Over the past two days, City Watch writers have shared their views on what Pep Guardiola might do to City’s team next year. We’ve seen some exciting lineups, and also some controversial choices. Today, three more writers complete our first City Watch Vox Pops by trying to predict what the unpredictable Pep might do.
What do you think and what would your ideal Pep XI be? Share your comments below or on Twitter.
Denayer — Kompany — Stones — Alex Sandro
Weigl — Busquets — Fernandinho
De Bruyne — Aguero — Sterling
One of the reasons I love Pep is because of his obsession with central midfielders. I’m obsessed with them too. Sadly, City haven’t been for too long and have let it reach the stage where we may need as many as three to compete with Europe’s best. Even when Barry and Yaya bossed most Premier League midfields, it didn’t stack up in Europe and was ruthlessly exposed by the likes of Dortmund. Now, the pressing craze has hit the Premier League and we can’t even boss Stoke’s midfield, nevermind Barcelona, with our team in general finding it hard to cope with energetic opposition.
Pep’s main priority, along with a couple of fresh full-backs, will be to overhaul midfield so we can control games better and not only deal with the press of other teams, but apply our own effectively. Yaya and Fernando are surely toast, while Delph could already be at risk but I think he may survive as a rotation option. Fernandinho should remain.
Julian Weigl appeals as a young midfield signing, following his astonishing breakout year at Borussia Dortmund. I expect at least one marquee midfield signing. Pogba, Xhaka and Gundogan are three hot names linked and I wouldn’t say no to any. But Sergio Busquets is the dream for me. Barcelona’s wage bill has reached a dangerously high 73% of turnover, with Neymar about to renew on even more money. He, Messi and Suarez are unlikely to leave. Perhaps no one will leave and Barca will just deal with it, but if there is any chance of grabbing Busquets, even by paying well over the odds, we should. He is the crème de la crème of central midfielders, supremely talented and intelligent. If I had my way, I’d sign a third midfielder, but let’s be semi-realistic here – and Pep may opt to promote one of the Garcias from the EDS.
A couple of hungry young full-backs are needed. Perhaps one can be found in-house. Jason Denayer’s versatility has seen him deployed at right-back for Galatasaray, rather than his normal central role, and I think a player with his skill set could flourish under Guardiola. If money is no object, it would be a good idea to pressure Juventus for the left-back we should have signed last summer – Alex Sandro. His performance against us in Turin was perfect and everything we’ve been unable to get out of Kolarov and Clichy, who both have their strengths but too many weaknesses.
Our attacking options are impressive, but Pellegrini has struggled to get the best out of them all. De Bruyne is a phenom and a world class coach like Guardiola may be able to push him towards Ballon d’Or levels. Sterling is also getting a lot of flack, but do not forget his age – his potential can be unlocked by the right coach. I do fear for Silva, especially if his ankle is never going to heal properly. Pep will demand more work off the ball than ever before, and can Silva do that with a shot ankle? And when exactly can it be fixed, with the Euros coming up? When he’s 32 and in a natural decline? With that said, I believe Silva will survive any cull Guardiola has in mind, for now at least, despite rumours of him being a big name sacrifice. I’d personally be very intrigued to see Nasri under Pep’s tutelage, although realistically only one of he and Navas may survive.
If Mangala is toast as reported, and with Demichelis a confirmed departure, we need at least one centre-back. There are some good options, but I’d like to see John Stones brought in. Admittedly, his form has wavered but he is 21, a baby for a centre-back, and Pep could coach the talent and intelligence he has in the same way he did Jerome Boateng. A homegrown core has also been important to most of football’s greatest teams. Kompany, Stones, Otamendi and Denayer sounds like an excellent pool of centre-backs, although part of me would be sad to see Mangala go. The physical attributes are there, but perhaps the footballing brain isn’t.
Bony has to go and we cannot risk an entire season on the fitness of Kun. This isn’t Bayern, where the main man Lewandowski rarely gets injured. Kelechi is young and phenomenal, but it’d be crazy to have just one able backup for the injury prone Aguero. Chicharito Hernandez, with his movement and ability to create pockets of space, would be a good and affordable third option. He’s won the Bundesliga Player of the Month award three times running and has been über clinical. He could be Pep’s new Claudio Pizarro, only with more appearances, and he would feast on KDB’s passes.
Denayer — Kompany — Mangala — Clichy
Fernandinho — Xhaka — Pogba
De Bruyne — Aguero — Nasri
Given everyone else’s input, and most would’ve covered the first team stuff expertly, I thought I’d take a slightly closer look at possible youth integration. I’m not personally of the opinion that the squad will be totally rehashed. There will be changes, yes, but I’m not expecting a Football Manager-esque revamp. We just lack finesse and organisation. The profile of players like Weigl and Sane make a lot of sense. Young, malleable and brimming with promise and ability. I suspect he’ll sign a few of this ilk, maybe the odd showstopper, and look to establish them amongst the current squad while looking closer at the likes of Maffeo, the Garcias, Angelino and a few other kids from the academy. Of the current lot, Hart seems a safe bet to stay for obvious reasons. Caballero I can see shipped out, replaced by a keeper that Pep trusts. The Valdes rumours seem lazy, but would anyone really be surprised? One of Zabaleta or Sagna leave, and it pains me to say it, but it could be Zabaleta. This may be a second year move though as he may look at the development of Maffeo for a few months before deciding how to proceed. Alaba is linked a lot, and that’d be wonderful, obviously. A vast upgrade, but I don’t know how possible that will be. Kolarov will move on, he’s not intelligent enough technically or tactically. Clichy will stay, possibly for homegrown purposes.
At centre-back Kompany’s an obvious one. Demichelis will rightly move on, and we’ll miss that beautiful man, but his time has been and gone. I’m not 100% sure it’s clean cut between Mangala and Otamendi. I think he’ll look at Mangala and see a challenge. A beast potentially, raw and powerful, lacking composure. Same could be said for Otamendi I guess. It’s midfield where I think we’ll see the biggest upgrade. Yaya will surely make way, so we’ll need that playmaker. Veratti’s linked, Pogba is an obvious one, and Gundogan and Xhaka both seem to make sense too. Gundogan would work. Injury has plagued him, but he’s an exceptionally tidy footballer. Likewise, Xhaka, and he’s been flirting openly with the club recently. Pogba, though not necessarily a Pep style player, is ideal for the league. A combination of brilliance, brains and brawn. Veratti would be incredible, but PSG are no mugs and I can’t see them sanctioning the move. If I was Fernando or Delph I’d be worried about Wiegl. Tall, elegant, strong and hugely comfortable on the ball, he’d be a perfect Pep player for the English league. Fernandinho I suspect will stay. Up front I think we’ll see Sané added, and his style makes sense given Pep’s penchant for exciting, explosive wide-men, but that’s it really. Aguero, De Bruyne, Sterling – they’ll all stay. Nasri will, in my opinion, have something of a huge resurrection under Pep. He has remarkable technique and stylistically he’s a perfect fit for the transitional methods Guardiola values. Don’t be surprised to see him attempt Navas at right wing-back and Silva should see out any initial changes. Bony, well he’s not a Pep player at all in my humble opinion. Kelechi, on the other hand, will thrive.
Of the kids, Denayer should be the biggest beneficiary here. The most Pep player we have at the club arguably. A Rolls Royce of a footballer, and he’s spent time over at right-back for Galatasary now too. Don’t be surprised if Pep somehow manages to turn him into Dani Alves. If anyone can, it’s Pep. He’s also perfect for the ball-playing centre-back role. Angelino should interest him too – still raw defensively, yes, but he’s an incredibly smart footballer and the Alba similarities are pretty striking stylistically. He may not be thrust in immediately, but I suspect he’ll pay close attention to him. Maffeo, who his brother Pere represents, is an impossibly composed and assured defender. A battler too, and a future heir to Zabaleta’s throne. Given his vast comfort on the ball, typically Spanish in that aspect, and how comfortable he looked playing out of position at centre-back for the EDS, I’d not be surprised if Guardiola loved his versatility and maturity. The young centre-backs Humphreys and Adarabioyo are both confident ball-playing defenders, and they’ll look to grab his eye. Barker’s an interesting one. Technically, he’s exceptional. The ball sticks to his feet, he’s totally comfortable in possession, can play lovely slick attacking football with intelligence, but it’s whether he finds that focus to really take him up another level. There is no doubting his ability – he has as much as anyone in the academy – but the rest depends on how he steps up professionally. A manager like Guardiola could turn a player like him into something special.
The Garcias are obvious potential inclusions too. Aleix Garcia has had an exceptional start to life at City. Think Xavi’s take on the deep-lying playmaker role. He’s excellent at spreading play and tying everything together, and he’s grown defensively too. He was a little lost initially when he started playing in England but he’s started to learn a Gareth Barry-esque ability to be in the right place at the right time. A hugely handy trait. Guardiola will most definitely be intrigued by his potential. Manu Garcia needs no introduction. A lovely little footballer, blessed with raw natural ability. He’s perhaps not exploded into life yet for the EDS, but he’s exactly the kind of player that would come on leaps and bounds given the close tuition of someone like Pep. It should prove fascinating to watch his development. Angus Gunn and Daniel Grimshaw are both fantastic young goalkeepers, and both are better than most outfield players with the ball at their feet. They could surprise one or two, as could Jack Byrne. The Irish youth international is currently on loan in Holland at Cambuur and his passing ability and stats are genuinely excellent. He values possession, and that, as we know, is not a bad trait to have around a manager of that style. There are many more in the u18s below, and it’d be easy to mention the Spanish contingent of Sarmiento, Brahim and Fernandes in the EDS, but some of the HG talent such as Patching, Davenport and Diallo are equally as expressive on the ball, and this is without even touching on the golden generation emerging from the u16s. It’s exciting times, and Pep should revolutionise this club.
Zabaleta — Kompany — Otamendi — Clichy
De Bruyne — Gundogan — Pogba
Fekir — Aguero — Sterling
On February 1st, 2016 it happened – City erased any doubts about their inclusion in the “biggest clubs in the world” conversation by announcing that Pep Guardiola, the most sought-after manager in football, was joining the club for the 2016-17 season. The Premier League kick-off with Pep at the helm is less than six months away and City fans will be equally dazzled and baffled by Pep’s constant line-up tinkering until seeing bizarre selections like Fernandinho at right-back and Fabian Delph at left-back become commonplace.
While anyone would have better luck picking lottery numbers than trying to figure out what will happen to City’s squad under Pep, that doesn’t stop us from trying, right? Despite potentially needing to overhaul a dozen players, the complexity of the business transactions of buying and selling players makes it extremely difficult to pull off more than four to six in any given transfer window, making it likely to take at least two windows before the squad is fully implemented as Pep intends.
Players I can see leaving are Martin Demichelis, Aleks Kolarov, Jesus Navas, Wilfried Bony, Fernando and Yaya Toure. While each of these projected departed players has contributed in their own way, all of them are replaceable at this stage of their City career and should be upgraded with younger/better talent. The only truly painful departure on the list is Yaya, who has been the most dominant central midfielder in the Premier League for the last half decade, and for me, is easily one of City’s all-time greatest players.
Jason Denayer and Angelino may be promoted. The consensus amongst City supporters is that Pep will take a hard look at City’s youth and I’ve gone for two of the more experienced defenders in 20-year old Denayer, the natural centre-back with the flexibility to play at full-back, and 19-year old Angelino, the attacking left-back. While I think Manu Garcia, Pablo Maffeo, Aleix Garcia and Brahim Diaz are the future cream of City’s academy crop, regularly featuring for the first team is likely a few years away.
It’s a blind throw of the dice to know who City will sign, and it makes more sense to target potential positions rather than actual players (but I’m naming a few of those as well).
- Attacking Players
- Attacking Midfield/forward/striker hybrid
- Attacking Midfield Winger
Aside from Robert Lewandowski, Pep hasn’t really played too many traditional strikers and while Sergio Aguero fits that bill for City, my sense is he’ll look to a hybrid player that can help provide goals. Nabil Fekir is a player who could potentially fit this role after immensely impressing at Lyon with 13 goals and 9 assists last season at the age of 21. Resuming his recent successful track record on the attacking side of the ball with pacy wingers such as Douglas Costa and Arjen Robben, Pep could look to add a complementary player such as a Leroy Sané to the opposite side of the field from Raheem Sterling.
- Central Midfield Players
- Central Midfield/Attack
- Central Midfield/Control/Holding
This is the position it feels Pep has had his most influence and builds his teams, and where I think City’s potential marquee signings will come from. If Yaya Toure does indeed hit the exit door, City would be losing a player who can not only control a game with his passing and distribution but who’s attacking play also contributes five shots a game. Luckily, a similar player who possesses this unique all-around skill set has already played at the Etihad this season and is conveniently familiar with the city of Manchester – this would be Paul Pogba of course.
Mighty interesting the similarity in league attacking stats for Yaya & Pogba this season pic.twitter.com/NG0mE3smKS
— CityAP (@CityAcrossPond) February 16, 2016
Prying Pogba away from Juventus would be a nearly impossible task and would certainly highlight the allure of playing under Pep if he were to push for a move to City. Ilkay Gundogan would add another elite passer combined with Borussia Dortmund’s defensive pressing pedigree to City’s midfield.