You’d be forgiven for thinking that if there was one team in the Premier League that perhaps didn’t need to shop for players in January, with the strength in depth available throughout our ranks, it would be Manchester City.
But that isn’t the case. Pep Guardiola might possess the strongest squad in the league and City might remain odds-on favourites for the title and are currently as short as 1-3 across betting apps and other bookmaker platforms.
But with Liverpool keeping pace with us at the top of the table and with FA Cup fixtures coming in January – plus the return of the Champions League in February with the knockout stages – the sensible option would be to use some more of Sheik Mansour’s cash and make sure that City have the ability to fight off challengers on all fronts.
When you throw in the growing list of injuries ahead of the upcoming festive fixture list, the need to buy in the January transfer window is compounded.
City currently have eight players on the treatment table, more than any other Premier League club. That includes long-term absentee Kevin De Bruyne, who has been restricted to only three league appearances this season with his troublesome knee but it is expected to return this month.
Joining KDB on the sidelines however are Sergio Aguero (groin) though Kun may be in contention to return this weekend against Everton, Fernandinho (who could return before Christmas), Danilo, Mangala, Claudio Bravo, as well as key players David Silva and Benjamin Mendy, who are expected to be out for a further three weeks and ten weeks respectively.
The absentees out enormous pressure on the small group of players who will have to cover a busy spell of games in its entirety, meaning therefore that the players who are currently fit to feature in the starting eleven could be at risk of burnout in the New Year.
So where do City need to bolster their options, and who could they turn to as potential solutions?
Guardiola desperately needs to go into the market for a holding/defensive midfielder. Fernandinho’s absence has already pointed out that without the Brazilian, and particularly coupled with the exclusion of De Bruyne, the creativity of the two Silvas is no longer supported by defensive-minded steel behind, allowing the opposition to have success in midfield and threatening our defence.
Phil Foden fared well on the left side of a midfield three against Hoffenheim in midweek as did Ilkay Gundogan in the middle of the park, but the German is more of an attacking outlet than Fernandinho. If City were to lose the Brazilian for a lengthy spell, it would have a significant impact on how this team fares defensively.
One option that City could look to is Ajax youngster Frenkie de Jong, who despite being just 21-year-old already looks to possess the ability to compete at the highest level, evidenced by his performances for the Dutch side in the Champions League as well as Eredivisie.
De Jong has a passing success rate of 91.4% across his 13 Eredivisie appearances so far this season, in addition to scoring twice and providing one assist. Also able to provide cover as a centre-back, the versatile talent is a target for United and Tottenham also, as well as European giants Barcelona and PSG.
When you consider at his age that de Jong could not only be a short-term back up option for Fernandinho but also a long-term replacement for the 33-year-old, able to learn from his elder while both remain at the club, Guardiola should splash out and meet De Jong’s £80 million price tag. With Pep’s God-given ability to nurture and improve young talent also, surely the move would be a no-brainer?