Big-Name Manchester City Players Set to Spend a Season on the Bench
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Man City fans may have to be patient if they are hoping to see many of the star names in their squad in action this season.
Twenty-plus players into 11 simply won't go, and manager Manuel Pellegrini will have certain names that he wants to pencil in when he scribbles on his team sheet each week.
But all is not lost, as squad rotation is all part of the game these days, and Pellegrini himself told the press as much after the 2-0 win over Hull last week.
"We will rotate the squad a lot over the coming months," the official City website reported the Chilean as saying.
No surprises there, given the demands of the Champions League and the high stakes in the Premier League, but it looks inevitable that some high-profile players may spend much of the season on the outside looking in.
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OK, he's not the biggest of names, but Dedryck Boyata's absence despite the current injury to Vincent Kompany is a telling one.
Several appearances in preseason reminded City fans that Boyata still existed following loan spells at Bolton and FC Twente in recent seasons, but when a central defender was needed at Cardiff, Pellegrini opted for Javi Garcia with Boyata left to kick his heels.
Another loan would seem to be the best option for the 22-year-old Belgian right now, a far cry from when former boss Roberto Mancini plucked him from the reserves early in his reign.
Within a few weeks Boyata was impressing against Man United in the Carling Cup, but those days are a distant memory.
Martin Demichelis' knee injury means City still need defensive cover, but with Micah Richards fit and capable of playing in central defence until Kompany returns, Boyata is unlikely to feature.
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When he was signed from Benfica a year ago, Garcia was described in the Daily Mirror as a replacement for Nigel de Jong, but his struggles have left many City fans longing for the combative Dutchman.
The Spain international never really imposed himself in his first season, and his recent performance when played out of position in central defence will have done him few favours.
Partnering Joleon Lescott at Cardiff in the absence of the injured Kompany, Garcia struggled to cope with the lively Welsh outfit in the 3-2 defeat, and as a result seems set for a season of cameo roles
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The England international midfielder saw his hopes of establishing himself at City last season following his move from Everton ruined by a string of hamstring injuries, and the way City have set up so far under Pellegrini suggest he's going to have to bide his time this term.
Yaya Toure and Fernandinho have, unsurprisingly, been the preferred options in central midfield so far, with Rodwell occasionally looking on from the bench.
The 22-year-old will have to force Pellegrini to consider him with his displays in training, but the demands placed on the squad by the Champions League in addition to domestic football, could see Rodwell given a chance to shine.
There's a real talent in there, but how often it will be seen this season is up in the air.
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James Milner's versatility is a huge asset, but it can also be a hindrance in a strange way.
What would be the one position he could nail down as his own? He's capable of playing in the middle, out wide or even as the holding midfielder—but City have several options in all those positions.
That's been the case ever since Milner arrived from Aston Villa in 2010 in a deal that saw the more one-dimensional Stephen Ireland head the other way.
Milner has still managed over 100 appearances, and has steered clear of injury to provide a consistent option for his side. The early signs under Pellegrini suggest that Milner will not be a first-choice again, but the chances are he'll keep cropping up as the season progresses.
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The Bosnian striker's legion of fans may not like it, but he could be one of the main victims of Pellegrini's squad rotation system. The onus will be on the City manager to use his prowess for man-managementt if this turns out to be the case.
It's not that Dzeko has had a bad start to the season—far from it, with a goal against Cardiff and a good performance against Newcastle before that. Fellow striker Alvaro Negredo has also hit the net twice, both after coming off the bench, and is pressing his claims for a start when the Blues take on Stoke next Saturday.
As Richard Tanner said in the Daily Express: "Pellegrini has seen the good, the bad and the lazy side of Dzeko, while witnessing the bustling workrate and goal touch of Negredo."
Dzeko seemed to be one of the most disaffected players during the latter stages of Roberto Mancini's reign, but while the Italian cold-shouldered anyone out of his side, his Chilean successor has a reputation for encouraging his players.
Dzeko won't be out of the side for long if Pellegrini rotates as promised, but the striker's reaction when it happens will provide a decent examination of both his credentials and those of the City manager.