When Pep Guardiola took over as Manchester City manager in 2016, he set out on a rebuilding mission to reshape the squad. The Catalan has become well known for playing a particular brand of football. Not every player can cope with the high pressing, fast-paced possession-based football he demands. For one thing, it requires a tremendous amount of hard work to get the ball when your opponent has it. Then, you have to be very intelligent to know what to do with the ball at your feet when you have it.
So quite naturally, many had to leave to make room for others. The former Barcelona boss has brought in some astute signings to bolster the squad and get it playing his favored style. Despite achieving limited success in his first season at the Etihad Stadium, he reminded everyone of his vintage self last term.
Man City blew everyone away in the Premier League last season. The Sky Blues marched to the league title win in style, breaking records all the way. Be that as may, there is an ugly trend that has gradually developed. Some top targets have chosen to ditch the club for other sides at the last minute despite initially billed to join City.
Alexis Sanchez was City-bound until Manchester United showed up in January and he changed his mind. Fred had severally expressed his desire to play under Guardiola at City. With Fernandinho getting older and a glaring need for a defensive midfielder in the team, he was expected to be the natural heir to his fellow Brazilian in the team. A deal was even agreed to sign the 24-year-old from Shakhtar Donetsk for £44.5 million this summer. Then, just like in the case with Sanchez, United showed interest and everything changed. Even Aymeric Laporte had initially backed out of a move to City before finally joining in January.
The latest in this series has been the case with another Brazilian-born player who represents Italy, Jorginho. The former Napoli midfielder’s move to City was rumored to be imminent, until Chelsea got interested. Once again, everything changed. He is a Chelsea player now and Guardiola is in search of a replacement.
The problem is some players are not that easy to replace. Either of Fred or Jorginho would have suited us perfectly. Despite dominating the league last term, City failed to make headway on the continent.
In fact, we lost three in a row to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Back-to-back losses in the Champions League meant City were knocked out of the competition for another year running. It’s a competition we really need to win to boost our credibility as a top European side.
That is really where the Catalan manager is expected to make the biggest difference at the Etihad Stadium. His two immediate predecessors delivered the Premier League title and the League Cup. Roberto Mancini even added the FA Cup to his list of honors.
However, winning the UCL requires not only a solid first team, but a solid bench as well. The team is already strong as it is, but there is still a position that needs attention. That is the defensive midfield.
As stated earlier, Fernandinho is the only recognized defensive midfielder in the team. At 33, his days at the top level are now numbered. His outing for Brazil at the World Cup shows he is no more the player he was years ago. Guardiola knows this. That’s why he made a move for both Fred and Jorginho.
Now that we missed out on both, what is the way forward?
The manager needs to identify another player that can fill the space and the club should move quickly to secure a move before the transfer window slams shut. This position is vital to the team because of the style of play.
City tend to attack in droves. With the attacking midfielders always forward creating goalscoring chances, there is need for defensive midfielders that will be there to mop up the ball and stop counter-attacks before they become dangerous.
Signing a new defensive mid will strengthen the team in that area to provide the necessary cover during both defence and attack. Man United now have Matic and Fred in that position. Chelsea have N’golo Kante and Jorginho, Arsenal have Xhaka and Torreira, while Liverpool have Keita and Fabinho.
Notice that all these teams have strengthened in that particular area. Man City cannot be left out. All of them are coming into the new campaign with one thing in mind: to dethrone City.
Guardiola however, always has something up his sleeve. If he fails to sign a new player for the position, don’t be surprised to see both Ilkay Gundogan and Fabian Delph holding down the position through the campaign.