Player Focus: Could Wilfried Bony sway the title Race in Manchester City's Favour?
It could be the decision, albeit a double-sided one, that settles the title race. Back in August, as Jose Mourinho could finally contemplate replacing the hapless Fernando Torres, the Chelsea manager was very interested in a potential deal for Swansea City’s Wilfried Bony. The Portuguese is said to have been hugely impressed with Bony’s presence that went alongside his productivity, as the striker possessed that physicality that basically all of Mourinho’s best forwards have had.
The problem was that, with little time in the summer window left, that signing would have taken a lot of effort and likely a lot of money. Chelsea could do a deal for QPR’s Loic Remy much more readily, so that was who Mourinho got.
While it would be wrong to say the Portuguese regrets that right now, the possibility is that may well change. Given that Mourinho’s admiration for Bony remains, it would add an extra edge to the title race if the Ivorian striker was to get the key goal or two to send the trophy Manchester City’s way once again.
The champions have now done what Chelsea wouldn’t in the summer and sign Bony.
Of course, it is not just about what the striker can bring. It is that he so specifically solves a big problem for City. That is something Mourinho has proven Machiavellian enough to block in the past, as it has occasionally looked like he has only made deals to prevent rivals getting them. See, for example, Mohamed Salah.
This time, Chelsea may have allowed the move that makes City champions again, given that Manuel Pellegrini no longer has to fret quite so much about one of Sergio Aguero or Edin Dzeko getting injured. He is a fine striker to fill in.
On the other side, however, there is the possibility of Bony bottling a big chance. The question mark over his exact quality has been the main debate that has arisen as a deal with City moves closer. Basically, is Bony worth it?
The most basic stats indicate he certainly warranted consideration. Bony is one of just 12 players to have scored at least 15 goals in the Premier League since the start of 2013-14, so he is certainly close to the division’s elite. The base is undeniably there.
Of course, there’s a key difference at this level between touching the elite and actually affecting games like them, so how does Bony compare when delving deeper into the stats? What does he specifically bring?
First, the real positives - that presence Mourinho so admires.
From those 12 strikers, Bony wins more aerial duels (2.91) than everyone except Olivier Giroud (3.59), and pointedly trumps Edin Dzeko (2.48). He also loses the ball on fewer occasions (10.58 times per game) than everyone except Remy (8.72), Robin van Persie (8.83) and Dzeko (9.48).
In other words, regardless of how the ball is played up to him, Bony has that hugely valuable quality of making it stick.
The more pressing issue, though, is what happens next. Bony isn’t quite as clinical as so many slotted finishes for Swansea suggest. He’s certainly going to have to pick up his precision rates.
Out of these 12 strikers, he is eighth in terms of shooting accuracy (38%), ninth in terms of conversion rate (14%), eighth in terms of touches per goal (81.4) and sixth in terms of minutes per goal, at one every 151.
Basically, Bony is going to have to get a lot slicker. While his presence will definitely give something to City that they definitely lack, the wonder is whether a technically fine player can now take the rest of his game up to the level where it really makes a difference.
Of course, being surrounded with better players may help that, but there will be an onus on Bony to score goals that actually matter rather than ones that merely consolidate mid-table.
The pressure is on. He needs to ensure it is Mourinho that ends up feeling it.