Exchanging highly-paid veterans for youth has defined NYCFC’s first off-season under coach Domenec Torrent.
The David Villa era is over, raising important questions about NYC’s long-term direction. Torrent, the mercurial Pep Guardiola disciple, is attempting to implement his vision, though his exact goals are thus far unclear.
A Look at NYCFC Off-Season Transfers
The Spaniard has a penchant for tactical ambiguity, at least based on a rocky half-season in charge. He rotated attackers at high frequency and emphasized throwing numbers forward with the ball, often sacrificing defensive solidity and coherent possession. NYC’s off-season acquisitions — including 19-year-old Juan Pablo Torres, 24-year-old Romanian attacker Alexandru Mitrita, and 21-year-old Keaton Parks — are apparently aimed at continuing this attacking, pressing, on-ball ethos.
Villa and 28-year-old striker Jo Inge Berget are gone, along with veteran winger Rodney Wallace, star midfielder Yangel Herrera (who was injured for most of 2018 and is now in La Liga, still on loan from Manchester City), and lead-footed midfielder Eloi Amagat, who looked vastly out of his depth in 430 minutes.
With Homegrowns James Sands and Justin Haak in the fold, NYC are noticeably younger. But how they will line up remains a question mark, and Torrent’s tactical inclinations are equally as hazy as they were in August, when the Light Blues plummeted below Atlanta United and the New York Red Bulls in the standings.
Replacing Villa and Berget up top could be accomplished with a false 9, which Torrent tried at times last season with Maxi Moralez and Jesus Medina. They will have to decide whether Mitrita fits such a role, or if a player like Ismael Tajouri-Shradi should play up top or out wide. Mitrita is a Designated Player has a fairly good goalscoring record in Romania (some Mitrita goal scoring highlights below), indicating NYC consider him the answer at striker.
Did NYCFC Do Enough to Catch-Up?
This off-season’s moves are difficult to identify as positive or negative beyond “David Villa is gone and that’s obviously bad.” Mitrita is a bit of a wild card, coming from an obscure league. They could consider further reinforcements.
As ever, NYCFC’s prospects come down to Torrent. He has to be willing to put his best players on the field (that means starting Lewis) and maintain some continuity in personnel and style. NYC were streaky last season. Less tinkering will decrease chaos.
Before they approach the elite tier of the Eastern Conference again, Torrent has to concede those points. Patrick Vieira was able to consistently keep NYC in that elite tier with a beautiful, intricate possession system. Following Vieira was always going to be difficult, but Torrent arrived with high expectations. Those expectations won’t disappear.
Not. So. Fast.
Since then, Manchester City started to roll again, Liverpool had two costly draws, Salah went scoreless twice, and Sergio Aguero netted two hat tricks.
Now City are ahead of Liverpool (who have a game in hand) on goal differential, and Aguero (with his Goal of the Week) has tied Salah (with his game in hand) for the Premier League Golden Boot. Both sit with 17 goals after matchday 26, two ahead of Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
In just a few games, Salah has gone from an odds-on 10/11 favorite to 6/4, and Aguero has gone from 3/1 to just ahead of Mo at 5/4.
Who Will Win the Golden Boot?
Despite the Aguero scoring surge, Salah still has the advantage for three reasons:
- He has a game in hand
- Aguero, who when healthy is a more effective striker than Salah, has a body made of papier-mâché
- City have enough depth to give Aguero a breather or two, and Liverpool can’t afford to sit Salah
Just like the Premier League title race, the Golden Boot comes down to City and Liverpool. Who emerges atop the table might be directly tied to who produces the most goals for their club down the stretch.
It was a record-setting day for Sergio Aguero.
Aguero became the sixth player in Premier League history to tally 200 total scores (goals+assists) with just one club. Today’s latest hat trick gives the Manchester City striker 161 goals to go along with 41 assists.
Aguero’s hat trick helped propel City to a 6-0 demolishing of Chelsea and puts the Sky Blues back atop the Premier League table, three points ahead of Liverpool (who have a game in hand).
With that in mind, Aguero’s first goal today is our High Press Soccer Premier League Goal of the Week.
On Sunday morning, Salah posted a selfie on his Instagram of his new, fresh-shaven face.
Since joining the Reds in the Summer of 2017, Salah has played in 75 Premier League games and tallied 51 goals (65 in all appearances). All of those goals have come with a beard.
Every paranoid Liverpool fan now is saying to themselves, “Did he jinx himself? Will he score less now? Or does this make him more aerodynamic? I swear if he doesn’t score against Bayern Munich he better grow that beard back stat. Wait, if he does score against Bayern he better freaking shave every day. OMG what if City beat Chelsea by 4 or 5 goals today, is it because Salah shaved his beard? Why would he do this at such a critical juncture of the campaign?”
Liverpool’s next game is against Bayern Munich on February 19th in the Champions League Round of 16.