It has been a summer mass movement in the transfer market for Manchester City. Yet, it’s not over. There could still be movement in and out before the window closes. Several young players like Gavin Bazunu, Romeo Lavia, Jayden Braaf, CJ Egan Riley, Darko Gyabi and Ko Itakura
have already left the club. A few others like Taylor Harwood-Bellis, James Trafford, Tommy Doyle and Diego Rosa are out on loan.
There are others that a decision on what’s best for them is not easy to make. Send them out on loan to gain experience playing in the top flight or even the Championship? Or keep them in and around the first team at the Etihad Stadium to learn while training and playing with the first team players?
It’s a tricky situation for Manchester City.
At the moment, players like Liam Delap, James McAtee, Kayky and Cole Palmer are scheduled to travel with the team for preseason friendly games in the United States. Maybe that would afford Pep Guardiola another opportunity to take a closer look at how ready the youngsters are for the first team.
But having been training with the team already under his watchful eye, he should already know their level of readiness. Yet, as they return for pre-season training today before leaving on tour to the United States with the rest of the squad, there’s still an air of uncertainty concerning their futures.
For Cole Palmer, the path to the senior team has been paved over the last few seasons. The 20-year-old has been the next in line to step up from the academy following Phil Foden’s footsteps. He has been afforded more game time than the others and proved the manager right with goals in different competitions.
The arrival of Erling Haaland to fill the space left behind by Sergio Aguero means that he becomes the main man up front. City have managed quite well without a striker winning back-to-back league titles in the last couple of seasons. That means Guardiola doesn’t need to stock up too much on the position.
Having outgrown the Premier League U23, Delap needs to either warm his way into the senior team or go get playing time elsewhere. Therein lies the challenge. Should he be sent out on loan to develop further or kept in and around the senior team to keep learning from the best?
Each of the options has its own merits.
It’s been the common practice for players looking to step up to the senior team to be sent out on loan. That way they get to play at the highest level or as in the case of second division sides play at a level that is still higher than they were previously used to. That gives them the opportunity to develop their game and get ready for the senior team.
However, the success of players like Phil Foden has shown that giving players the opportunity to stay within the fold of the senior team and learn from the big boys can often pay huge dividends. It makes it easy for the players to fit right in and get in sync with the demands of the senior squad over time.
In the course of the campaign, when Haaland is not available for one reason or the other, or simply needs a rest in the Cup games, that could provide the perfect opportunity for Delap to step up to the plate. It will be his chance to tell the manager he is ready for the big time.
Just about a decade ago, City had several strikers in the team to call upon. The club’s 2012 squad had at least four top-class strikers available to Roberto Mancini. From Carlos Tevez to Mario Balotelli, Edin Dzeko and, of course, Sergio Aguero.
So there’s definitely enough space for Delap in the squad. Same applies for the other three players. City play so many games in a season these days that there will be many opportunities to feature. With that will come the necessary experience to grow into the team.