Analysis: Jesús Navas’ tricky predicament on the wing

Analysis: Jesús Navas' tricky predicament on the wing

City continue to strengthen in all areas, and with Navas’ underwhelming displays of late, can they afford to consistently start him on the wing with other alternatives available?

The summer transfer window is finally closed, and clubs can focus on their respective squads as they look to challenge for plenty of trophies – both domestically and in Europe too.Manchester City are no different. Manuel Pellegrini signed a new one-year contract extension just before the start of the campaign, and his side have continued to improve with some eye-catching acquisitions over the past three months.

City’s squad depth has continued to grow

Raheem Sterling, Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin de Bruyne as well as others, have all joined Eastlands for hefty transfer fees since late July. The latter of which, has been probably the most heavily-anticipated.

After struggling to stamp his authority at Chelsea, and consequently leaving José Mourinho‘s side in search of regular first-team football, it was a brave decision by the talented Belgian. Questions were asked, murmurs were made, suggestions and assumptions ran rampant, that he simply wasn’t good enough for the top.

de Bruyne’s road to glory

Fast forward a year-and-a-half, he’s back in the Premier League, with Chelsea’s arguably biggest title challengers now. Coincidence, I think not.

Having joined VfL Wolfsburg in January of 2014, it turned out to be a beneficial move for both parties. The Blues managed to bag plenty of profit from the deal, believed to be around £20m, whilst Wolfsburg welcomed an exciting talent with plenty to prove.

He did just that, taking the Bundesliga by storm in no time at all. Assists, goals, creating chances, he did it all. His first full season, he broke the league record for the highest amount of assists in a campaign, with twenty, as well as sixteen goals in all competitions too.

Unsurprisingly then, plenty of European sides were now interested in his signature. By this time, it was clear that Chelsea had made a grave mistake in letting him go – he was barely given a look in, which just reiterates how unforgiving the best clubs can be with their talents.

Bayern Munich, Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Manchester United were all reportedly linked with moves for him, but City muscled in with their financial firepower to seal a deal before the deadline.

Where will he fit in? Will Navas be consequently replaced?

A sweet acquisition, but for a club with an ever-growing reputation of City’s? Even better. Wolfsburg were reluctant to let their prized asset go, and understandably so, but the transfer saga was soon resolved and now the question is: Where will he fit in?

A quartet of Sterling, David Silva, de Bruyne and Sergio Agüero is a naughty thought. Defence-splitting through balls, probing attacking runs, clinical finishing of the highest order; naturally opponents will be scared.

However, it’d be mean to leave out one man in particular, who is inconsistent but has quality in his own right. Jesús Navas – a man of much debate as to whether or not, he’s good enough to play week-in, week-out for a title-challenging side such as City themselves.

Having spent £15m for a player of his quality at the time, seemed like a good piece of business. Tearing defences to shreds with his blistering pace at Sevilla, his energy would be utilised effectively in the top flight, right?

Good, but not on a regular basis – frustrating to say the least

That was two summers ago. Navas is now 29-years-old, and frankly, not getting any younger. He’s brought the club plenty of width down the right, as well as a heap of assists. But for all of that, he lacked one important component.

What, you ask? Well, the killer instinct, which every top winger possesses. The final ball, killer pass, unselfish ruthlessness.

With the inclusion of Raheem on the left-hand side, he’s already trumping the performances of Navas on the other flank – who infamously dithers on the ball in promising situations, which you quite frankly cannot do at the highest level.

Having played five Premier League fixtures this term, Navas has teased with flashes of skill, but also frustrated with his decision-making leaving a lot to be desired. Everton (away) was a prime example, where he got forward and found himself in space with one-on-one opportunities to score or create an assist for a team-mate in the area, but instead, he managed to shoot from an acute angle – which was comfortably beaten away to safety.

Another example, if you will. Another away match with a tough test against Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace side. de Bruyne making his debut, off the substitutes’ bench, played through an inviting ball towards the pacey Spaniard. Having already beaten the last defender to the ball itself, as well as rounding the goalkeeper, all he had to do was tap it into an empty net.

But no, he managed to take an extra touch and send the ball out of play for a goal-kick, as his effort trickled past the near post. Obviously, it’s cruel to judge him on these performances alone – because he’s been excellent at times.

That’s the most frustrating thing, inconsistency. Navas is eager to keep his place within the side, and Pellegrini is more than happy to give him an opportunity to prove himself.

STAT: Last season, Navas tallied the most minutes of any outfield player within the City squad.

He’s a good player, but world-class? Not particularly. Does he deserve to start regularly for a title-challenging side, no.

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