Jose Pozo confirmed his departure from the club to Almeria tonight, and if i'm being honest, it wasn't hard to see coming. It's been a difficult and frustrating twelve months for the young Spanish forward. It should have been a momentous year too - he made four appearances for Pellegrini's team, he scored on his debut and he trained frequently with the seniors, yet that only told part of the story. He struggled frequently with the EDS, partially down to being played out of position, but there was other factors at play. A series of hugely disruptive injuries during the crucial developmental years of 16-18 hampered his progress, and he never quite looked the same again. He was brilliant before that, and it was to expected too - he came with an incredible reputation, and a hefty price tag for one so young. There was no questioning it in the earlier stages of his City career. Here was a talent, a magnificent one. He linked beautifully with Rony Lopes, scoring a series of wonderful goals as he terrorised defences at youth level with his quick footwork, subtle movements and natural confidence. He had the world at his feet - a star in the making. Then came the setbacks. They hit hard. One in particular left him out for more or less a whole year. They proved seriously debilitating and that confidence, the extra yard of pace, the quickness of thinking - it just wasn't quite there on his return, and though there was glimpses of his ability he never seemed quite right. Think Torres' scenario, but at a vastly younger, and arguably more crucial, age.
It wasn't just the injuries, of course - he was often played up front through the middle with his back to goal. He's many things, but he's certainly not a number nine and he struggled to assert himself up against opponents vastly stronger. He worked hard, but he looked lost as he was repeatedly out-muscled. On the rare occasion he found himself facing the goal, and notably when he linked up with Iheanacho during his brief stint with the EDS last year, there was fleeting moments of encouragement. There was some lovely one twos, clever movement and the odd smattering of skill. That intelligence was still there, but when it mattered he just wasn't consistent enough. Indeed, there were many, many candidates arguably more befitting of the opportunities he was given last season. Barker, Bryan, Celina. Ntcham, Byrne, Angelino, Gunn, Boadu, Celina, Maffeo. All were in better form. Perhaps he wouldn't have been thrown in up front for the first team either if Thierry Ambrose hadn't been so unfortunately injured during the mid-season soiree to Abu Dhabi for the Hamburg friendly. He was certainly more suitable - a lot more adept at dealing with the physicality, and a vastly more natural striker. There was no questioning Pozo's commitment during the first team appearances, but he felt very much a last resort, and he was always facing an uphill struggle. Up against the likes of Phil Jagielka, he struggled physically - and if anything those appearances seemed to knock his confidence further. He had his big chance. His moment to shine, yet he was deployed as a workhorse, out of position, and truthfully, out of his depth in that role. It didn't help.
Perhaps the circumstances and his performances would have been more beneficial if he was given a chance in his preferred number ten position, but that was never likely. The expectations are high now at City, and there will be many, many casualties as the standards are raised. Pozo is notably one. It feels dramatic, what with him being the only player really afforded game time last year in the first team, but that's neither here or there. He wasn't representative of where our academy was at during that particular moment, and if anything it was an inclusion based on a fortuitous set of circumstances. That's not to say there isn't ability - no, far from it. There is, and it may still happen for him elsewhere, but the club have rightly, in my opinion, decided that at some point something will have to give. Every player will face that moment where a decision will have to be taken, and this was his defining summer. As it stands, Pozo doesn't look close to the first team, and he'll even struggle to get in the EDS. Up front Faupala and Ambrose are both a lot more naturally suited to those roles - even Faour and Nmecha in the u18s would be better suited, and there's a whole host of players in the attacking midfield slots, or out wide, who are probably just as likely, if not more so, to get game time ahead of him. Barker, the Garcias, Nemane, Boadu, and many more who will inevitably progress through from the u18s. He'd be left in limbo, so it makes sense the club are moving him on. A transfer with a buy back option seems to suit both parties. He gains the stability his career needs - loans can prove uncertain and disruptive, and City cover their bases incase he reaches a level they weren't sure he would.
This is the right move for the talented playmaker, and with a little luck perhaps he'll prove City wrong. My gut instinct says he doesn't quite have the strength or the fight for English football. Some simply don't, regardless of their size or apparent physique. Manu Garcia does, despite his seemingly smaller stature. He doesn't, as it stands, and neither did Denis Suarez. Both lovely little footballers, but the Premier League is an unforgiving place. I guess it's a mental thing. Who knows? Either way, he needs football and this is the right call for him. With Iheanacho's emergence, the signings of Patrick Roberts, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, he's seemingly drifted further away from that sustained chance he needs, and he'll surely know this too. Fingers crossed he'll settle in Almeira, for it was never through a lack of effort at City that he found himself in this particular situation. Bad luck, it happens unfortunately. A disappointing end to his career at City? Undoubtedly. A fair one though? Honestly, yes. Good luck, Jose.