Desperately lacking width and pace, City were crying out for a player of Navas’ ilk to add a new dimension to their slightly predictable attacking axis. After being frustrated by lesser teams in the final season of Roberto Mancini’s tenure due to their lack of a Plan B, new manager Manuel Pellegrini made Navas his No. 1 target.
City fans’ long wait for a proper winger was over.
Navas began the season with a superb performance against Newcastle in the 4-0 victory on the opening weekend. In tandem with Pablo Zabaleta, he tormented Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa all game with his willingness to run at the opposition's full-back—a new feature to City’s game. They had relied far too heavily on Zabaleta and Gael Clichy to provide width last season, so the sight of Navas, an out-and-out winger, constantly looking to beat the Newcastle left-back was a welcome one.
It was clear in that match that his ability to get to the byline and deliver a cross was the most dangerous element of his game, but he also drifted inside and dictated play, something we haven’t seen as much in his subsequent appearances. He seemed determined to make an impact on his debut, and he left City fans excited about the prospect of what was to come.
Navas also excelled in the 4-1 win over Manchester United.
His assist on Samir Nasri’s volley was brilliant, racing down the right before standing the ball up beautifully for Nasri at the back post. His speed caused United problems all day. He kept the United defence stretched all afternoon, creating space for City’s other attacking players to do damage.
His pace is clearly his main strength. It’s said he can run the 100-meter in 10.8 seconds, and being in possession of the ball doesn’t appear to slow him down too much.
As Spain manager Vicente Del Bosque once said, via Pete Jenson of The Independent: “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."
However, his other performances have been largely hit-and-miss.
Wingers rely, to a certain extent, on supply, and in the match at Cardiff he was given little, subbed off after 54 minutes due to his lack of penetration. After his brilliance in the previous match against Newcastle, this was a tepid and disappointing follow-up.
At Stoke and Villa, Navas was used as a substitute but didn’t make his mark. He is often used as an impact sub for his country, coming on and causing havoc with his pace when defenders are tired. Pellegrini was hoping for a similar game-changing influence, but his introduction into those matches failed to spark the same impetus it often offers his country.
It’s fair to say that Navas has too easily drifted in and out of games since his arrival at the Etihad. His pace and direct style of play are assets, but he must start influencing matches more consistently than he has so far. He has the ability to be one of the stars of this City side if he can increase his influence in matches.
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.
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