Two things have been synonymous with Pep Guardiola’s time at Manchester City. The first is quite obvious; winning. The Catalan manager has led the Blues to back-to-back Premier League titles. Twice. In just five years. And added several other trophies as well.
The second is less obvious but quite as remarkable. He has done it without a natural left-back in the team. For anyone that may think that shouldn’t matter much, it does. One key reason for that is the fact that the competition has been very tough. It’s been the case both on the domestic scene and on the continent.
A look at Liverpool and Chelsea, two of City’s closest rivals in the last few years shows teams well stocked in every position on the pitch. In fact, the left and right back positions have been vital to their success.
For City, it’s been a problem area. Since the departure of Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy in 2017. Benjamin Mendy was brought in as a replacement but his period at the club has been turbulent on and off the pitch. He has so far taken in a mere 50 appearances in five years.
That has seen the City boss improvise by drafting in players from other positions to fill the role.
Although that has worked for the most part, it’s in season defining games like the second leg of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid that such small details can make the difference between winning and losing.
To put things in perspective, both of Madrid’s two goals to level the game at the Santiago Bernabeu came through crosses from the left side of City’s defence. Both sides of Madrid’s team are manned by specialists in Ferland Mendy and Daniel Carvajal. Both set up goals against City in both legs of the tie helping the Spanish giants to proceed to the final.
Of course that doesn’t mean it’s a certainty that a natural left-back would have prevented the crosses against City. Or that the team would be more successful with one.
Almost every player drafted to the position has given a good account of themselves and helped the team succeed.
Yet, having come this far, it’s time to fix any loopholes in the team with real specialists. Just like replacing Sergio Aguero up front became a priority in the last two seasons, bringing in a natural left-back should be too.
It’s understandable then that the club has been rumoured to be interested in some options including Brighton’s Marc Cucurella.
Although Joao Cancelo has done a good job in the position in the last two campaigns, Kyle Walker’s age, form and recent injury concerns means he has to now share game time on the right side as the Englishman is gradually eased out.
Cancelo could also help out on the left from time to time as the new left-back settles in. That way the team gets fine-tuned for the next level of success.
The need to win the Champions League is growing by the day. With every form of domestic success attained, the club’s faithful crave more for continental glory.
Hence, no stone should be left unturned in the quest to finally conquer the continent.