As the January transfer window approaches, different clubs will be shaping up to do some swift business in order to fill gaping holes in their squads. While Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp has stated that he will examine the situation with regard to player injuries and recruit if he feels the need, Pep Guardiola has insisted he would not sign any player in the January transfer window.
The Catalan manager has spent the most money of any Premier League side in the last two years. With over £400 million already splashed on several stars, the Sky Blues won the double last term. The Premier League title was secured in style as several records came tumbling down including of course being the first team ever to secure 100 points in the league.
Things started quite well this season with many tipping Guardiola’s team to become only the second side to win the Premier League title back-to-back in over a decade. The last team to accomplish the feat was Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in the 2008/09 campaign. But it’s not been smooth sailing. In fact, the Sky Blues have been largely disappointing in some of the last few games.
Three losses in four games including back-to-back defeats against relatively weaker opposition is not the stuff champions are made of.
However, injury to key players seems to be the excuse. From Benjamin Mendy to Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero and David Silva, the team has taken a big hit. Kevin De Bruyne did return on time to play a role in the congested festive period fixtures. Yet, the Belgian will need a run of games to regain top form. He met a team falling apart and his contributions have offered little hope.
The unfortunate part in all of these is that while City has been faltering, the Reds, our biggest title rivals this term have been flying. The Anfield side has gone unbeaten all season, beating other teams black and blue. Saturday’s 5-1 humiliation of Arsenal to go nine points clear at the top of the table and 10 ahead of City shows like last season, the title race is almost won and lost already.
Arguably, it will take wins from City in the next two games, the second of which is against the Merseysiders to still be in the race. It’s not a good position to be in. But the main reason is the lack of adequate backup for injured players. For all the noise that is made about the depth in this team, there are clearly holes in certain areas, when injuries strike.
There’s no like for like replacement for two key positions; the left back and the defensive midfield. Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko have not come close to replacing Mendy. Likewise no player in the squad, absolutely none, can fill in for Fernandinho. At his best, Gabriel Jesus is also not a fit Aguero. Neither can the young Silva adequately replace his older namesake. At least, not yet.
Results don’t lie. Not consistently though.
Fortunately, some of the players are back. It is now a question of playing catch-up against the table toppers. The title is now officially Liverpool’s to lose. Of course, no one is expecting them to be the new invincibles, but even if they lose here and there, others will lose too.
So far, Jurgen Klopp’s men have demonstrated a unique quality that reminds one of the Man City team of last season. For every player out injured, another has come in to do the job effectively. City needs to double up. In Mendy’s absence, the midfielders-turned left backs have not worked this time around. And it’s clear the Frenchman has become susceptible to injury. He has spent more time with the physios than on the pitch since joining City. So even when he returns, he will need to be used sparingly.
Therefore, signing a left back in January can do the team a lot of good. Same applies to the defensive midfield position. Fernandinho needs to be given a rest every now and then. At 33, that is to be expected. Even a work horse gets worn-out at some point. City is still in with a good chance of winning every competition we entered at the beginning of the season. Hence, the need to keep reinforcing the team.
True, we may not win them all but plugging these loopholes can go a long way to help give a better fight. So the club and manager can attempt to sign the necessary players rather than just dismiss the idea as Guardiola has been doing recently.
He may not succeed in convincing Ajax’s Frenkie De Jong, Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele and even Everton’s Lucas Digne to move to the Etihad Stadium this winter, but like it was with Aymeric Laporte, it can happen in the summer if he keeps trying.