Pep Guardiola revealed what many people had guessed in February when he decided to not renew his contract with current employers Bayern Munich. The former Barcelona boss is to be replaced by Carlo Ancelotti at the end of the season following a trophy-laden spell in Bavaria. Speculation persisted regarding his next destination but it was Manchester City who won the race for his signature.
The Spaniard will replace Manuel Pellegrini at the end of the season signing a three-year-deal with the club. City have lifted the Capital One Cup in Pellegrini’s last season but have fell short in the title race; now facing a battle to remain in the top four. However, they remain in the last eight of the Champions League alongside Bayern Munich.
His reign will bring many changes to the club, we highlight what could be on the 45-year-old’s summer to-do-list…
1. End the Yaya Toure transfer saga before it begins
When the summer transfer window re-opens, it usually brings with it transfer rumours surrounding the future of Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure. Whether it be over a birthday message, rumours persist regarding the midfielder’s future. His agent, Dimitri Seluk, has once again caused some controversy this week over his client’s future.
Seluk has urged the club to make a decision whether to give the 32-year-old a new contract this week otherwise he will start speaking to other clubs. The move could be a way of ensuring an improved deal but City are unlikely to be bullied by a player who could be seen as past his prime.
Toure has played a pivotal role during Sheikh Mansour’s years of ownership, providing City with a world-class option in the centre of midfield. He is only the second Premier League midfielder to score 20 goals in a season after Frank Lampard in the 2013/14 season where City lifted the title. However, his influence is midfield is waning. His ability is unquestionable. Yet his work-rate and effort levels have been scrutinised in recent seasons.
The arrival of Guardiola casts further doubt over the former Barcelona midfielder’s future. The Spaniard was in charge of when Toure was sold to City for £24m back in 2010. Guardiola’s style of play would require a high pressing, high-pressure setup. Would Toure be willing to be a part of such system?
If Toure’s future is not decided before Guardiola arrives at the club, it should be one of his top priorities.
2. Rectify Manchester City’s defensive Achilles heel
For all of Manchester City’s attacking potency, they have once again been let down at the other end of the field. Without skipper Vincent Kompany, they have seemed incapable of keeping a clean sheet. Their talismanic leader is another player who has played a vital role in the club’s success in the era of Mansour. The 29 games he has missed, City have lost nine compared to three losses when the Belgian has started.
In his absence due to re-occurring injuries, almost £80m has been spent by the Citizens to plug the gap left by one of the finest defenders the Premier League has ever seen. The £32m purchase of Eliaquim Mangala was ridiculous with the French defender looking nowhere near the standard required to be successful in England. Martin Demichelis simply lacks the pace to keep up with the league’s top forwards and Nicolas Otamendi has been unable to fully adapt without a long-term defensive partner next to him.
Kompany’s fitness cannot be relied on meaning Guardiola faces the prospect of arriving in the summer needing at least two new centre-backs. City need to spend wisely on proven Premier League talent. They require leadership and authority at the back to provide a solid backbone to City’s attacking qualities.
3. Out with the old and in with the new
One of the many benefits of the Manchester City hot seat is the seemingly unlimited transfer budget that ensues. City recently sold a small chunk if the City Football Group to an investment company from China with the club hoping to capitalise on the growth of football in that country. Coupled with the record-breaking TV deal equips City with a transfer war chest for Guardiola to transform his squad.
Some major squad renovations are required with Guardiola set to remove some of the deadwood in the City squad. It is unlikely that Joe Hart will be displaced as City’s number one with rumours of a move for Manuel Neuer being nothing more than that. Willy Caballero became a hero during the Capital One Cup final and should remain as deputy next season.
The likes of Bacary Sagna and Aleksandar Kolarov could be allowed to leave the club as well as Demichelis and Mangala. Defensive re-enforcements are needed and many big names have been linked to the club. John Stones remains a target and represents good value for money at just 21 years of age. However, the England international has no Champions League experience meaning other options could be explored. Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte is a more realistic prospect who has impressed Guardiola with his ability to play the ball out of defence.
In midfield, Samir Nasri and Fernandinho could be allowed to leave the club. Nasri has failed to break into the first team following his move from Arsenal and his high wage demands mean he should be moved on. Fabian Delph, Jesus Navas and Fernando may have a role to play as squad players allowing the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and David Silva to flourish. City have been linked with a big-money move for Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba but a move for Borussia Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan seems more realistic; especially after Gundogan’s agent was seen meeting with director of football Txiki Begiristain recently.
Up top, Guardiola’s arrival could put an end to Wilfried Bony’s Manchester City career. The Ivorian has struggled to adapt since his move from Swansea and does not possess the right characteristics that Guardiola looks for in a striker. With Sergio Aguero the main option and Kelechi Iheanacho as his back-up, Bony could be set to leave in the summer. Reports linking the Blues with Zlatan Ibrahimovic are farfetched due to the well-known feud between the Swede and the Spaniard.
4. Fill the empty seats
Manchester City have been on the receiving end of many taunts from their noisy neighbours Manchester United due to their inability to fill the Etihad Stadium this season. United have taken strides ahead of most Premier League teams in terms of revenue whilst steps are being taken by City to further globalise their brand.
City have continued to expand their stadium at a rapid rate. The City of Manchester Stadium is now the third largest stadium in England yet the empty seats continue to appear. Redevelopments are still in progress to boost the overall seating capacity to approximately 61,000 upon completion which would make it only second to Old Trafford in terms of size.
Thousands of empty seats were visible during Manchester City’s Capital One Cup semi-final against Everton where the side booked their place at Wembley. City also recorded their record attendance earlier in the season against Leicester but empty seats were visible yet again on all corners of the ground. Even during Champions League matches this season, the club have been unable to fill the stadium.
Guardiola’s arrival, new signings in the transfer window and a free-flow attacking style should see City fans look to fill their ground. This must be matched by the club who simply must do more to gets fans through the gates. ‘Special’ nights created by the likes of Liverpool and Manchester United are occasions that players live for and perform for. Guardiola must try to transform the Etihad into a fortress to be feared.
5. Give youth a chance
Few City youth players have managed to make the grade and breakthrough to the first team in recent years. Due to an abundance of foreign talent purchased for big-money, opportunities have been few and far between. Sir Trevor Brooking criticised the club for not giving young players such as Patrick Roberts a chance to impress.
Under Guardiola, things will change. During his time with Barcelona, youngsters were given the chance to impress. Both Sergio Busquets and Pedro were promoted from Barcelona ‘B’ and thrust into the first team picture before going on to become key players for the side. Guardiola was also able to nurture Thiago Alcantara into a key player for the side and a player he wanted to take with him to Germany. “It's an amazing feeling that someone of the calibre of Pep has so much confidence in you,” remarked the midfielder who duly followed when Guardiola came calling.
Pep has also continued his track record of bringing youth prospects into the senior side in his short time with Munich. He has devoted hours to develop the likes of Pierre Hojbjerg and Joshua Kimmich this season. On-loan winger Kingsley Coman is also benefitting from the tactician’s tutelage, playing a starring role in the league and helping knock parent club Juventus out of the Champions League.
City do have prospects capable of making the step up. Iheanacho has displayed this season that he has the ability to play at the highest level and he will be a player that will no doubt interest Guardiola. Roberts, currently on loan at Celtic, could also see opportunities for first-team football arise following his spell in Scotland and hope to live up to his £12m price tag. Brandon Barker is another youngster tipped for big things and could be given an opportunity to impress in the first- team picture.
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