With a change in manager there is likely to be plenty of action in terms of players arriving and departing the club. With this in mind, shuddertothink and mixedknuts analyse both the areas that could be targeted and the likely players given the budgets the club will be operating under.
This will be done as a three part series and first up, the defence...
Matija Nastasic has slotted in effortlessly this season alongside Vincent Kompany, ousting England-international Joleon Lescott in the process. Both Lescott and Kolo Toure are more than able deputies but it is likely that one, or possibly both, will depart which would leave the highly-touted, but inexperienced Karim Rekik next in line.
The club will not want to commit too high an outlay in this area, likely believing that they can pick up a capable squad player who can step up if required for around £5million.
Defence is one area where it's often better to go a bit off the well-trodden 'moneyball' path of buying good young prospects for resale value, and to opt instead for older, more experienced players. Nastasic has been absolutely tremendous, but Savic the year before was calamitous, and there's a feeling that centre backs are just much harder to correctly project than attacking talent. In this case finding a proven center back in the 28-30 range may be both the best and cheapest option.
Manuel Pellegrini got away with Martin Demichelis (32) and Welligton (33) as his pairing at Malaga, both of whom pass and read the game well, but aren't exactly young, speedy, and spry. Thus I would value intelligence and passing ability over athleticism at this position.
I have a lot of questions regarding whether or not spending vast sums on defensive transfers gets you anything, especially if the money spent is mostly on potential. While buying a Mats Hummels, Dante, or Sergio Ramos (or Rio Ferdinand/Sol Campbell in their prime) will likely work out, there just aren't that many of those guys around, and most of them already play at excellent clubs.
Mid Range Buy
Chico was probably the best center back in the Premier League for me. Before his injury, Swansea's defense was shockingly good, but when he went down they struggled mightily. Ashley Williams gets all the press, but Chico is two years younger (26), 4cm taller, and just plain had better stats, including an 89% pass completion rate.
Likely cost: £8-10million.
I know he's rumoured to be headed to Liverpool, but honestly I'd try to cut Kolo Toure's salary in half and offer him rotating one-year deals to stick around. This would keep his motivation high, save money vs. last season, and still provide the defense with an experienced and excellent performer from this past season.
Cost: £3million wages per season.
For Man City defense is the area of least need. Kompany and Nastasic will be here long term as will Micah Richards, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy. The left back position may have be strengthened as Aleksandar Kolarov is unlikely to have a long term future at the club.
It isn't a priority to spend a fortune on defensive players when team need doesn't dictate it. It would also go against Txiki Begiristain's pattern of signing experienced cheap players or mid-priced prospects. Nastasic was a complete rarity in that a quality defender was somehow found for low cost whilst still at a very young age. Rafael Varane and Nastasic are the outliers in the procurement of young, high end defensive talent.
I agree with mixedknuts in that I just don't City looking at the real high end of the market for this particular position.
Moving down a level however there could be some value and Marquinhos could be a potential fit here. Talented, some good numbers but has played on a terrible defensive team. A real prospect if Begiristain is crazy enough to go this route again. Strong clearances numbers stats.
Likely Cost £15-20m.
Kyriakos Papadopolous may be another target. Young, some experience and some fine performances this season. He has strong tackle and interception numbers but given the interest of other clubs any price for this young player may be steep.
Likely cost around £15million.
If the club are looking to avoid spending too much in this area or may just be looking for decent cover then I agree with mixedknuts that a new, short term deal for Kolo Toure or Joleon Lescott may be the best option, Begiristain has a history of signing 27+ defenders on expiring contracts or for free transfers. Pellegrini too also has a recent history of playing older centre backs so don't be surprised to see a marriage of ideas and either one of the current defenders extended or a cheap signing of an experienced player.
Likely Cost £4m
As an alternative, perhaps a player like Pedro Geromel from Mallorca could be interesting. His interception numbers are outstanding due to his proactive nature, but he is 27 now and relatively untested at the real top level.
Likely cost would be around £5million.
For me a hybrid stragey of extending one of City's existing players and a potential addition of a young defender may be the best route to take. That would give you the possibility of two experienced centre backs, Nastasic and a prospect to be patient with. I just don't see City spending too much money here, the personnel are fine, City's defensive record is fine, it was form and the system that looked broke in Europe.
Next Up: Midfielders And Wide Players