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One major addition, two significant departures

17 August 2010

James Milner leaves the pitch to a standing ovation after his goal against West Ham on Saturday at Villa Park.

Today has been an important day for City’s squad, as it begins to take shape. The James Milner transfer saga has reached a conclusion at long last, with the England international in Manchester for a medical. Stephen Ireland will be moving the other way down the M6, along with a reported £16m, rising to as much as £18m after all the add-ons are factored in. Meanwhile, The Craig Bellamy Situation has found resolution as well, with the Welshman joining his hometown club, Championship side Cardiff City, on a season-long loan deal.

The Milner deal should complete City’s signings for this transfer window — despite continued media reports linking City with Benfica’s David Luiz and Barcelona’s Zlatan Ibrahimović. It’s been another busy summer, though this time around it appears City have gotten much better value by going primarily the continental route. Milner essentially plugs the hole in the lineup left by Bellamy’s fall from grace at Eastlands.

Like left-footed Adam Johnson on the right side, the right-footed Milner can play inside-out on the left side, where he is has proven to be very dangerous cutting in and shooting with his right foot. When Mancini plays a target man in the box, the two can switch back to their natural sides for crossing. From watching Milner play at Villa, I know to expect a great work rate from a young player who plays the game with a great deal of energy and can cross well and shoot very well while moving.

The City player with the most to lose from his arrival is Shaun Wright-Phillips. SWP started the opener at White Hart Lane, but expect to see Milner taking his starting spot. I like the idea of Milner on the left, David Silva as an attacking mid, and Adam Johnson on the right. Mancini then can decide between starting Emmanuel Adebayor alongside Carlos Tévez up top with one defensive midfielder in a diamond 4-4-2 formation or deploying the Argentine as a lone striker with two defensive mids in a sort of 4-5-1 as he did against Spurs on Saturday. Also, both Silva and Milner can play wide or centrally, so the two of them may switch liberally to keep the opposition on their feet.

While it’s sad to see Ireland go, his shocking loss of form last season and unimpressive preseason have gone a long ways toward giving City supporters a greater peace about the fan favorite moving on. Known as Superman amongst the City faithful, Ireland was the Player of the Season in 2008-2009 after a breakout campaign that saw him net 17 goals and record 13 assists. However, he became marginalized under both Mark Hughes and Roberto Mancini last season, getting just 24 starts.

It’s been theorized that Ireland enjoyed such great success two seasons ago because opposing defenses were keying on Robinho and, to a lesser extent, Shaun Wright-Phillips, often ignoring Ireland at their peril. Last season it was a combination of being asked to play farther back in the midfield instead of just behind the strikers, along with greater attention from the opposition that led to his marked decline.

I know I’ll miss seeing Ireland find teammates with killer balls in the final third and seeing him trail a counterattack and find the back of the net. Best of luck to him at Villa Park, where I’m sure he’ll quickly become a fan favorite there as well. I know Glockner’s been dreaming of a move to Fulham for the 23-year old.

Speaking of his geriatric Cottagers, Glockner’s even more distraught over missing out on Craig Bellamy. While the 31-year old Bellamy certainly would fit in much better with his fellow pensioners at Craven Cottage, he has instead been exiled to the nPower Championship. (And yes, I miss calling it the Fizzy Pop League.) It’s a major step down for Bellamy, but still a good fit, as he reportedly lives just minutes away from Cardiff City Stadium and has a son in the Bluebirds’ youth setup. Plus it should be fun watching The Whippet terrorize Championship defenses and berate second-tier referees this season.

It’s sad to see Bellamy’s City career end this way. Even knowing his nomadic, troubled past, I did allow myself to consider the possibility of him settling down and enjoying an extended spell at Eastlands last season. While I still maintain he’s one of the more unfairly maligned characters in the game, Bellamy does appear to have a side to his personality that causes him to wear out his welcome at each new club very quickly. I wish him luck at Cardiff and will be hoping to see him lead the Bluebirds to promotion to the Premier League at long last.

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