We looked at the defence yesterday and today we cast our eye over the potential midfield targets.
City possess great strength in midfield, in both the defensive and attacking disciplines and have one of the Premier Leagues best in David Silva in their ranks. When on form, Samir Nasri can also rival those in the upper echelons and this is without accounting for Yaya Toure and James Milner who can both operate in advanced positions. However, one of the players Mancini missed out on, Eden Hazard, is perhaps the type of player City are missing: not only a creative presence but one who can add drive and pace to a midfield that at times has looked pedestrian.
A lack of width this season has rendered City one-dimensional with last summer's recruit Scott Sinclair not filling the role that Adam Johnson vacated. These types of player don't come cheap however (as witnessed with Bayern's capture of Mario Goetze) so it may take a fee of c£20-25 million to even land a younger talent with plenty of upside ahead of them.
The difficulty in filling this position is that 'creative midfielder and 'quick, creative winger who brings width' are not the same thing and are rarely found in the same player. Silva's flexibility in the attack means you can move him around to accommodate new talent, but that talent needs to be really good just to fit in with the current core of players. Mancini completely froze Scott Sinclair out, but it's possible that Manuel Pellegrini could bring him back into the fold, which potentially mitigates the need to buy more width.
Let's face it, the big end of the budget is getting spent on a forward so let's take it a look at finding guys who can score goals. Allegedly, Pellegrini is bringing Isco along for the ride. At first, his statistical profile doesn't really drop jaws, but when you consider the fact that he's only 21, you start to get excited. Last year he produced five goals and four assists in 29 league appearances. This season he's got eight goals, one assist in 34 league appearances. He completes 85% of his passes, and had an excellent Champions' League campaign to boot. He's listed as an attacking midfielder, but has generally done his best work when on Malaga's left, an area where Silva likes to float as well. If City get Isco for £20million, it will be a solid buy. Anything more than that seems like a lot for a player who is still trying to find consistency on a game-to-game basis. There is a part of me that feels, at this price, City could do better. On the other hand, Pellegrini knows him best, so if he wants him, there's value there.
Likely cost? £20million.
If City want to look at bargain then Yohan Mollo could be the man. He's French, 23 years old, and plays for Saint Etienne. He currently has seven goals, and 11 assists in 31 appearances after 3/6 in only 18 Ligue 1 appearances last season. Translation: he's already posting very good numbers in a top league and still has room to develop. He plays like a traditional winger, averaging nearly 3 crosses per game on the season, and 2.6 key passes per game (about the same as Santi Cazorla).
I read a lot of rumors, and from what I can tell, nobody really knows about him. (Update: Since I first drafted this section last week, Fulham are allegedly interested.) He's definitely worth a punt at the right price. If City could get him for £5million, it would be very good business.
Say you aren't convinced by Javi Garcia and recognize that Gareth Barry is getting old. You've got Silva and Nasri (when motivated) to pull the strings, with Milner doing work on the right, and Yaya clanking box-to-box like the giant Ivorian steam(punk) engine he is - who do you buy as your next generation defensive midfielder?
The best player in the Premier League in that position this season was likely Sandro of Tottenham, but it's close. The second best was 23-year-old Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton. His 4.1 tackles per game was second only to Lucas, while Schneiderlin lead the league in interceptions and had an 85% pass completion rate. He's really good, familiar with a high pressing game because Pochettino ran it at Southampton, and absolutely deserves to move to a bigger club this summer.
Likely Cost £11-12million.
City are pretty well stocked in the creative department where Silva and Nasri operate. What City need is pace out wide and maybe another midfielder (I think they will buy a player for central midfield). A signing here would have to be md-ranged seeing as a big chunk of the budget may well be spent on a striker.
Isco has been widely rumoured to join City and Jesus Navas is also the subject of many a rumour, whilst Fernandinho is a player who has been hotly tipped to join City. I am going to move away from these players for this exercise and look at some younger, and cheaper, players.
Julian Draxler is a 19 year old attacking midfielder is two footed and can operate on the left side. Draxler has been linked to Arsenal quite heavily and it's easy to see why: 10/3 this season, 39 chances created for his team-mates and he has decent shots numbers with 60 total shots and 37 on target in 24 starts and six sub appearances. He is a young player and some patience and adjustment would be required.
Likely cost? £15million.
Dimitri Payet is a little older at 26 yo than the other potential signings but he has rocked Ligue 1 with his performances this year. 12 goals and 18 assists in 37 games to go with 55 shots on target and 52 off target. This is a player who shoots from all angles and all positions, sometimes wastefully so, but he has big talent to go with his big numbers. Can play on the left but roams in-field as befits a left sided but right footed player.
He would be in a similar range cost wise to Draxler.
I could go on and on with young attacking midfield talent, names like Lamela, Volland and Markovic. Instead I will offer a few midfield targets even though a Fenandinho type is the most likely. Andrea Poli and Obiang who both play for the famous Sampdoria. There are a few good prospects in la Liga too but I am going to go with one central midfielder who Man City may sign away from the obvious Fernandinho.
Geoffrey Kondogbia. A fantastically named midfield destroyer who plays for Sevilla. Kondogbia is a Frenchman who is just 20, he is as raw as hell but has a couple of things going for him. He has an 87.7% pass accuracy with 65% of those forward passes, he has 2.7 tackles per game and good interception numbers per game despite being subbed off on many occasions. He has zero goal threat in his game but having seen him play he has a Toure/Vieira running style which enables him to burst past players and he may well, as he matures, develop an attacking side to his game too. A prospect but has a chance to become a really good player in the right environment.
Likely Cost? £15-20m
I'd like to see Kondogbia and Payet signed from this list. I think a more experienced player will be brought in and I would love to see Vidal (he has everything) from Juventus, but the bank would look pitiful afterwards such would be the cost of signing the player.