In recent weeks I have developed a fondness for Javi Garcia. The Spanish midfielder who, during his time at Manchester City, has consistently proved that he cannot cut it in the English game has undergone quite a transformation in recent weeks. The mere mention of his name caused panic amongst the City faithful at the beginning of the season but now his presence in the team is a lot more palatable.
Since the loss at Sunderland early in November, City have won all but one game and Garcia has turned out some decent performances in that time, particularly against more patient European opposition like Viktoria Plzen. He was also a vital component in the excellent 3-2 win against the slightly less patient and slightly more world class Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena.
Garcia’s ability to read the game and his tidy passing have compensated for his lack of pace meaning he shields the back four well. Though he starts most games from the bench, Manuel Pellegrini has deployed Garcia as a sub to great effect. City are able to switch from four to five in midfield with Garcia sitting in the holding role which has been particularly useful away from home when City concede more space to more adventurous oppositions. The game against Swansea on Wednesday was a prime example of how useful Garcia has become. Swansea enjoyed too much time on the ball in midfield and it is no coincidence that City saw the game out comfortably (bar the last minute Swansea goal) after the introduction of Garcia.
It’s all a far cry from the beginning of the season where Garcia filled in as a makeshift centre-half to compensate for City’s injury ravaged defence. The away defeat at Cardiff City epitomised the general feeling of distain that most City fans, including myself, felt towards Garcia. That coupled with more equally unconvincing displays at centre-half lead to something of hate campaign towards the former Benfica man. In his defence (pardon the pun), his natural position is central midfield and at some point throughout the season most of our actual centre-halves have had moments or performances they would rather forget. Since he has been deployed in his natural position his performance levels have improved
Garcia is never going to be a world class player but his performances of late deserve praise. Pellegrini also deserves credit for bringing the best out of him and persisting with his selection whilst others scratched their heads. With Jack Rodwell’s hamstrings ensuring that he is almost permanently sidelined, Garcia’s form and fitness is vital for City during this glut of fixtures in the winter months. After all, the options in defensive midfield are worryingly thin after Garcia. There is every possibility that he could be sold at the end of the season but in the meantime he deserves the support of the City faithful.
Written by Robert Toole