Blues linked with Kyle Walker and Alex Sandro
If judged by the standards that Manchester City’s unrivalled wealth has created, the 2016/17 season has proven to be a disappointment for an expectant fanbase – and a baptism of fire for Pep Guardiola. The Spaniard, a hero of many combats for Barcelona, who would later maintain the same club’s position in the stratosphere as a manager, has found the English game to be unimaginably ruthless and combative.
With a core group of players that is aging, though otherwise still talented, Guardiola must now look to the future generation to safeguard the success of his club. The recent announcement that Pablo Zabaleta, now 32, will not be offered a new deal is the greatest indicator yet that Guardiola is beginning to enact a long term squad development plan at Eastlands.
Fullback pace key to success
At present, various sources are linking Tottenham’s Kyle Walker to a big-money move to Manchester City. As exciting and ‘marquee’ as this move would undoubtedly be, names such as Raheem Sterling, John Stones and Fabian Delph serve as warnings to those media-hyped Englishmen, who would seek an astronomic pay cheque at the expense of a more wholesome existence in English football.
Walker is now, without doubt, at the very peak of his career, and he has clearly thrived under the regime of Mauricio Pochettino. Most noticeably, he now mixes his pace with improved distribution and vision. While there are no obvious drawbacks to this move, the cold, hard fact remains that Tottenham Hotspur F.C already has a core of young Englishmen at its disposal. Yet, at www.sunbets.co.uk, Manchester City are considered favourites to lift the 2017/18 Premier League title, a fact which may yet sway Walker.
On the opposite flank, Gael Clichy – who turns 32 in July – will also be in need of imminent replacement. The alleged target to replace him is Alex Sandro, who currently plies his trade with Serie A’s immovable object Juventus, and also commands the left flank for a Brazil side that has now assured its place at next year’s world cup.
In the event of Juventus’ triumph over Real Madrid in the Champions League final, and the completion of an historic treble, Sandro’s search for professional gratification will surely be satisfied to its fullest extent. In that scenario, only a big money move, to what is (currently) a far more competitive, ruthless and unpredictable league than Serie A, will enable Sandro to truly prove himself as one of the greatest pan-European players of all time.
Mancunian midfield makeover required
With the fitness of Premier League players now without comparison, the ability to counter attack, and outpace the central midfield opposition, has become a sacrosanct key to victory. Therefore, it stands contrary to reason that Guardiola still fields Fernandinho, Yaya Toure and David Silva. This midfield trio was hugely influential in City’s most recent title-winning season of 2013/14, and while they still have the combined skills that would likely win a title in any other European league, they too are now beginning to feel the effects of old father time – especially Toure, who turned 34 last week.
With Toure sure to be courted by the likes of Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande this summer, a replacement in the heart of the defensive midfield ‘quadrant’ is desperately needed. As prime candidates go, Sporting Lisbon’s William Carvalho could hardly be a more obvious replacement for Toure. A keen tackler and visionary on the field, Carvalho has been previously linked with moves to Merseyside and North London. Ultimately, Guardiola must act quickly to secure Carvalho’s signature ahead of what will be a pivotal season for the future of Manchester City.
In time, two more central midfielders would follow in Carvalho’s wake to the promised land of the Etihad Stadium. With a looming summer of reflection, on a trophyless season and a third-place finish, Guardiola may now wish to pursue players already blooded in the Premier League. In doing so, he will inject some real substance into a squad which can often lose its shape, especially when faced with an opposing side that can counter astutely.
If that is the case, then Guardiola should look no further than Gylfi Sigurdsson and Idrissa Gana Gueye, both of whom (for Swansea and Everton respectively) have enjoyed stellar seasons and worked tirelessly to help their clubs achieve their basic goals for 2016/17.
Tamhas Woods has a wealth of sports writing experience and a Masters degree in Journalism.