Where will Pep look to strengthen to ensure a title challenge next season?
By Peter Hampshire, Thu 18 May 2017 16:59
Full backs likely to be the priority in transfer window
In his first season in charge of Manchester City, it has become increasingly difficult to second guess what Pep Guardiola’s plans are with regards to his preferred starting XI. It now seems pretty clear that the attacking trident of Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling will be mainstays going forward, along with the playmaker Kevin De Bruyne. In other positions, there is far less certainty about what will happen in the future, and there are a few areas that the former Bayern Munich manager will surely look to fix without delay.
The teams battling at the top of the Premier League each year are finding it progressively tougher, and it’s hard to pick a winner for the campaign ahead. People do like to have a punt on it, though, and those who went for Chelsea this year were duly rewarded. In fact, UK sportsbook football betting is the biggest in the country, and indeed Man City look a shrewd early favourite to take the title next year if Pep can recruit well in the close season; they are 1/5 to finish above Liverpool as the top North West club in the Premier League this term.
The fullbacks are definitely an area that the two-time Champions League winner will look to address immediately when the transfer window opens. Pablo Zabaleta (see video below) played his last home match for the club against West Bromwich Albion after a nine-year stint in Manchester, and Bacary Sagna has barely been used in the latter half of the season. That opens up a space for Tottenham Hotspur’s Kyle Walker, who would be a massive upgrade on the right-hand flank. The England international has established himself as one of the most efficient fullbacks in the Premier League, and his distribution in the final third with a pass completion rate of 84% is hugely impressive.
At the start of the campaign it looked as though Yaya Toure had been frozen out completely, but after apologising to the manager last November the Ivorian worked his way back into the first team. Now reports suggest that City want to extend the midfield powerhouse’s contract beyond the summer. This highlights the fact that Pep has realised how important it is to have such a strong defensive midfielder in England’s top flight, and he may seek similar players to the 34-year-old as he builds for the future. Someone like Toni Kroos could be an ideal fit, and if City swooped for him it would have the added bonus of angering Jose Mourinho who is also interested in signing the Real Madrid star.
Pep desperately needs to sort out City’s goalkeeper problem. Claudio Bravo was calamitous at times this term, and his errors led to City losing a number of precious points. The Chilean conceded 17 out of 25 shots on target between the start of December and before his layoff through injury. Many City fans would probably like to see Joe Hart reinstated, but after the way the England number one was treated last September it doesn’t seem too likely. The big question is whether Pep will admit he was wrong and look for a more reliable option between the sticks.
Guardiola has now had a full season to test out the tools at his disposal and sort out which players are dead weight. He also knows how tough it is in England’s top flight. This summer hopefully he can mould the side into one that will charge to the top of the league like his other teams have in the past.
Photo source: Josep Pep Guardiola via Facebook