Over the last decade plus, Manchester City have become famous for splashing the cash to get the players they want. But the club’s new found identity is having a rejig. Things have been different this summer. Instead of spending more money in the market to buy, City have received more - by selling.
In addition to the departure of long-serving captain Fernandinho, three important members of the squad left the club this summer. The club sold Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko for reasonably high fees.
The fact that these players have been sold to City’s main rivals has puzzled some, including City’s legendary goal scorer Sergio Aguero who came out to express his surprise on Sterling’s sale to Chelsea. For Jesus and Zinchenko, the relationship between Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Pep Guardiola played a key role in the destination.
But perhaps the executives at the Etihad Stadium did not foresee losing out on a deal to sign former Brighton defender Marc Cucurella before letting Zinchenko depart for the Emirates Stadium. Otherwise they would have thought twice about making the sale as the Ukrainian was a valuable member of the squad that even Guardiola did not want to see go.
With Chelsea deciding to stump up the cash to meet Brighton’s demands, it’s now left for City to look elsewhere for alternatives in order to fill the void at left-back. Not that it’s been a noticeable void though as Joao Cancelo has spectacularly reinvented his game to fill it in the last two campaigns.
But Zinchenko was always there as backup whenever necessary. His experience as captain of his national team made him a valuable member of the squad as well.
With so many games to play each season, the squad can run really thin fast. Once a few players pick up injuries like it happened last season, things can change quickly. That can be very costly and it could be argued that it cost City the Champions League last term.
The fact that all six goals conceded against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi final came when Kyle Walker was not on the pitch says it all. The reliable right back was missing from the first leg due to injury. When he returned for the second leg, injury forced him off again in the second half. Real Madrid suddenly found openings in the City defence and capitalised to score three late goals that dumped the Blues out of the competition.
Although the forward line looks stronger with the addition of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez, the same cannot be said of City’s defence.
Guardiola has answered journalists' probing questions by saying other players like the centre-backs and youngster Josh Wilson-Esbrand can be used at left-back when the need arises. But that could backfire in the middle of the campaign when even the center back position is lacking sufficient bodies due to injuries.
Both John Stones and Aymeric Laporte have suffered long-term injuries in the last couple of seasons. Last term also saw Ruben Dias and Nathan Ake sidelined at some point.
Throwing in academy youngsters to compete at crucial stages in the campaign could be costly as the competition has become even tougher with all of Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham and even Manchester United strengthening. Liverpool is another matter.
So Guardiola and the club’s hierarchy will need to still be in the market especially as the situation with Bernardo Silva is yet to be resolved. The influential Portuguese midfielder could still leave the club this month as his heart is no longer at the Etihad Stadium.
The only reason he is still at City is that a suitable offer has not been tabled. Guardiola cannot even tell if the player will be around by the end of the transfer window. For such an important player in the team, that’s not good enough. Failure to replace him if he leaves could be costly.
Having made quite a substantial amount in the transfer market this summer from the sale of several players, the club can look to bring in a couple more experienced players before the window closes in order to prepare for any eventuality.