Jesus Navas impressed during the Audi Cup in Munich.
An entertaining 5-3 victory over AC Milan and a 2-1 defeat to Bayern Munich meant City finished runners-up in the 2013 Audi Cup, a preseason competition designed to increase the intensity of warm-up football for those involved. Manuel Pellegrini can feel pleased with City’s preparations after stern tests against two of Europe’s elite sides.
City have spent around £90 million on Jesus Navas, Fernandinho, Alvaro Negredo and Stevan Jovetic this summer, all of whom played their part in the two Audi Cup matches in Munich. Here, I look at the contribution from each new signing during the competition.
Navas was the standout new signing over the two games, demonstrating speed and skill in abundance. He started against Milan and linked up brilliantly with Micah Richards down the right in what looks like a potentially devastating attacking combination. He also came on as a substitute in the final and unsettled the Bayern defence with his blistering pace.
He was heavily involved in the first goal against the Italians, bursting past his man before standing a cross up to the back post which Jovetic cushioned into the path of David Silva, who finished comfortably. It was a beautifully worked goal that set in motion a period of total domination which Navas was central to.
The Spaniard also assisted City’s fourth, scored by Edin Dzeko, playing a superb low ball across the face of goal into the path of the Bosnian, who couldn’t miss. Thanks to the Spaniard’s arrival, supply from wide has gone from barely being a feature of City’s game to one of their most potent attacking threats.
The out-and-out wing play that Navas provides brings a new dimension to this City team. It’s a directness previously absent, and his presence alone seems to have given City a real edge going forward.
Fernandinho is another who excelled in Munich. He started in both games, playing the first half against Milan and then the full 90 minutes the following day in the final.
He looks to have an incredible engine, able to cover so much ground and join in attacks when needed. His assist for Richards’ goal against Milan was exquisite—a first-time pass that took out the Italian defence and put the right-back through on goal.
The Brazilian's partnership with Yaya Toure looks like it could be one of the most dynamic defensive midfield pairings in the Premier League; a solid platform on which City’s attacking players are free to shine. Players like Silva, Aguero and Navas have the comfort of knowing they can express themselves going forward while being protected by two powerful midfielders.
He will give City some much-needed extra energy in midfield.
Jovetic also started both matches, playing the first half of each. He has great feet, an intelligent football brain, and the ability to fit seamlessly into a number of attacking positions. He can play as the main striker or in any position just off the frontman.
He provided two excellent assists against Milan: a deft first-time touch into the path of Silva for the first, and a simple ball into Aleksander Kolarov in for City’s third, showing great vision in allowing the Serb to motor ahead of him before slipping him the ball.
Consistently finding space and demanding the ball, Jovetic looked confident in both matches. He clearly wants to impress and stake a claim in what is a highly competitive City squad.
At 23, Jovetic is the youngest of City’s signings, and he looks to have bags of talent. With his ability to slot in to a number of roles, he should play an important part for City in the coming season.
Negredo had a mixed tournament.
On the one hand, he gives City a physical presence up front which they lacked previously. His goal in the final was outstanding—a real No. 9’s finish that few players in the City ranks could have scored. He also hit the bar with a great strike from outside the area against Milan.
However, he did miss some gilt-edged chances which took some shine off his performances, including a couple of headers in the final he will feel he should have buried.
He is strong, quicker than many expected and has a striker’s instinct that sees him get chances. That thirst for simple goals is something City needed. They scored just 66 last season, a dramatic reduction from the previous year, and Negredo’s instincts could help solve that issue. Whereas other City players weave intricate patterns and look to score the perfect goal, Negredo scores simple, close-range goals. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him score plenty this season.
Drawing too many conclusions from preseason games is a dangerous practice, but on the evidence of what we’ve seen in Germany, City have added signings who change the way they play. They have a stronger set of players and more options in terms of how they can set up. Watching them during the opening weeks of the season should be very interesting indeed.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity