Squad Overview: Centre-half

A while back someone told me that we'd know City were making progress when Richard Dunne was no longer a shoe-in for our Player of the Season award. I've all the time in the world for Dunney, he's been a great servant, but if we've any serious hopes of pushing on then we must replace players who simply aren't good enough to play regularly in our first team, and sadly, he's one of those that must make way.

Richard is, and always has been, a player who has divided opinion, and one whose performances have seemed to swing wildly from the extremely competent to the absolute miserable, often little middle-ground. To be fair to him he's done well to still be in contention after nine seasons, especially remembering his situation during his early days at the club, when Kevin Keegan was extremely close to giving him his marching orders. Since then he's gone on to be pretty much the perfect role-model; no headlines, no strops, a solid pro respected by most, just unfortunately one who remains to be about as blooper-prone as they come. This season more than any he seems to have constantly been doing his best to feature on the customary Yuletide DVD's; his fair share of own goals, more frequent sending-off's, clanger after howler after dropped bollock.

As much as i love the man, and am extremely proud of his great service (350 appearances), we really cannot let sentiment get in the way of common sense. Next season's a huge one for us, we need a side that's possibly even good enough to be challenging the top four, Richard Dunne simply isn't good enough. With him having the armband, too, and on quite a healthy contract, i'm not sure it's realistic to expect him to sit on the bench. Plus, we won't be short of offers, a few sides lower in the division will take a chance on him. I don't see any scenario whereby he might stay if not guaranteed a starting place.

A player who for me hardly put a foot wrong this term was Nedum Onuoha. I had my doubts about him, i really did. I often thought he looked cumbersome and slow, particularly at full-back, and at centre-half i really couldn't see him getting a good run, but he was fantastic in the second half of the season. You really couldn't expect to meet a better young pro. He could've left here and got regular games at most Premier League sides, but he's knuckled down, come in and out of the team, done what's been asked of him, never once complained. He's a terrific example to other young players at the club; if you're good enough you'll get games, it might not happen overnight but you'll be given a chance. At times he's looked mature beyond his years, and i'd say he was probably our best defender this season (not that there's been too much competition!).

With the signing of Gareth Barry i'm pretty sure Vincent Kompany will now move back. When called upon to play there this season he's looked excellent, he's a player who's never failed to impress. He seems like a really sensible lad, on and off the pitch, i even think he's captain material. I'm not sure our midfield really looked that strong this season, defensively speaking, but i can't remember Vince making a mistake. He strikes me as being the type of player that knows how to do the simple things well, and i'll be interested to see how he does over a season at the heart of the defence.

Beyond the regulars, i'm hoping for a swift departure from Tal Ben-Haim. He's a player i've never rated. He looks overweight, uninterested, unsure in possession, i'm really not sure why we signed him. He's another who we won't struggle to move on, though, so he must have something about him.

I'd like to see us spend big money on a proven top-drawer centre-half. Someone who can come in, marshall the backline, organise us, lead from the back, an all-commanding lump of a stopper, a John Terry, but not John Terry, who i doubt would come here in a million years. Of domestic players who we might have a chance of getting, though not all in that mould, i'd be relatively happy with any of Ricardo Carvalho, Branko Ivanovic, Kolo Toure, Phil Jagielka, Joleon Lescott, Brede Hangeland, Jonathan Woodgate, Matt Upson, even Gary Cahill. I'm not really a huge watcher of European football, but Daniel van Buyten, Giorgio Chiellini, Diego Lugano, Raul Albiol, Diego Godin, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Joris Mathijsen & Philippe Mexes are just a few names who would be a vast improvement.

Centre-half, for me, is the position i think we absolutely have to get right. As good as our squad is, and for all the technical ability we have going forward, we at times seem unable to just defend with no frills, if at all. I think we need to add steel, not only in the middle but perhaps in both full-back positions, as previously discussed. We concede a lot of 'silly' goals, unforced errors, bad marking or positioning, us generally being sloppy. Plus, there's the fact that we concede a fair few from set-pieces and have virtually no presence ourselves from them at the other end. With the addition of a striker our forwards and midfield pretty much picks itself now, imo, but at the back i'm not quite so sure. With the addition of one of the above, however, aligned with an in-form Onuoha and Ned's switch, i'd be pretty confident about us in the middle.

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