Jack: Jovetic shines just at the right moment for City

Kristian Jack
8/25/2014 6:09:00 PM
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Manchester City know they need to be better.

In fact, they promised they would be.

“To win you need to keep the balance. Our squad is very strong, it will be the second year with Manuel Pellegrini so they will do much better.”

Those were the words of Chief Executive Ferran Soriano this summer ahead of the new season.

Last season, Manchester City were so impressive that there was some discussion about them seriously winning the domestic triple.

In the end, winning the Premier League trophy and the Carling Cup, in the first year under Chilean Pellegrini, meant it was another year to remember on the blue half of Manchester.

Their main rivals, Liverpool, took them to the final day, but it was another rival that Soriano and his fellow executives had more than one eye on - Chelsea.

Jose Mourinho's side have grown stronger this season and after finishing just four points off the top last year, without having a true goal-scoring threat, Soriano, Pellegrini and company will know Chelsea should comfortably get to the 86-point mark that they achieved last season.

City, scorers of 102 goals in 38 league games, looked for improvement as they attempt to win back-to-back Premier League titles for the first time.

Bacary Sagna, Fernando and Eliaquim Mangala were added to their team, but the biggest piece of evidence in the case for their improvement this season was witnessed on another rainy Manchester night on Monday.

Stevan Jovetic was mocked last season. Called anything from soft to a flop, the 24-year-old hopefully learned to not listen to football phone-in radio shows during his lengthy absences off the field.

The former Fiorentina star managed to start just two Premier League games following a 25-million-Euro move from the Serie A last summer. A combination of various leg issues meant City and the league didn't come close to seeing the best of the forward during his first year in England.

Those starts came six months apart and Jovetic was removed during the second half in each, 0-0 draws at Stoke and Norwich, respectively.

He looked lost and nothing like the star who had been so brilliant in the purple of Fiorentina. Followers of the Serie A were perplexed, wondering when they would see the real Stevan.

Even his coach, Pellegrini, admitted to not being sure what he could get from him anymore when, in an interview last season, he openly said he no longer knew what injuries he had and how long he would be out.

City were deep enough to get more than enough goals without Jovetic. Alvaro Negredo, in the first half of the season, and Edin Dzeko, in the second half, were ruthless in front of goal and Sergio Aguero, when healthy, was a real threat.

However, this season with Negredo on the sidelines with a broken foot and with Aguero, once again, not 100 per cent fit, this was the time for Jovetic to shine.

“He had a really excellent pre-season and he is going to have a great season,” said team-mate Samir Nasri after Monday's victory over Liverpool.

Nasri had the perfect view of Jovetic's first master-class in England. With Liverpool dictating the flow of the game and causing a real threat at 0-0, with five minutes before half-time, Jovetic slipped in behind Alberto Moreno and powered City into the lead.

It was classic Man City. Since becoming a powerhouse in the league, one of their greatest strengths has been their mental attitude and on-field leadership. They don't panic when things do not go their way. They have a wonderful record of coming from behind in games for that reason and an even better record at scoring goals when they haven't necessarily played at their best. It speaks to their quality on the field, which, of course, they paid handsomely for, but it also speaks to their intelligence on the field.

Before Monday night, Jovetic would not have been considered amongst these players for Pellegrini. Yet, in the second half, he was a part of a move that he ultimately finished as City passed brilliantly around Liverpool to score an essential 2-0 goal. A brace for Jovetic. There must be something about Liverpool for him.

When he scored twice against the Reds in the Champions League five years ago, he said it was one of the best nights of his life. Then 19, the former Partizan Belgrade skipper was on the shopping list of many major European clubs. Rafa Benitez, on the wrong end of Jovetic that night, was so obsessed with what he had witnessed, he spent a year trying to find the money at Anfield to try and sign him.

In Florence, he stayed and blossomed under the wonderful guidance of Cesare Prandelli and Vincenzo Montella. Liverpool's loss was not just Fiorentina's gain. Serie A had seen many young stars come and go and it was only a matter of time before this latest star would pack his bags for good. They kept him for three more seasons following the win over Liverpool, seasons of ups and downs, but ultimately of frustration for La Viola, who were the biggest victims of Italy losing a fourth Champions League spot.

Jovetic matured in Italy, becoming a finisher, a creator and once again treasuring the role of a true talisman. It would be wrong to assume he is a pure number ten, but he is far from a finisher only comfortable at the end of plays in the box.

He is a pure footballer, more than capable of playing a large role in such a high footballing IQ team like City. He drifts comfortably into space, can play on the shoulder of defenders or between the lines and links up well with space invaders like Nasri, David Silva and Yaya Toure.

All he needed at City was an opportunity. Now healthy, Jovetic has started the season brilliantly and his two goals against Liverpool rightly brought him the attention he deserves.

It was hardly a surprise that he felt it was his best performance in a City shirt.

“For sure," he said. "I had so many problems last year, but that's the past and I don't want to think about it.”

Chelsea are strong this season because they have improved in the key areas they needed to address. City's victory over Liverpool simply showed just what a different class these two will be in this season.

During a true 38-round heavyweight clash between the two, Pellegrini wants to have options; two excellent players available in all positions. This is why Sagna was brought in to challenge Pablo Zabaleta, it was why Mangala was brought in alongside Vincent Kompany, Martin Demichelis and Matija Nastasic and why the impressive Fernando was brought in to challenge Fernandinho alongside Toure.

Jovetic's presence is also why no other forward was brought  in.  He is yet to start a Premier League game with Aguero, but on this evidence such a partnership would be mouthwatering.

No wonder everyone at City is confident they will be better this season.

Stevan Jovetic (Photo: Canadian Press)


(Photo: Canadian Press)
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