Connor's Corner: How Can Man City Improve This Summer?
By Connor Harmer
Next up are the favourites for the league this year, Manchester City. After acquiring the services of Pep Guardiola last year, many expected the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich man to come in and win the league. After 10 games and 10 consecutive wins, it looked like he was going to. But, after a disastrous period during the middle and end of the season, they finished a lowly 3rd, 15 points behind Chelsea.
Pep is the manager to make the first big moves out of the top 6, capturing Brazilian Goalkeeper Ederson from Benfica for a staggering £34.7m. Now the GK position was a big problem for Pep last year, with Joe Hart’s shaky performances in the Euros, he was loaned to Torino and seems to have no future with City. Pep then brought in Claudio Bravo, who for me was up there with Brad Guzan as the worst keeper in the League last year. Pep has acted early regarding this position, with number 1 Willy Cabellero being released and purchasing Ederson. The problem I have with the signing is not the player himself, although he is someone who has never been capped for Brazil, but more the fact that the figure paid for the 23-year-old. Knowing how bad the keeper situation was at City last year, it really piles the pressure on him straight away. David De Gea was someone who came over at a similar age and really, really struggled throughout his first years. Now I’m not saying Ederson is going to be anywhere near De Gea’s level in a few years, but the pressure that will be on him, the physical presence from the teams in the league and with the fee on top, his mental ability is going to be tested right from the off.
The next signing is a special, special player and someone who is really going to light up the league. I feel some of the big boys, especially in the Premier League have really missed out here; Bernardo Silva, signed from Monaco for a mere £43m in today’s market is honestly a steal. The 5’2 left footed magician may be small in stature and many may feel he won’t be physical enough for the league, but with the way that city play, I think he will be up there as a signing of the season come the end of next year. With David Silva coming up to 32 this next year and his game time dwindling down, his 22-year-old namesake Bernardo is the perfect man to come in and take his place. Bernardo’s performances in the Champions league this year, especially in the 2 games against city were nothing short of world class and with the likes of De Bruyne, Sane, Aguero, Jesus and Sterling around him, don’t be surprised to see his assist statistics easily hit double figures.
With 2 already in, how many more are to come? There is talk of Alexis Sanchez coming in to bolster that attacking line even more. IF Sanchez was to sign, for me, it would be the best attack in world football, let alone the Premier League. Not the best first 3, but as a front 7, the best in the world and its honestly scary to think how many goals those players would score….maybe that is what Pep is banking on.
Never known to be a defensive coach, Pep has always relied on his attacking players scoring more than the team concedes and it seems that this is the route he is going down again. However, with releasing ageing full backs Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna, there are a lot of places to fill. Kyle Walker and Dani Alves look set to battle it out to join City and if you read my previous article in regard to Tottenham, you will see that I am not Walkers biggest fan. A player similar to the Dani Alves mould (nowhere near as good) in terms of attacking, I don’t feel he is good enough for City to push for this Champions League trophy they are so badly after and the experience and brilliance of Alves, seems a much safer and sensible option, even at the age of 34. With Sagna leaving there is no recognised right back now at City, so maybe bringing in both due to the fact there is no fee with Alves could be an option and Walker could learn a lot from Alves throughout the year, especially if Pep is as keen as it seems on Walker.
On the other side, City do have a natural left back in the ageing Alexander Kolarov. Kolarov can still do a job if needed and could well be used in the Domestic cups and act as cover for injury. I do think they need an out and out left back however and for me there are two options. The first would mean going back to Monaco again and snapping up French fullback Benjamin Mendy. Mendy has, like all Monaco players, had an outstanding season and the athletic 22-year-old full back would fit into the City mould of buying young, emerging talent who have played at a high level. Mendy’s 8 assists last season along with his average of just over 1.3 long balls per game, show it’s easy to see why he could fit into Guardiola’s attacking, possession based football. The other option is Portuguese and Dortmund left back Raphael Guerreiro. The 23-year-old has shone in his first season in Germany since transferring from Lorient in France, notching 6 goals and 3 assists in his first season. The energetic European Champion again showed his attacking prowess and his possession style game, with on average 1.5 long balls played per game. I think both would be a similar price, but Mendy may be easier to get due to Guerreiro’s transfer being only last year.
2 other positions I think city need to bolster are centre back and central midfield. With reports of a Virgil Van Djik preferring a move to Liverpool, it’s hard to see where they go from here. Centre backs (bar Kompany) have been an ongoing problem for City over the years. Otamendi, Stones and Mangala all moved to City for big fees and it’s hard to find many top centre backs in world football now. With the figures they’ve paid for Stones and Otamendi, they’re going to have to stick with them, which is a worrying sign. Bonnuci and Chiellini have been mooted in the past, but I can’t see any of them leaving the Old Lady and I feel this is going to be City’s major down fall yet again, especially in the Champions League.
Regarding the Central midfield, I fully expect Fernandinho to play and start alongside Yaya Toure, however with Toure’s age and Ilkay Gundogan’s injury record, I feel they need a bit more in there. The one player who I am amazed that Guardiola hasn’t gone for, is again Monaco man Fabinho. For me, Fabinho is a Guardiola player down to a tee. Young, big game experience, very good in possession, composed and has the ability to play in both central midfield and right back. With Guardiola’s previous exploits of playing right backs in central midfield (Lahm, Alves, Sagna as well as Fernandinho playing both positions) it seems as if Fabinho is too good to be true… and maybe that is the case.
As a whole then; with the attacking line up they already have, I can really see City outscoring teams and running the league very close and if they were to sign Sanchez, for me they win the league. The big problem that they have is that, one - the defence isn’t good enough and could cost them in big games in the league and champions league. Two - Guardiola’s obsession for refusing to defend properly as a team will again cost them in both competitions, like it did this year. With the money they have already spent and with the money they are likely to continue spending, the pressure is really on Guardiola this year. He needs to deliver the league or Champions league in order to keep his job, as well as save face in regard to his reputation as one of the greatest coaches around/ever in my opinion