Having endured a tough few months following his summer switch from Villa, what does the 25-year-old midfielder have to do to stake his claim for a regular starting berth in an ever-improving City side?
To this day, Fabian Delph has only managed four substitute appearances for the sky Blues since his summer move from Aston Villa. It has been a forgettable few months on a personal level for the midfielder, who at 25, made a bold decision to change his mind and put pen-to-paper on a four-year deal with the title challengers, and leave the west Midlands in sour fashion.
He has been plagued by hamstring injuries since his arrival, and is just now recovering from them – but he’ll be looking for more minutes in all competitive forms, to prove his worth to Manuel Pellegrini. Currently, the team often play a 4231 formation with two holding midfielders. Fernandinho is virtually a dead certainty to get into the team on most matchdays, simply because his work-rate is excellent and he does the dirty work in the centre of the park – allowing his teammates to break forward at speed in the process.
The other position alongside the Brazilian is therefore up for grabs. Yaya Touré is often ineffective in that role, he feels shackled and wants to be able to attack more often than defend, which can see him disregard his defensive duties.
Fernando meanwhile, has made significant progress of his own. Rewind to the start of 2015, the former Porto man was getting nowhere near the team. A poor, lethargic display against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup reiterated the reasons why he hadn’t been playing – but he has improved since then. Not known for his acceleration or long-shots, he often goes under the radar because, as a defensive-minded player, his job is to break up play. In recent months, he’s been doing that very well too, making interceptions and important sliding tackles when required to do so.
Where does that leave Delph, then?
To get into the City team on a regular basis, it’s all about form. Categorically, if you are not playing well, you will not get picked – or suffer the embarrassment of being dropped down to the substitutes’ bench. However, it’s the way in which you deal with it, that counts.
Delph hasn’t started a game yet, not through any fault of his own, but he has been injured and Pellegrini is understandably cautious about the amount of playing time his players get, once they’ve recently recovered from injuries.
If you watch highlights of him playing last term for Villa, you’ll understand exactly why City bought him in the first place – he is energetic, can roam forward if required, but also doesn’t shy away from his defensive duties. He loves making tackles, tactical or not, and his interceptions are a big part of his game; his presence was the focal point behind the club’s fight to stave off relegation in the 2014/15 campaign, believe it or not.
Naturally, after such an acrimonious departure, his performances will have been overshadowed by fans’ reactions – plus his injury-plagued few months, too. He’ll have to deal with that in the best possible way, not only to prove his doubters wrong, but to his new supporters and himself, that this move was beneficial in terms of his development.
Taking the prime example of Raheem Sterling as a motivator, the 20-year-old has been hailed as one of the best youngsters in world football. He undeniably is one, but there were questions raised as to whether the Liverpool hierarchy were holding him back in his quest for ultimate success.
At the moment, they’re struggling to reach the top four, let alone challenge for titles. Delph needs to understand he made a similar decision for a reason, identify why this was, and make every effort in his power to force his way into the first-team plans.
Ultimately, he said he wants to be challenging for trophies and playing in the Champions League, City are doing this every year and getting stronger with experience. Aston Villa on the other hand, can only dream of challenging for titles at the moment – which is probably why their fans are so bitter about his departure in the first instance.
Avoid more injuries
It is probably the most obvious one, but unavoidable nonetheless. It’s always a gradual progression back into the team in general when you’ve been injured, not least twice in quick succession. He hasn’t had enough time to fully gel with his new teammates since the deal was agreed back in July – as he has been with the medical staff for the majority of time!
With that in mind though, Delph could actually prove to be like a new signing, provided he stays healthy for a sustained period of time. Pellegrini will be justifiably sweating over Delph’s fitness levels when called up to the England squad, too.
He is a very good player, but naturally, when you are not a star name in a team, people will be skeptical. Time for Delph to prove his critics wrong, then.