It was an idea floated a while ago by Greg Dyke in one of the endless reviews of the problems within football, but Patrick Vieira touched on one of the areas this week following the EDS defeat to Manchester United, calling for Premier League sides to be able to field 'B' sides in lower league football:
"It was really good because they had some first-team players in the United side," he said. "The atmosphere and the tension will improve them.
"But sometimes you play matches in the training ground and it is not always like that. This is a problem. That's why to play International Cup - it's good because you are facing reserve teams from a different country and we can see where we are."
It is difficult to argue with Vieira's logic here. For the elite clubs the gap between the Academy and first team continues to grow and there is no easy transition through to the first team, aside from sending players out on loan - as we have seen City do for multiple seasons with the likes of Kairm Rekik and Marcos Lopes.
Yet as Vieira explains, what this does do is take the players out of the 'in house' environment at a critical point in their development:
"What we want is to keep our players in our club and play with our philosophy. We don't want to send them on loan.
"But if we want to close the gap and not send them on loan we need ‘man' football because when you look at players around the world when they are 18, 19, they play men's football."
"The difference is when you play under-21 the gap is massive to the first team," he said. "Against Porto they were a B team and they play ‘man' football every week - this is how you get close to the first team.
"For English football we need the B teams to play ‘man' [senior] football."
With much focus on City's Academy and the need to increase the home grown quotient, there will be plenty of eyes on the likes of Rekik, Lopes, Jason Denayer and others like Brandon Barker and Kelechi Iheanacho below them yet what is evident is how difficult it is to get these players meaningful minutes to aid their development, aside from the Capital One Cup or odd minutes her and there from the bench late in games.
In other leagues around Europe this ('B' sides operating in lower leagues) is already well established and we saw that when Pep Guardiola progressed to take over the first team at Barcelona he was able to bring through a handful of players from the 'B' side who had not only spent full seasons in senior football (albeit it at a lower level) but as a team, allowing them to grow and develop together.
It is inconceivable that such an idea ever occurs in the English game so in the seasons to come City will need to continue to utilise the under-21 and loan system as best possible to ensure the Academy players coming through are as well developed as they can be.