Pep Guardiola isn’t resting on his laurels.
On the day of Manchester City’s FA Cup final meeting against Watford, The Telegraph’s James Ducker reported the Spaniard’s side could be set to welcome four new names during the summer transfer window.
But how can he improve his team? City subsequently steamrolled the Hornets 6-0 at Wembley on Saturday, matching a 116-year record for the biggest win in the final’s history.
Let’s mull over the potential areas City could strengthen before the 2019-20 campaign.
Reassessing the full-backs
Considering Oleksandr Zinchenko – an attacking midfielder – was so often deployed at left-back while Fabian Delph and Benjamin Mendy contended with injury issues, you would expect Manchester City to bulk up this department in the summer. However, Ducker reports that finding a right-back is the priority.
So, like every other rich club, City are apparently eyeing Aaron Wan-Bissaka, the Crystal Palace youth product who put a series of flying left-wingers in his back pocket during a breakout season.
But City should still seek a left-back. Ben Chilwell has greatly refined his talents at Leicester City and can further boost his tactical sense under Guardiola. If he joined City, it would almost certainly spell the end of Delph’s career in Manchester. Mendy, meanwhile, would likely be playing his last season with the club if his fitness and professionalism didn’t improve.
Manchester City’s attempts to find an eventual replacement for Fernandinho are well documented, but so far unsuccessful. Nothing materialized from their interest in Fred and Jorginho, with the pair later shifting to Manchester United and Chelsea, respectively. Now Fernandinho is 34 years old, and City need to end the chase this summer.
Douglas Luiz being denied a work permit prior to the 2018-19 season irritated Guardiola. However, the young Brazilian hasn’t shown enough in his second season on loan at Girona to merit an immediate opportunity to challenge Fernandinho for first-team football.
So, Fernandinho’s successor is likely the department where City splash the most cash. Rodri, Atletico Madrid’s intelligent deep-lying midfielder, is strongly linked with a transfer to Guardiola’s gaggle. Lyon’s Tanguy Ndombele and Benfica’s fledgling Florentino Luis have also been mentioned in the rumor mill.
When Guardiola needed a more reliable foundation, Nicolas Otamendi was phased out. The preferred combination at center-back over the final weeks was Vincent Kompany and Aymeric Laporte, with John Stones the first choice off the bench.
Manchester City are unlikely to stand in Otamendi’s way if he wants to leave this summer, but they’ll need to decide how to fill the fourth-choice slot in the middle of their defense. Can Philippe Sandler or Eric Garcia stake a claim for first-team recognition during the preseason, or will City go shopping?
Scouring the transfer market for a center-half could be costly. Matthijs de Ligt, probably the most coveted player in Europe this summer, should fetch Ajax more than the €75 million that Barcelona paid them for Frenkie de Jong.
Another attack-minded player
A surprising subplot during the 2018-19 campaign was Leroy Sane’s reduced role at Manchester City. The German winger was rarely fielded in matches against big-six rivals because he seemed to struggle with Guardiola’s tactical instructions.
Then, during Friday’s press conference, Guardiola revealed Sane hasn’t committed to a new contract despite the club tabling offers over the past 18 months. That perhaps explains Sane’s slashed minutes and sullen expression.
City may need to cash in on Sane with two years left on his deal in Beswick, potentially freeing up space for another attack-minded player. One candidate would be Sporting CP midfielder Bruno Fernandes, who’s second overall in both goals and assists in Portugal’s top flight. There’s also Joao Felix, the exciting Benfica teenager who somehow made sluggish Swiss striker Haris Seferovic look good this season.