Welcome to the second City Watch Vox Pops! In this feature, City Watch writers assemble to give their views on a hot topic. With the season almost over, our latest subject is City’s Player of the Year. It hasn’t been City’s greatest season of recent times, that is for sure, but there have been a few names worthy of discussion for standout player of the year. This is the first of three parts, with the other two to follow in the next couple of days.
Picking City’s best player this season is a bit like picking which Full Time Devils member I’d like to go on a night out with. Every single one has pissed me off in some capacity, but the player who’s done that least is Fernandinho.
In a season where effort and urgency has generally been lacking, at least the Brazilian has put in a shift. He has this reputation as a destroyer but there’s also a very elegant side to his game. Forty-yard passes, powerful long-range strikes and surging runs from the centre of midfield coexist alongside crunching tackles, and it was both the 31-year-old’s striking nous and willingness to harass opponents into mistakes that ultimately sent us into the semi-finals of the Champions League.
His highlights include that beauty of a finish in the 3-0 win over Chelsea in August and also his unrelenting display in Paris that helped the team move the ball from defence to attack quicker than we’ve seen in any other game this season. After a poor 2014/15 campaign, Ferna has certainly redeemed himself and most City fans would love to see him play a significant role in Pep Guardiola’s team next term.
It’s hard to imagine Manchester City without Manga- Joe Hart. The awkward-looking 19-year-old who joined nearly ten years ago has blossomed into a leader and a modern-day hero for City fans. Those behind the scenes say he’s the real heartbeat of this team, Vincent Kompany’s chief whip; whilst the players describe him as companion and mentor to all.
It is strange, therefore, to think that Pep would like to bring in another top goalkeeper. Completely disregarding the glaring holes elsewhere, Joe Hart is probably the last position City need to upgrade on and it’s unfair to claim he wouldn’t be able to play in a Pep team. Hart’s game has evolved with each passing season. Each facet of his game is better than ever while he has overcome every challenge in his career with sparkling colours. Let’s not forget that Joe is the guy who dethroned Shay Given at 23, turned that horrid 2013 into a distant memory and has just come off the back of another superb season where he has confirmed himself among the top six or so goalkeepers in the world.
He has been our most consistent performer, more so than even Bacary Sagna. The idea that he could very well win this season’s Golden Glove after the shambolic shit-show that has been our defence this season is simply unquantifiable. He has carried us when we have looked limp and spiritless, summoned his inner Lev Yashin in Europe and generally made any call for Jack Butland or Frasier Forster to start at the Euros to be met with laughter. That’s why I think Joe Hart has been our Player of the Year.
It’s an absolute no brainer for me. In a season which has begun to redefine disappointing the only bright spark is last summer’s record signing Kevin De Bruyne. A truly world class player, he hit the ground running and has shown why he won the Bundesliga player of the season last season. His technique, his vision, his passing range, his finishing, his physique, his set piece delivery, the guy is a master of all trades. In years to come I suspect he’ll be seen as one of the great Premier League era midfield players, if not one of the best ever in Europe.
It’s amazing to think that Mourinho let him go. It’s also amazing to think that Juventus are demanding TWICE what De Bruyne cost for Pogba. That’s a not a critique of Pogba because he’s obviously an exceptional player. But he isn’t twice the player KDB is. In fact there’s an argument to say currently De Bruyne is the more complete footballer with his goalscoring as well as assisting record. Anyway, in short for me he is the best player we’ve signed since Aguero, and it’s no surprise our descent out of the top 2 of the league began with his injury.
With very few players playing a full season, it’s been a difficult choice to pick one standout performer. Sergio is in the running for Golden Boot, Joe Hart for the Golden Glove and Kevin De Bruyne’s goals and performances helped get us to Wembley and make the semi-finals of the Champions League, whilst the same is true for Fernandinho, who’s performance in Seville was immense.
All that being said for me the player of the season is Bacary Sagna. Now it may be strange that a right-back is player of the season, particularly one that cost nothing in a team full of multi-million pound signings. However Sagna has made the position his own this season, after hardly playing last year. He is consistent and sensible in his play, with few poor performances. In a back four which has rarely been settled, Bacary has even played centre-back and should have done more so in other crucial games. His performances this season have exaggerated the decline in our favourite Pablo Zabaleta. With Sagna missing from the starting line-up Pablo’s poor performances stand out like a sore thumb. In fact, Sagna was absent for a crucial part of the season through injury, missing the run of three defeats to Leicester and Spurs at home and Liverpool away. These three big losses prevented City from gaining any momentum in the final run-in.
My player of the season is Kevin De Bruyne.
I keep thinking back to De Bruyne’s injury back in January, in the League Cup semi-final against Everton. Had that not happened, we might have made more of a fight of the Title, and certainly should have wrapped Champions League qualification up weeks ago. There’s been the occasional anonymous performance, and he did pick a rum moment to have his worst game in a ‘Ghost Green’ shirt against Madrid. Yet it’s nearly always been De Bruyne who’s made the difference for City this season, epitomised in his performances against Everton, or Chelsea away. The solo goal he scored against Arsenal illustrates his vision and his ability to take control of games; his pass to Agüero in that Everton semi-final match was sublime.
His stats speak for themselves, too; a combined total of 30 goals and assists from midfield is stunning, especially for a first season. As Squawka points out, De Bruyne has created more league chances than any other City player this year, clocking in at a whopping 75 (9 assists and 66 key passes). Coupled with his standout performances against PSG home and away, it’s clear that De Bruyne has justified his hefty price-tag and superstar status already. It’s frustrating, therefore, that he hasn’t had chance to really develop his link-up play with Agüero, Silva and Nasri yet. Nevertheless, 2015/16 has been great for the Belgian playmaker. With Pep – who sanctioned De Bruyne’s purchase – almost through the door, let’s hope Kevin’s City career is still taking off.