What Dzeko to Manchester City means for Real Madrid
On paper, the two teams have absolutely no connection to each other – that is, until you factor in the big money move of Edin Dzeko to Manchester City. The January transfer could cost Real Madrid the Spanish League title; here’s why.
The media has been rife with rumours that Edin Dzeko, the Bosnian striker currently plying his trade at Wolfsburg, could complete a transfer to Manchester City any day now. [Since this article was written, a fee has been agreed]. Considering the spending power of the blue team from Manchester, nobody would be surprised – Dzeko has professed his desire to leave since the summer of 2010 and Wolfsburg’s inability to mount anything close to a title challenge in the Bundesliga means the German club could hold onto their star player no longer.
The other club in the running for his signature however, Real Madrid, might be more affected than most would realise. The injury to Higuain which is set to rule the Argentinian out for upto six months means the centre forward role has become something of a conundrum for Jose Mourinho. Karim Benzema is woefully short of form and confidence and, amazingly, is Madrid’s only other quality centre forward option.
The player injury merry-go-round gives Mourinho something of a tactical headache which Dzeko would undoubtedly have solved. With Benzema failing to impress, a reliable, strong centre forward is essential if the team is to mount a title challenge and there is a noticeable shortage of them available which can provide the quality that Real Madrid need.
Mourinho’s desired formation so far has been a broad 4-2-3-1 with a front 3 of Ronaldo, Higuain and Di Maria. Ozil sits behind them, running the lines and arriving late in the box. Higuain is surprisingly vital to this formation because of his hold up and link up play. He was constantly bringing Ronaldo, Ozil and Di Maria into the attacking play with his back to goal and making wonderful runs off the ball otherwise. Benzema simply doesn’t have the hold-up element to his game and Madrid’s performances have suffered (most notably in the memorable thrashing at the hands of Barcelona in El Clasico).
With the return of Kaka from injury, this problem is only exacerbated. Logic dictates that Ozil would move to the left, Ronaldo would move up front and Kaka would take up his usual place “in the hole” and during Kaka’s cameo against Getafe, that’s exactly what happened. In theory, this works wonderfully but in practice, it looks a complete mess. Instantly, you could see the problem. Ronaldo missed the freedom of his left hand side position so he simply went to play there. Ozil, being the intelligent player he is, stuck himself up front in an attempt to balance the formation. All well and good, you’d think, except Ozil is nothing resembling a centre forward so he started to drift out wide, getting in Di Maria’s way. I could go on, but it’s fairly obvious it wasn’t working.
Even if Ronaldo’s selfishness could be reigned in and Mourinho could manage to make him play as a centre forward, the switch is basically eliminating Madrid’s primary method of scoring goals. Ronaldo and Di Maria arriving late in the box is causing havoc for defences and Ozil’s between the lines intelligence is so difficult to mark nobody has quite figured out how to do it. Kaka, while a wonderful player, simply is not in the same mould. His playmaking abilities stem from his desire to unlock defences with a well timed pass or graceful skill, it’s rare you see him ghosting in at the back post unmarked like Ozil.
With all this in mind, it’s unsurprising that Madrid chased Dzeko to some extent. What is surprising is City’s desire to sign him. In a squad already brimming with striking talent (their roster currently boasts the likes of Tevez, Balotelli, Adebayor and Jo, without mentioning the fringe players) it’s hard to see where Dzeko will fit in on a regular basis. If Tevez is fit, he’s nailed on as the starter in their particular 4-2-3-1 and Balotelli will feature in most circumstances, whether that’s out wide or in the centre forward role. So what exactly does Mancini have planned for Dzeko? (assuming of course the transfer is as final as the rumours would have us believe)
The problem faced by Madrid shows no sign of abating. If any manager in world football can solve it, you have to think Mourinho is that man. He may change the shape or bring in new faces, such as Miroslav Klose or, strangely, Emmanuel Adebayor. One thing is certain though. Dzeko could have solved a problem for Real Madrid that if ignored may cost them the title.