Whilst Chelsea have seemingly executed playing fluently and successfully with only three defenders, City have sporadically toyed with the idea opting for a three-man defence against Everton, Southampton, West Brom and most recently against Borussia Monchengladbach. Although a back line of three has worked with mixed success this season with the likes of Fernando and Fernandinho dropping back to assist with defensive duties, in City’s case it would appear to me that such choices have been a case of necessity rather than one of Pep’s famous tactical innovations.
With Gael Clichy not getting any younger and Aleksandar Kolarov being rotated to a more central defensive position this season, most notably producing ‘one of the best performances at centre-back’ that Pep Guardiola has ever seen during Manchester City’s win over Sunderland, opting for three defenders has, if anything, further highlighted the need to dip into the transfer market for a new left-sided defender. Whether Pep Guardiola will wait until the summer transfer window and persevere with his current options for the rest of the season remains to be seen but if recent paper talk is anything to go by, a new left-back is certainly on the club’s horizon.
We take a look at three players who with good reason could be swapping their current club’s colours for the sky blue of Manchester City in the not so distant future:
1) Alex Sandro (Juventus)
Joining the long list (which seems to grow every transfer window) of players FC Porto players scouted and purchased at a relatively low cost before being sold for substantial profit to a fellow top-flight European competitor, left-back Alex Sandro swapped Portugal for Italy and joined Juventus in August 2015. Purchased originally by FC Porto for €10m before being sold for €26m, expect Alex Sandro’s asking price to be nearer to double of what Juventus spent on the Brazilian defender if he is to move anywhere in the next year. Alex Sandro should be a familiar name to fans of both Manchester clubs having being heavily linked with the former FC Porto man two/three seasons ago. His impressive performances and development over the past 12 months however will undoubtedly leave both clubs kicking themselves wishing that they had moved for him sooner. I mean let us not forget it was Alex Sandro who assisted Mario Mandžukić during Juventus’ 1-0 home win over Manchester City in the Champions League, helping the club secure a spot in the Round of 16.
Regularly deployed as an advanced left-back and left-sided defensive midfielder, Alex Sandro’s acceleration and speed whilst dribbling with the ball not only means that he is able to operate at any position on the left-wing but would certainly fit into Guardiola’s high-intensity style of football. Sandro therefore offers a valuable attacking outlet with his strengths ranging from accurate passing and the ability cross directly from the left-wing thus regularly creating chances. Likewise Sandro’s ability to hold on to the ball will certainly appeal to Guardiola and Sandro could be well be another one of the missing pieces that Guardiola is looking for as he continue to complete his perfect jigsaw.