Assessing the Early Form of Fernandinho, Negredo and Navas at Manchester City

Phil Keidel@@PhilKeidelContributor IISeptember 12, 2013

Negredo is even better than advertised so far.
Negredo is even better than advertised so far.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

You will find no greater football acolyte of Roberto Mancini than me. But at this point, even I wish the former Manchester City manager and his backroom staffers would just stop talking.

Per Richard Jolly of, Mancini's defensive coach Angelo Gregucci is the latest ex-Etihad employee to spill his bile all over tabloid pages and airwaves. 

"I can reveal that Roberto Mancini had asked several times to bring Cavani from Naples," Jolly quoted Gregucci as saying on a recent radio broadcast.

Seriously, just go away already. Everyone already knew that anyway.

Instead of grousing over the one that got away, City faithful have appropriately cast their attention on the players who did come to Manchester this summer.

The headline to this piece would almost certainly have included "Jovetic," but Stevan Jovetic has yet to make his Premier League debut in sky blue.

Three matches are a small sample size, but they are all we have to judge the early form of Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas.

Ironically, the one of those three who has played the least is the easiest one to assess.

Negredo made a 10-minute cameo against Newcastle United in the opener, and scored a clearly onside goal that was deemed offside by the only eyes that matteredthose of the linesman.

No official interference undid either of the goals Negredo produced first at Cardiff City and then at home against Hull City. Both goals were beautifully taken and finely finished, and both goals mattered.

At Cardiff City, Negredo's tally set the stage for a furious comeback that fell just short. Against Hull City, Negredo opened the scoring after City toiled in vain for more than an hour.

Negredo has been such a revelation for City that supposed starter Edin Dzeko is already fighting for his place in the City XI after three matches.

Negredo has yet to start a match in the Premier League for City, and he is hands down the Sky Blues' preeminent summer signing.

That is not a flattering comment for either Fernandinho or Navas. But it's true.

Navas, particularly, is still very much finding his way as a Premier League right wing.

It is often dangerous to rely too heavily on statistics to measure a player's production, particularly a player like Navas whose role is to create the chance that results in a goal two or three touches after he has let go of the ball.

Yeah, but still. Three starts, zero goals, zero assists, one shot? Navas was active and looked set to do big things for City against Newcastle United.

But he was a non-factor against Cardiff City in the loss, such that City manager Manuel Pellegrini replaced him with Samir Nasri after 55 minutes. And while Navas did not undermine City's cause against Hull City, he did not exactly place his own imprimatur on the match, either.

Navas has ample time and should have many opportunities to increase his comfort and his effect on City's results in the months to come. Obviously, a well-timed assist or two in the upcoming derby or the first Champions League match against Viktoria Plzen would dim the glare of the hot lights on Navas now.

If Negredo is an honor student and Navas merits a grade of incomplete, Fernandinho is the oft-seen pupil with the potential to earn high marks who, for whatever reason, just isn't getting it done.

Like Navas, Fernandinho has started all three matches for City. Also like Navas, Fernandinho's play against Cardiff City was so nondescript that he was substituted, in Fernandinho's case for the not-exactly-electric James Milner.

In small samples, otherwise insignificant details carry more weight than they should. Such is the case with the yellow card Fernandinho received in the 23rd minute against Hull City.

Had that happened three months on, with City already on to the knockout rounds of the Champions League and firmly ensconced in a Premier League title chase, that sort of lapse would probably go unnoticed.

But that specific discipline Fernandinho received came in the early stages of a match where City, already reeling from the unexpected Cardiff City defeat, were struggling to find their feet against Hull City. The home crowd showed up antsy; by the time Fernandinho went in the book, the paying crowd's angst was palpable.

Having Fernandinho play the remainder of the match one misstep from being sent off did nothing to assuage their concerns.

And it is not even like Fernandinho's industry helped create either of midfield partner Yaya Toure's goals this season. Toure's goals came from two free kicks, neither of which Fernandinho played a role in.

Again, the assessment of Fernandinho, Negredo and Navas after three matches is fraught with peril. We just have not seen enough of any of them to know what they are.

Although it is fair to say that for the more than £70 million spent on these three, City probably expected more than six points from their first three Premier League matches.


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