Why Wilfried Bony Makes Sense for Manchester City


Recently, rumors of Manchester City either having signed — or are in the process of signing — Wilfried Bony for £30 million have been floating around the place. Most initial reports are negative, with the biggest criticism being the unbelievably high price. However, I would like to offer a counter argument — Manchester City are overpaying, but it is a good decision.

Let’s take a look at the Premier League table right now. Before yesterday, Manchester City and Chelsea were tied in every important category. Chelsea started strong, but have stumbled recently, losing to Newcastle and Tottenham.

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As for Manchester City, they struggled early on against relatively easy opposition like Stoke, but have since recovered and shut a gap previously thought to be impossible to close. Judging from early results, it is very safe to say that the title race this season will be extremely tight. Manchester City and Chelsea are both very good clubs with top players.

However, injuries have ravaged the Manchester City lineup, especially their offense. Recently, City was forced to play James Milner as a striker, with better options Sergio Aguero and Stevan Jovetic out injured. Both are excellent players, and a case can be made for Aguero to be the best striker in the game today.

The issue with Manchester City is that they have 3 strikers with a system that requires two strikers. Two of their three strikers are quite injury prone, and unfortunately cannot be relied on to play every minute of every subsequent match, especially considering that Manchester City is hoping to go far in three competitions — the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League. Under this context, adding a striker is a great decision, and almost everybody agrees with that, but the issue lies in Bony’s price.

The rumored £30 million price tag is probably a significant overpay. The transfer business is very complicated, and the final price of a player does depend on many factors such as skill, age, current contract, etc.

It is difficult to come up with a specific price for Bony, but most pundits and sources agree that the Ivorian is worth something in the region of £15-20 million. Judging from a context neutral way, Bony is worth nowhere near £30 million.

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  • Put yourself in City’s many shoes, and that £30 million price tag quickly starts to make sense. The only question that Manchester City should be asking is “will Bony make us better?” The answer is yes; thus buying Bony is a decision which is quite logical.

    So far this season, Bony has scored 0.45 goals per game, albeit in a small sample size of 20 appearances. Sure, going to City would mean that he would have to adjust to a new system and get to know new team mates, but he would also get better service and play more offensively than at Swansea. Predicting that he continues at his current pace and scores 0.45 goals per game is safe, and it is what I would go forward with.

    Bony will participate in the African Cup of Nations, and will definitely miss a few games. Hypothetically, say that he is back in time for the match against Hull on the 2nd of Feburary, Bony would miss 3 matches but be ready to contribute by game 24, making him available for approximately 15 matches this season.

    At this point, we kind of have to do a bit of hand waving and assuming here, but please follow along. So far, Manchester City has won 14 games, drew 4, and lost 2, a win rate of 70%, a draw rate of 20%, and a loss rate of 10%. Assuming that the current rates hold, they can expect to win approximately (with rounding) 10 matches, draw 3, and lose 2.

    Add an extra goal to one of the 5 matches where Manchester City is expected to drop points, and Bony would ‘win’ City an extra 2 points. I’d personally predict that Manchester City would probably finish 2 points better with Bony than without him.

    You are probably thinking that over paying £10-15 million for an improvement of 2 points this season is crazy, and it probably is for 19 out of the 20 Premier League clubs. But in a title race as close as this one, Manchester City is at peak marginal utility for each individual point, overpaying is probably a good choice.

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    I have discussed the marginal point theory here before, but let me quickly recap. The value of each individual point varies depending on a club’s position and the position of a club’s rivals. An extra two points probably isn’t worth very much for a mid-table side like Stoke. After all, what is the fundamental difference between 8th and 9th place? But two points to a team tied at first place — or close second — in an extremely tight title race? Those points are massive.

    The final question comes down to opportunity cost. Would signing Bony hinder Manchester City’s pursuit in improving other parts of the club? I don’t think so. Manchester City have relatively few deficiencies outside of the striker position.

    At the end of the day, it really comes down to the fact that trophies last forever. Money? Its not like Manchester City lack any of that. The optimal strategy for Manchester City right now is to go for tiny marginal improvements at any cost, something that they are doing by signing Wilfried Bony. Price is simply not an issue.

    Next: Talking Points From Chelsea vs Newcastle