For the past two seasons Manchester City have been linked with the majority of the world’s full-backs without actually signing any of them. They same time heals a broken heart, but City’s continued neglect of the position has left the side imbalanced, desperate for an injection of solidity.
Now, finally, on the cusp of Pep Guardiola’s second and most anticipated full season in charge, it looks as if the whispers are legitimate: we’re actually going to sign a full-back. As far as reliability goes, self-appointed City spokesmen like Sam Lee of Goal have delivered solid information regarding AS Monaco’s Benjamin Mendy, free agent Dani Alves, Tottenham Hotspur’s Kyle Walker and albeit to a lesser extent Ryan Bertrand. At the time of writing deals for Mendy and Alves look to be very close to being announced.
One only has to take a brief look on Twitter to know that the fan-base very much approves. Nevertheless, there is growing impatience among Blues who, bruised by the unkept promises of the past, would rather official announcements over speculation. For too long we have been forced to watch tired limbs hobble up and down the touchline – it’s time for a change.
While it is true that City have been lacking in this area for the better part of two seasons, it is also a fact that business needs to be conducted with care and dignity. Signing multiple names or the wrong ones out of desperation would be careless. Of course, the importance of strengthening the side in any way possible for a fresh title bid next campaign cannot and will not be under stated, but do we really need four or even three new full-backs? Now I don’t think any rational Blue is actually expecting every single rumoured name to step through the CFA doors but there has been talk of it – as unlikely as it is.
So, bearing that in mind, let’s evaluate this key issue – who would be best the additions?
In the days of Roberto Mancini, full-backs were integral to the way City played and pressed opposition sides into submission, particularly on home turf at the Etihad. While the rest of the side stayed firmly down the middle trying to open up stubborn opposing defensive units, the only supply of any width were the full-backs who were tasked with providing a genuine attacking threat whilst also keeping their defensive heads on at the back. Pablo Zabaleta and Micah Richards bombed down the right hand side with purpose and power, whilst Gaël Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov each provided their own unique traits to the left; Kolarov for an attacking frame of mind, Clichy for a more defensive one.
It was almost perfect. This system, in my opinion, remains City’s best ever full-back rotation. However, since Mancini’s departure and up until now, City have not been so reliant on their full-backs, attaching more focus on wingers. Manuel Pellegrini introduced Jesus Navas to the fold as a consistent starter; supplying more width into what was his more open, less defensive tactical plan.
Before you know it, Leroy Sané and Raheem Sterling became the linchpins of Guardiola’s set-up, responsible for creating space for David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne to drive into. Taking that into account, and the fact that Fernandinho has proved more than capable of playing on the right side of defence last season, a ridiculous array of wing backs is not compulsory to our success. Dani Alves’ world class ability partnered with the exuberant, powerful Benjamin Mendy on the should be more than enough for City to attack the new season with. After all, we haven’t sold Kolarov, yet.
As reported in various news sites Kyle Walker’s price is set at a whopping £40 million-plus. Add on around £20 million for Ryan Bertrand and another £40 million for Mendy and we have a final total of £100 million. Obviously, for the simple fact that City are City, clubs will look to majorly, and often ridiculously, profit from the full-back hunt – but should Pep be throwing all of his eggs in one basket? Or in this case, one area of the side that needs strengthening?
Since Vincent Kompany’s triumphant return to the team sheet, City’s desire to sign a new centre-back has died down significantly compared to five months ago. However, taking his injury record into account, a new addition in the middle wouldn’t be a bad idea – there has been talk of Antonio Rudiger potentially making the switch to Manchester, although he is now one step away from Chelsea. The hype for a new centre-half should be re-ignited; meanwhile Benjamin Mendy and Dani Alves will satisfy the full-back reins – simply because their price tags justify their age and ability. I think we can all agree that Kyle Walker, as talented as he is, definitely does not.