The Importance of Jesus Navas to Manuel Pellegrini's Manchester City
"He is in a permanent state of excitement on the pitch. There is a dynamism about him that makes him one of those rare players who can change the way an entire team is playing."
Vicente Del Bosque
"In England they love players that run with the ball and he is a player that responds to the crowd – that happened in Sevilla and it will happen in Manchester."
Vicente Del Bosque and Juande Ramos know Jesus Navas better than most, (via The Independent).
Del Bosque gave Navas his international debut and has consistently named him in his squads ever since, often using him as a game-changing impact substitute. This summer’s Confederations Cup in Brazil was a classic example: Del Bosque would play Navas high on the right-hand side when sides were tiring, with the winger’s ability to stretch the play in those circumstances a joy to watch.
Together at Sevilla, Ramos and Navas won two UEFA Cups, a Copa del Rey, a UEFA Super Cup and a Spanish Super Cup. It was a glorious chapter in the club’s history and Navas was a key component in Ramos’ team. In partnership with Dani Alves, he was one half of the most devastating right side in Spain.
Both managers agree that Navas has special qualities.
Of course, it’s his pace that is his most striking attribute. With and without the ball he moves at incredible speed and opposition defences are visibly scared of holding a high line for fear of the Spaniard getting in behind (something he does with apparent ease) and providing crosses.
It’s an element to City’s game previously absent, and should make them a far more difficult side to defend against. Last season, they were too predictable, with average teams too often figuring out how to keep them at bay.
Manuel Pellegrini’s tactical approach should suit Navas. The Chilean encourages an attacking brand of football, attempting to dominate possession through a high-tempo pressing game. With Yaya Toure and Fernandinho providing protection to the back four, City's creative players will be able to concentrate fully on their attacking duties. This should allow Navas to flourish.
First and foremost, Pellegrini wants City to be successful, but achieving success in style is high on his list of priorities.
“We had from the beginning the attitude to play as an aggressive team, an offensive team and we continued during the 90 minutes. That is very, very important to me,” he said after City’s wonderful performance against Newcastle which Navas starred in.
Pellegrini's 4-2-2-2 formation certainly plays to Navas' strengths, too. He will be allowed to take up the position high on the right-hand side, with the remit of doing as much damage as possible to the full-back. It’s a simple yet incredibly effective tactic that allows Navas to demonstrate everything that's good about his game.
He is also wonderfully flexible. "He played on the right-hand side for me because I had other options on the left but he is capable of playing on the other flank or through the middle behind the striker as he has shown since," says Ramos. This ability to move around will be attractive to Pellegrini, a manager known for switching tactics readily during a game if things aren’t going to plan.
The signing of Jesus Navas was clearly important to the new manager and the way he wants City to play. It instantly sorted the club’s chronic lack of width and added blistering pace to an attack that had a tendency to be too patient. He brings a direct approach that should cause opposition defences sleepless nights.
He will also bring excitement for the City fans. Too often their football was laboured during the closing stages of Roberto Mancini's tenure. Navas is an edge-of-the-seat type player that brings a thrilling new element to City's game. When Navas is in full flow, there's few players as electrifying.
One thing seems certain: Jesus Navas will have a huge role to play for City this season.
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