt: Wilfried Bony has been a complete and utter failure at Manchester City. But it’s not all his fault. Those in charge of player recruitment or whoever gave the final “OK” on this deal need to take a long, hard look at themselves. City need strikers with pace, movement and guile, three features Bony is not blessed with. We’ve seen it for a number of years now – teams defend deep and make it as hard as possible for City to find a way through. This makes it tough for a striker like Bony, who often has his back to goal and is quite limited technically.
Without going into the armchair scouting game too much, I’m certain a player like Aubameyang or Dybala would have been a much better recruit than Bony, if obtainable. And as unpopular as it may sound, I’d also fancy Javier Hernández to shine more than many of our recent recruits up front, with his impressive movement in the box and ability to find pockets of space where there appears to be none. I’m sure you all have your own ideas.
So it’s goodbye Wilf, I can’t see any way he can survive Pep’s summer makeover. No doubt he will line up against us for his new club next season, angry and unplayable, and put a goal or two past us.