Why ‘Moroccan Bale’ offers salvation for Manchester City
After an abject 4-2 defeat in the weekend’s Manchester derby meeting at Old Trafford, the alarm bells must be ringing at near-deafening levels for those of the Sky Blue persuasion.
Manuel Pellegrini’s imminent departure from the Etihad now looks a near-certainty but the Chilean manager may not be the only one to head for the Eastlands exit.
Much has been made of Yaya Toure’s potential move to Inter Milan and the hole that could leave in the Manchester City midfield, but the biggest area of concern for the club at present must be their current defensive slump.
City have gone from title winners almost 12 months ago to Champions League or potentially even Europa League also-rans.
In their last 15 Premier League outings, the soon to be dethroned champions have kept just three clean sheets.
The supposed demise of Vincent Kompany as the club’s defensive linchpin has already been well-documented but the Belgian is not the only one guilty of a few out-of-character mishaps.
Instead, the blame lies across the majority of the team’s back-line with Martin Demichelis the only one to come out of the season so far with anything in the way of credit – and that is hardly saying much.
Another prime candidate for criticism alongside Kompany, for instance, is Gael Clichy.
For so long a reliable option at left-back for the club, the Frenchman has endured a miserable campaign and was among the standout poor performers against Manchester United.
Guilty of several rash tackles early on against the Red Devils, the former Arsenal man was also directly at fault for United’s third goal, playing Juan Mata on-side to effectively put the game beyond the Sky Blues.
Now 29, City face a tricky decision as to whether they sell the Frenchman on, while he still offers some value to a prospective buyer, or keep hold of him and hope this dip in form is just a temporary one.
Yet with the club lacking top-level options at left-back, a new and ideally affordable addition this summer looks essential.
That’s where someone like Palermo’s Achraf Lazaar could prove ideal.
Still only 23, the Morocco international has impressed in Serie A with Palermo this season having moved to the Sicilian club from Varese last January.
A hard-working and noticeably pacy full-back option, Lazaar is also capable of playing in a wing-back or left-wing role and could prove equally adept in either position.
That could prove a major selling point to City, with the Sky Blues growing increasingly frustrated at a perceived lack of invention on the wing.
Jesus Navas has so far failed to deliver in this regard and with too much pressure placed on David Silva to deliver every week and James Milner facing an uncertain future, the signing of Lazaar could kill two birds with one stone.
The Moroccan certainly has plenty of admirers, with Lazaar’s agent Ali Barat revealing as much in a previous interview with TalkSport.
“There’s been a lot of interest from plenty of clubs from around Europe,” he said.
“He’s very similar to Gareth Bale in terms of pace and athleticism. I think he will be a big player in the Premier League very soon.”
A goalscorer for Palermo at the weekend with a strike that had shades of Bale in his Tottenham heyday, City would be wise to take a closer look at this versatile North African star, before someone else does.
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