Now the furore over Fabian Delph’s summer move from Aston Villa to Manchester City has died down and the injuries that disrupted the start of his career at the Etihad Stadium have cleared, it’s becoming increasingly obvious the club got themselves a bargain.
Delph was criticised for the indecision he showed, saying he wouldn’t leave before eventually being lured to a much bigger club than the one he’d fallen in love with. Critics were desperate to point out it was a move riddled with difficulties—he was going to City under false pretences and was set for a life on the bench, a home-grown box-ticker who would undo the progress he made at Villa Park.
Those who had seen Delph’s rise in the Midlands knew that to be nonsense. The last two years of his time at Villa had seen nothing other than improvement. He had become a dynamic, consistent midfielder whose ability to run at pace with the ball and take players on was vastly underrated.
His clear, upward trajectory deserved the England recognition he received, and it deserved a move to a side capable of winning trophies. With the European Championship just 12 months away, his hesitancy was understandable, but it always seemed likely he would make the move. Professional footballers want to train with the best and test themselves at the highest level possible. How could he turn down such a tempting opportunity?
For £8 million, City could hardly believe their luck.
So far, so good. After an unfortunate hamstring injury kept him out for six weeks early in the season, he’s now fit and involved regularly for City, and his performances have been catching the eye.
His latest impressive display, in City’s 4-0 win over Crystal Palace on Saturday, saw him open the scoring from 30 yards and offer dynamism and energy in midfield. He, perhaps more than anyone, was the driving force behind a vital win.
We did a good job and the three points stayed home. Thank you all for the outpouring of support on the field and the messages. C'mon, City!— Sergio Kun Aguero (@aguerosergiokun) January 16, 2016
His stamina and work rate are clear, but this is a player with technical quality too. Not once has he looked out of place in what is an established and talented side. Rather than make up the numbers and regress, Delph’s move to City has enhanced his reputation.
His inclusion allowed Manuel Pellegrini to rest Yaya Toure. The Ivorian has been overused this season, playing 2,323 minutes of first-team action. That’s a big ask for anyone, let alone a 32-year-old operating in a demanding role.
Toure’s match-winning abilities are still burning bright, and he will remain a key player for Pellegrini. What Delph’s form will allow, though, is for Pellegrini to use Toure more wisely and maximise his brilliance. He doesn’t have to play every three days.
Pellegrini explained the decision to rest Toure afterward and said the four-time African Footballer of the Year had no problem with the decision.
“He started on the bench because he play against Everton a good game. He has less than 72 hours to recover, so I think he will not be able to play the complete game with high pace.
“If, for different reasons, we could not score, I thought we would have Yaya fresh for the last 30 minutes. That is why I am so happy to win making five changes.
“He is a very good professional. He works very well and understands absolutely what I think.”
Good win today! 🙌🏾 #ComeOnCity!— Yaya Touré (@YayaToure) January 16, 2016
The win moved City back to the top of the table temporarily, increased the pressure on Arsenal to get three points against Stoke City on Sunday and continued their fine home form. This was their ninth win from 12 home matches in this season's Premier League. If they could show anything like that level of consistency away from home, they would be out in front in the title race.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.