I’ve seen some absolute nonsense over the past week from ex-pros, sharing their thoughts on how the Manchester City under Pep Guardiola might look next season.
First up, was Danny Murphy claiming that David Silva is not a Guardiola-type player! Excuse me, David Silva not a Guardiola-type player, really? I’m sorry, but if you were to identify which players currently in the Manchester City squad are archetypical for Guardiola’s preferred style of play, David Silva would have to be in the top three on the list. His shouts that Yaya Toure, Fernando, Fabian Delph, Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy are unlikely to have a future under Pep are fair ones. However, I think entertaining the speculation that Lionel Messi might make the move to the Etihad is a bit daft.
However, if Danny Murphy made you chuckle, Steve Howey was full on belly laugh.
Yes, this really happened; it wasn’t an April fool’s joke. As hilarious as this is, the fact Sky charge exorbitant subscription fees and then spend some of that money on ex-pro’s to provide this level of insight is a sobering thought. As for Howey’s “potential Manchester City XI under Pep Guardiola” it’s a question of where do you start first? A 4-4-2 formation? Andres Iniesta as part of a central midfield two? Anyone with a semblance of footballing knowledge is aware both those suggestions are ridiculous. Aside from that, the idea that Real Madrid would sell both Raphael Varane and Gareth Bale and David Alaba would be available from Bayern Munich is, at best, ignorant. Even if you dispose of the plausibility, the pure cost of signing Seamus Coleman, Varane, Alaba, Iniesta, Paul Pogba, Bale and Antoine Griezmann in one transfer window would be beyond even Manchester City. That is, unless Howey’s grand plan involves selling Raheem Sterling, Yaya Toure, Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin De Bruyne for £300m to balance out the Financial Fair Play side of it.
So, leaving ga-ga land behind and stepping back into the real world, just what is a realistic City side under Pep next season? Well, Seamus Coleman is actually the type of attacking full-back that he favours, but the likely transfer fee that he would command makes it unlikely, given there will be more pressing priorities. Coleman’s Everton team-mate John Stones is a prime candidate, with his strength, pace and comfort in possession; he would also be expensive, but worth the investment. Vincent Kompany has recurring injury issues, so a third senior centre-back who can be relied upon makes sense and his versatility is another bonus. A new left-back will probably one of the more pressing concerns and Ricardo Rodriguez at Wolfsburg is an ideal candidate to provide an attacking threat, but also defensive awareness; he also has an excellent set piece in him and his rumoured €35m buy-out clause would make him excellent value for money.
Midfield is another area City need to improve upon, especially if they are to have aspirations of European success. I’m sure Pep would love to sign Sergio Busquets to anchor his midfield, but that is unlikely to happen and Fernandinho may be given a chance to keep his place in the side next season. However, Julien Weigl of Borussia Dortmund is a defensive midfielder Guardiola is known to be an keen admirer of and may just be a target of the incumbent boss. As I’ve already stated, David Silva is about as close as you can get to a “Pep Guardiola player” and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him operate in the role we have become so accustomed to Iniesta performing at Barcelona. Behind him, supplying him and controlling the tempo of the game, is a pivotal central midfielder that Manchester City currently do not have.
Potentially, Thiago at Bayern Munich or Ilkay Gündogan of Borussia Dortmund are possible targets for this role. The link with Thiago is an obvious one with Pep, having worked together at both Barcelona and Bayern, but he won’t be cheap and neither would Gündogan and although City have tremendous wealth, don’t be surprised to see a relatively unknown La Liga or Bundesliga player recruited to provide value and balance the books.
With Sterling, De Bruyne and Sergio Aguero all available for the three attacking positions, an expensive superstar signing is not a necessity this summer. However, adding another striker to the squad to provide cover for Aguero, who has a history of injury concerns, makes sense. If that happens, I would expect it to be a versatile striker who can play wide and although Griezmann does fit that bill, I think it is unlikely and someone like Michy of Marseille may come under consideration.
Looking at the names I’ve mentioned, yes, there are some ‘stars’ because City will undoubtedly spend and Pep Guardiola is a name that attracts top players, but I think the transition at City will be a balanced one and not a summer building a team that resembles a twelve year playing FIFA.