Man City Need Wilfried Bony To Be The New Cantona

Bony\'s goals for Swansea, combined with his physical presence, prompted City to sign the Ivorian.

Published: 20th February 2015 07:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th February 2015 07:27 AM   |  A+A-

Wilfried Bony-AP

LONDON: Wilfried Bony would prefer to be making his Manchester City debut this weekend with his new team seven points clear of Chelsea rather than seven points adrift, but his pounds 25 million price tag will not feel quite so heavy down in second place.

It is a subtle difference, but being charged with helping your team resurrect a title bid instead of ensuring a serene procession to the championship alters the job description, and expectancy levels.

Fortunately for Bony, who is expected to make his City debut in the Premier League game against Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow, the only images on the walls of his new club's state-of-the-art training ground are of modern-day heroes and lofty ambitions for the future.

The past, which includes the disastrous pounds 200,000 signing of Rodney Marsh during the final weeks of the 1971-72 title race, is now another country at Manchester City. But history has a habit of repeating itself, and manager Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping that Bony becomes his Eric Cantona rather than his Rodney Marsh or Faustino Asprilla.

"The line-up had hardly changed since October, so to bring in a new player for the last lap was utter madness, especially a maverick talent such as Rodney," reflected Joe Corrigan, the former City goalkeeper.

"I thought he was a fantastic player with wonderful individual skill, but therein lay the problem; he had individual ability but in my view wasn't enough of a team player."

When Marsh arrived at City from Queens Park Rangers in March 1972, the team were four points clear of second-placed Leeds United (in the days of two points for a win), albeit having played two more games. Nine games later, with Marsh having scored four times, City trailed in fourth behind eventual champions Derby County.

A new face, as Marsh proved, can disrupt the chemistry of a team as much as improve it, yet there have been successes.

In January 2007, Henrik Larsson made his Manchester United debut against Aston Villa having been signed on a 10-week loan deal by Sir Alex Ferguson, who was determined to use the veteran's experience to maintain his team's six-point lead over reigning champions Chelsea.

Although Larsson scored just three goals in 13 appearances, his presence and influence on Ferguson's squad, notably the young Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo, was credited by the manager with being crucial to United's ability to repel Chelsea's challenge and secure the title.
Cantona's impact at Leeds following his arrival at Elland Road from Nimes in February 1992 proved that the right signing can reignite a faltering title bid, and City will hope for a similar contribution from Bony.

Although Leeds led Manchester United by a point, having played one game more, when Cantona made his debut as a substitute in a 2-0 defeat at Oldham in early February, Howard Wilkinson's team had drawn five of their previous eight league games and were running out of steam.
Cantona's arrival provided an injection of charisma and unpredictability, just when it
was required.

"He was an amazing player," said Tony Dorigo, the former Leeds defender. "At Leeds, we all had a role and were all in it together, but when you have an Eric Cantona, he doesn't chase full-backs or run back, yet in the final third he could produce something and win you games.

"As a player, you think, 'OK, we can do our job because Eric might just give us something different to get us those three points.'

"He was a wonderful player, but then we sold him - to the wrong club."

Bony's goals for Swansea, combined with his physical presence, prompted City to sign the Ivorian as a belated replacement for Alvaro Negredo, following the Spaniard's September return to La Liga with Valencia.

In January 1995, United's pounds 7?million outlay on Andy Cole, when trailing Blackburn by five points, was not enough to overhaul Kenny Dalglish's team in the title race, although they came within a final-day victory of doing so.

Graham Taylor's pounds 1.1million move for Millwall's Tony Cascarino, with Aston Villa two points clear of Liverpool in March 1990, backfired, with the Irishman scoring just once as the Midlands outfit imploded and trailed in nine points adrift of the Anfield club two months later.

But no signing has proved as disruptive and ill-conceived as Kevin Keegan's pounds 6.7?million move for Colombian forward Asprilla.

When he made his debut at Middlesbrough in February 1996, Newcastle were nine points clear of Manchester United with a game in hand.

But Asprilla's arrival sparked a cataclysmic collapse which left Newcastle as runners-up, four points behind United.

"Prior to Tino arriving, we had Les Ferdinand and Peter Beardsley through the middle, myself on the right and David Ginola on the left," recalled Newcastle winger Keith Gillespie.

"But I became the fall guy to accommodate Asprilla and Peter was moved to the right wing.
"Results started to go against us, United kept winning their games and the players became a bit miffed by the changes, because they upset the whole way the team played. I'll always remember Rob Lee speaking to Kevin a few weeks later to ask him to put me back into the team because the players wanted to go back to the formation that had worked so well.

"At the end of the day, United won the title because they went on an unbelievable run to overtake us, but it's still a big regret of mine that we went so close to winning the league only to fall short. Who knows what would have happened if we had stuck to the system that had worked so well for us?"

It may go against the grain at Manchester City, but they really need Bony to become their own Cantona.

WINTER GAMBLES:  How the big signings worked out?

Leeds debut Feb 8, 1992 (lost 2-0 v Oldham) Prior to the game, Leeds were top on goal difference having played one more than Man Utd. They won the title by four points.

Villa debut March 17, 1990 (won 1-0 v Derby). Villa were two points clear of Liverpool, having played one more game, but finished second, nine points behind.

Newcastle debut Feb 10, 1996 (won 2-1 at Boro). Newcastle were nine points clear of Man Utd with a game in hand, but went on to finish second, four points behind Man Utd.

Man Utd debut Jan 22, 1995 (won 1-0 v Blackburn). United were five points behind Blackburn, and finished one point behind.

Man Utd debut Jan 13, 2007 (won 3-1 v Villa) United six points clear, and won league by six points.

Man City debut March 18, 1972 (won 1-0 v Chelsea) City four points clear, but finished fourth.

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