|"James Milner might think the grass is greener at Manchester City. He may be in for a shock." (Stephen Ireland)|
Seeing as I'm on Malaysia time, I have several hours to burn before the Saturday news starts rolling in so I thought I would lay down some random thoughts on the Milner / Ireland trade that could have fantasy impact immediately and throughout the season.
The general consensus seems to be that City have been mugged by Villa and overpaid for the services of Milner. 43% of Goal.com readers think that the move is a bad one for Milner personally which implies they think he won't get enough playing time at City in the coming months and years. I disagree. I think people often underestimate the effect that it has on a manager's team selection when he signed a player - which is not the case for De Jong, Barry, Wright Phillips and Johnson. If any of these players are dropped by Mancini, and hence considered busts, it is Hughes' fault but if Milner does not play that Mancini will be blamed.
He may not like it, having stated his desire to play inside for both club and country, but Milner's ability to play on the right gives him an even better chance to feature most weeks as he is only really competing with Wright Phillips as a pure right-sided player which is great news given SWP's ineffective performances at the end of last season and against Spurs last week.
The BBC suggest that Milner will fit in a 3 man midfield with Barry and Toure and I totally agree. I think Mancini will go with 4-5-1 with Tevez and Silva behind Balotelli allowing Tevez to slide forward and Milner to slide right to give the team a 4-4-2 shape if required. Of course, players like Johnson, Adebayor, De Jong and Wright Phillips might come and go but I think this is his best team and Milner will feature as much as anyone from here on out. I'd set the line for the number of Premier League appearances he ends the season on at 28-30 and I'd still be buying that total.
As for his fantasy impact, that is slightly trickier. I have generally cautioned against players who move clubs due to the time required to settle in, get to know your teammates, possibly learn the language etc. These factors are less troubling with Milner than say David Silva but still a concern. I am personally going to watch this situation through GW3 and GW4 after which City have some dynamite fixtures that will make Milner very appealing if he is playing the right role. I am hoping for an advanced role in that 3 man midfield (think Iniesta) with Barry (Xavi) and Toure (Busquets) providing the protection. If this is the case then Milner has top 5 midfielder potential and is a steal at 9m. The development here could be one of the key things to watch in the next couple of weeks so stay tuned for some chalkboard analysis when the games have been played.
I'll put my cards on the table: I like Stephen Ireland a lot. Trawling through my blog archives you can find comparisons to Steve Gerrard and general admiration which has not wavered even if his status at City did. I thought he was desperately unlucky to be pushed out at City, and even if his recent comments are a little arrogant, he is probably not far wrong. At Villa he should slot right into Milner's role, flanked by talented players in Young, Downing and Petrov which should present plenty of attacking opportunities. There are also Milner's 35 bonus points to go around, which Ireland should have a decent shot at winning (he won 16 of his own in his landmark 2008/09 season).
When the season is done I think Ireland has the chance to be the best player available for under 8m and will give some of the 8m+ players a run for their money (not bad for 6.5m).
I am very high on Malouda and Valencia so I have tough choices ahead of me if I want to get Milner in too. Ireland however, is only 0.5 more than N'Zogbia so I plan to make a double swap next week, losing Vidic or Terry for one of their cheaper teammates allowing me to bring in Ireland in time for 3 decent home games (Eve, Sto and Bol).
I imagine this will be somewhat controversial as everyone has an opinion on City's transfer dealings so why not post your thoughts below to spark the EPL debates for another weekend.