Lost within the story of Manchester City’s successful 2013/14 was Stevan Jovetic’s private disappointment. From being a gossip-column favourite and highly-desirable forward during his time in Serie A, injuries and the depth of talent at the Etihad conspired to make him an afterthought.
There’s been some mild speculation that the Montenegrin would leave the Premier League this Summer and head back to Italy, but City have refused to even entertain that as a possibility and that’s probably a symptom of the expectation that they still have for the player.
And rightly, because people have forgotten just how talented Jovetic is. Creative, flair-heavy forwards who are comfortable around the box and inside are quite scarce, and that’s exactly what he is.
He may not have been a prolific goalscorer to-date and his statistical contribution may not have been remarkable, but that shouldn’t be a judgement on his talent – he can, in theory, do just about everything: score goals, create them, take defenders on, pass the ball accurately and reliably, trouble a goalkeeper from distance….really, there aren’t many holes in his game. And he’s still only 24.
Last year, Manuel Pellegrini basically moved between a 4-4-2 system and a 4-2-3-1 structure; variations to each were used, but those two were the most frequently seen. Sergio Aguero and David Silva are automatic choices in both, but there are two extra attacking positions in each that Pellegrini will rotate players in and out of depending on the opposition.
Samir Nasri is clearly a hugely talented attacking-midfielder with outstanding technical ability, Jesus Navas offers a pacey, slight more direct option on the right-hand side, and James Milner provides a blue-collared, two-way game against teams with a lot attacking strength. In addition to those three, Pellegrini also has a choice of Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo should he wish to construct a more orthodox two-man frontline.
Amongst those players, Jovetic is almost unique. Because of his ability to play such a wide variety of positions – forward, wide-forward on either flank, centre-based attacking-midfielder – he’s essentially a utility offensive player. Within the course of the same 90 minutes he can, for example, transition between a deeper-role and a supporting-forward position.
He has the skill-set to be a functioning part of an advanced midfield unit, but also the attributes to score goals and to play with a striker’s instinct.
He is the only player at the club who can do that, the only one who straddles those particular positional categories. That sort of hybrid is both incredibly useful and extremely difficult to game-plan against.
Top-flight English football isn’t really about ‘first-elevens’ anymore, and the trend over the last decade has been towards squad dexterity. That’s especially true in the attacking positions, and all the title-competitive clubs in this country have squads which offer a lot of flexibility in that department.
Flexibility in the sense of selection, obviously, but also in the amount of fluidity availability once a team is on the pitch – Chelsea’s front-four is a very interchangeable, Liverpool’s will be this season, Arsenal’s acquisition of Alexis Sanchez is a perfect example of the value of a multi-position forward and Manchester United, though an imbalanced team, do have some diversity in their front-third.
City are already in an enviable position, and a fit and confident Jovetic will just exaggerate that advantage. He is ideally suited to the modern adherence to squad flexibility, and his no-show last season shouldn’t disguise what a useful asset he can be this time around.
Related Teams: Manchester City