MCFC: Just why did Manchester City sign Jack Rodwell?

Depriving bored fans of repetitive articles over a multitude of months, last Sunday it was announced that Everton had agreed a fee with Manchester City for the sale of Jack Rodwell, and by the end of the day Rodwell was a Manchester City player.

The Blues had finally made a move in the transfer market, becoming the final team in the Premier League to do so. A fee said to be £12m rising to £15m for a versatile 21-year-old England international doesn’t appear quite so egregious, but the transfer has been met with bemusement by some City supporters, and mockery from rival fans – type Jack Rodwell into Twitter and in a matter of seconds you will be inundated with various repetitions of the same ‘retirement’ joke. Many do not seem to understand why the Premier League champions would take a chance on a player whose progression has stalled since he made the breakthrough to first team football at just 16, but this could very well be a move which will benefit all parties.

Everton’s financial difficulties are well documented, and while losing Rodwell weakens an already small squad, the financial recompense received should see Moyes granted access to the transfer market – something of a rarity at Goodison these days.

Rodwell himself had fallen down the pecking order at Everton due to a succession of injuries stalling his progress, yet is easy to forget that he is only 21 and there is plenty of time for him to become the player he once threatened to be. Playing alongside players the calibre of Yaya Toure can only aid his development, along with the superior facilities and support staff a club like City can provide.

But why did City take the risk when they already have a bustling centre midfield area, featuring the likes of Gareth Barry, Nigel de Jong, Yaya Toure and James Milner?

Daniele De Rossi has long been a transfer target for Roberto Mancini, and with Athletic Bilbao’s Javi Martinez also in the running it became quite apparent the type of player the City manager coveted during this transfer window – a defensive midfielder who could also play at centre-back. Rodwell fits this profile to a tee, with his versatility most likely a deciding factor in the move. Anyone who has watched the Blues in pre-season will have noticed a considerable formational shift from the side which blitzed their way to the league title last season. 3-5-2 has been the system drilled into the players this summer, with reserve team coach Atilio Lombardo even being instructed to put the returning EURO 2012 players through their paces in this formation in a friendly against Oldham Athletic whilst the rest of the first team were still abroad.

Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott have long since confirmed their status as the leading centre-back partnership in the division, with the pairing ensuring that City have conceded the least amount of league goals in the past two seasons. But a serious injury to either of these two, and the Blues start to look alarmingly light. Kolo Toure’s future is uncertain, with a move to Turkey looking increasingly likely; Stefan Savic struggled in his first season of English football and could benefit from a loan spell elsewhere; Dedryk Boyata has recently returned from a season-long loan at Bolton Wanderers but whether he is included in the manager’s plans is unknown. Karim Rekik is one of the brightest talents to currently be playing in the academy system, but having only recently turned 17 it would be a lot to ask of him to quickly step up to the demands of the Premier League. During the second half of the Community Shield, City’s back three consisted of one natural centre-back, one right-back, and one left-back. The need for reinforcements is clear.

Rodwell’s ability to play either centre-back or defensive midfield ensures that two positions now have extra cover, with the added option of changing from last season’s 4-2-2-2 to 3-5-2 id-game, without changing any on-field personnel.

It is also worth remembering that the Toure brothers will once again be departing for Africa Cup on Nations duty, potentially remaining in South Africa from early January until early February. Combined with wrong-side-of-30 Gareth Barry missing the first month of the season thanks to the injury which kept him out of England’s EURO campaign, plus the uncertain future of Nigel de Jong, it is easy to see what Rodwell will bring to the squad. Despite the long-running jokes about the amount of defensive midfielders Mancini collects – remember when everyone called Yaya defensive? Ho ho – an extra body was almost certainly required to compete for trophies on all fronts.

Leading Everton’s pass success rate table last season with 87.6% accuracy is encouraging for the midfielder to step up into a team whose playing philosophy is based around dominating possession, even if his injury record is not. But with less pressure to rush back after injury, and a far higher rotational policy than Everton utilise, there is no reason why this time next year we could be discussing Jack Rodwell in the same terms as we now do Gael Clichy – a promising youngster who needed a fresh challenge to prosper. It is a risk worth taking.

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