Man City: Why I'd Have Dzeko Over Liverpool's Suarez Any Day
Here’s a pub conversation for you this weekend. Who would you prefer in your team? Double footballer of the year Luis Suarez or the gawky, unathletic, erratic Edin Dzeko.
Of course the answer is stupendously obvious. Suarez, any moral considerations laid to one side, is a magnificent footballer. It would be completely churlish not to say so. He is not just a scorer of great goals, he is a great goalscorer too. Real Madrid, we are told, would like to buy him and it’s not difficult to work out why.
Dzeko, on the other hand, is an extremely expensive Shaun Goater. Sure he scores a healthy number of goals, but not every striker has Silva, Nasri, Toure, Zabaleta and Kolarov cooking up an unending all-you-can-eat buffet of chances, and he also frequently benefits from opposing defenders (quite rightly) taking extreme care of Sergio Aguero and therefore neglecting him.
Dzeko has one outstanding skill. He doesn’t just score goals. He scores important goals. Not just important, but season-defining and era-creating goals. And it’s not luck. It’s happened too often.
Let’s look at the evidence.
We could start with last weekend’s game at Everton. A mood-changing goal just before half time followed by a trademark close range effort just after the resumption, and a very difficult match at the serious end of the season is won. Just the sort of game that a cliché-bot pundit would say is one where “your big players need to stand up and be counted”. Edin was present and correct at Goodison, and on his feet.
But those goals are almost too obvious. What about Wigan away on a Monday night in January 2012. Dzeko’s header that gave City a one-nil win didn’t look much to write home about then. Three months later, United, with the title at their mercy played the same opposition on the same pitch in another night game – and lost by the same scoreline. All of a sudden that almost forgotten goal was given an almighty upgrade.
Dzeko has scored plenty very late in games (often off the bench), but he can also strike early. In late March of this year, City had a substantial points deficit to make up on the league leaders, but also had three games in hand in their back pocket. But those games in hand needed to be converted into points. The first match was at Manchester United. It took him 45 seconds. It was a tap-in. Others did the hard work, but our man was there to do the administration.
Sometimes, gratification is not as instant. This week against Aston Villa, it took City 63 minutes to find a way to score. But Dzeko was there when he needed to be –and he scored a very similar second goal minutes later. Can I call him Dzonny on the spot?
Our great friends from Abu Dhabi demanded Champions League football from City. Was there one match that secured that outcome for the first time in 2010-2011? No, but a win away at Blackburn Rovers immediately after the dramatic cup semi-final win over United made qualification an inevitability. The scorer (in the closing minutes) in that one-nil win. Dzeko. Out of form, off the bench and scoring a hugely important goal.
All this is well and good, but iconic goals that tell the world of a club’s rising status are important in their own way. What about the sixth in the 6-1 at Old Trafford in 2011. Unlike some of the others I’ve mentioned, you’ll remember that one.
City didn’t just need to qualify for the Champions League. They also needed a trophy. The FA Cup was won in 2011. The biggest scare by far came in the fourth round, when they were losing at Notts County. Ten to go, and it was ebbing away. The billionaires were about to be humiliated by a bunch of League One journeyman. But new signing (as he was then) Dzeko connected with a low cross from his right back and steered into the net for his first goal for City. You could argue he’s scored the same goal over and over again since, but without him the Cup would not have been won.
Ruthlessness is good. Liverpool’s outstanding run of wins came to halt against Chelsea. City kicked off at Crystal Palace as the crowd was dispersing into the Liverpudlian afternoon. Well before the paying spectators had reached either pub or car and Sky interviewed the managers, City had barged through the door left slightly ajar. The scorer of the fourth minute goal that showed his team meant deadly serious business: Edin Dzeko.
And the biggest of all was of course on May 13th 2012. One of the quirks of City’s recent history is that the four most important goals in the club’s recent history have all been scored in the closing moments of the relevant games: Kevin Horlock and Paul Dickov at Wembley in 1999. Fourteen years later, Sergio Aguero scored a goal you may have been familiar with, but without Dzeko’s header moments before, no dice.
So is Dzeko as good as Suarez? Well, no – and I am biased. But that is an outstanding record of goals in big games. Mario Balotelli was bought to play the Eric Cantona role for City. But Dzeko has ended up filling that position but in a different way. Just like Cantona, he is the man his team look to at the crucial moments, and for that reason, he is a certain starter against West Ham on Sunday, whether Aguero is fit or not. He has to play.
Does Suarez have anything as significant in his locker? I am not sure he does. I don’t go down the “flat-track bully” route with Suarez as that is easy to say and somewhat subjective, but there is something about Dzeko’s record. It is difficult to dismiss this number of important rather than memorable or spectacular goals as a statistical quirk.
Sunday could, of course, be Suarez’s chance to have a Dzeko-esque influence not just over a game but a season and even an era, but at this stage is seems only right to praise a specialist not in the great goal, but in the really, really important one. If City ever decided to sell, there would be a lot of interest, but why would they? His record of 26 goals and counting wholly underestimates his influence over City’s season.
Follow Mark on Twitter, @mellotrono