Jesus Navas: Manchester City’s Resident Scapegoat


Another match, another somewhat inconsistent performance from Manchester City. Now before I kick off with my rant (and a football-related pun), I’d like to clarify: Manchester City’s complacency on the field is a problem bigger than one player.

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Although I risk sounding like an bratty child (which I am, but in a different context), I do think that — despite City’s good form on paper — there are problems that they need sorted, and this almost squad-wide laurel-resting is certainly one of them. As a half full of chances drew blanks for Manchester City, it was clear that this played a part, but as ever, what stood out was another disappointing performance from Jesus Navas.

A first half miss was simply the tip of the metaphorical iceberg, a physical piece of evidence of his poor form that is so often missing, which leads to misinformed assumptions that he’s a great player.

Jesus Navas, since he first arrived at the Etihad, has been touted as a ‘classic winger’ — one of the very best at that.Yet surprisingly, Navas’ performances have exhibited little sign of the quick and enterprising style associated with the role, as he instead appears to view himself as a creative central midfielder; a sort of pound-shop David Silva, if you like.

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Given my penchant for criticizing the Spaniard, it would seem like I have a personal problem with the Spaniard, but I don’t — not that I can anyway. I know full well that Navas has the ability to really test wing backs —  he did it during his first season at City. Not throughout the whole season, but he was really effective in the first half, with some blinders, against Tottenham Hotspur for example.

When he first joined Manchester City, Jesus Navas was something of a breath of fresh air, a direct route to goal that isn’t very often seen in neat passing teams. In a less-than-pleasing turn of events, he’s lost a lot of that magic.

Why is it that Navas has gone from bag of tricks to a waste of a starting position? It’s all down to how he’s utilizing his talents. As was pointed out earlier, Navas is heralded as a return to the days of classic wing-play, and that is, for the most part, a valid point.

His pace is blistering; after all, and he’s able to tap the ball past almost any full back with relative ease, thanks to this talent. Howeverand this is a big however — the player doesn’t use his God-given gift anywhere near as well as we know he can. A clear gulf of space on the right wing is often met with hesitation, as he turns his back on the chance and cuts inside, to either pass backwards or across, like a Spanish Joe Allen. It’s almost as if he has forgotten that he’s incredibly quick.

Jesus Navas joined Manchester City from Sevilla in 2013, for an initial fee of £14.9 million.

When he does manage to drum up the courage to break down the wing, his crossing is at best, inconsistent. Again, fans know that he can whip in a deadly ball, which makes it all the more frustrating when he floats one out for a throw in on the opposite side.

Yes, it could be argued that when Aguero and Jovetic play in place of Edin Dzeko, his opportunity to cross it in greatly decreases; but that is only valid if there was no such thing as a low cross… which there is, obviously.

Too many times have I bemoaned his inability to find his target when he strikes a cross straight over Aguero’s head. Along with this — particularly in the Everton match — his decision making was just as poor. Opting to almost always take that one extra touch, Baines was comfortable blocking out Navas’ attempts to get the ball in. Less said about his shooting the better too.

Navas’ crossing is – at best- very inconsistent.

With Wilfried Bony coming to the Etihad for a fee believed to be around £30 million, Navas could see himself back at home, crossing the ball to a tall striker, and all could be well. On the other hand, Navas could stay in this trough and perform no better than he has with Dzeko up front, another target man.

I want the guy to do well; after all, he is a City player at the end of the day; yet all too often, his poor performances grant him the honor of being partly blamed for a disappointing result. Manuel Pellegrini seems to insist on playing Navas even when he isn’t playing well, which makes the Spaniard’s poor form even more frustrating.

I appreciate what Navas brought to the team last season, but given how little he’s done this season — and how unlikely an improvement seems — I think I speak for many City fans when I say we could find better wide men elsewhere — this might sound unbelievably crazy, but maybe give a youth player a chance for a while?

No? Thought so, City.

Next: Is Bony Right for City?