With the season concluded I thought I’d take an early look at the three best ways to improve the current 20 teams in England’s premier football decision. I will break it down into 20 separate articles as a series of sorts in order to keep it shorter and more manageable to read so keep an eye out!
Work out how to play Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero in the same team – Sergio Aguero is one of the Premier League’s all-time leading goalscorers with an impressive tally of 122 goals from only 181 appearances. This incredible goal-to-game ratio (0.67 goals per game in the league) doesn’t look to be declining too soon as even with injuries and reduced minutes he finished 4th in the scorers chart this season with a solid return of 20 converted chances. Pair that with his legendary title winning goal against QPR 5-years, ago in which he achieved immortality with the City faithful, it would appear inconceivable that he’d be sold; yet 12 months into Guardiola’s mixed first year in charge it’s an increased possibility.
The highly talented and touted teenager from Brazil, Gabriel Jesus, has instantly captured the attention with his spectacular transition to the English game since arriving in January. Spells either side of a dreaded metatarsal injury has seen the sensation score 7 goals in merely 10 Premier League games
I can see why City would be so excited about their emerging superstar, especially because of how well Marcus Rashford has been developing across the city for their rivals, but they’d be foolish to even entertain the idea of letting him take centre stage and offloading Aguero.
At 28, scarily enough, Sergio Aguero is reaching the peak of his powers. As one of the greatest strikers the league has seen, as a team looking to form a dynasty to further the club’s growth, selling arguably their greatest ever player would not aid their attempts. As great as Jesus is, he’s very young. Young players tend to hit a wall over the course of a full season, especially in a league as gruelling as the English Premier League, not to mention it’s a lot of pressure to place on a young player’s shoulders. Lionel Messi had Ronaldinho to take the pressure of him when he was developing at Barcelona whilst Cristiano Ronaldo had a wealth of experience around him at Old Trafford.
Even if Guardiola can’t find a way to put both on the pitch at the same time consistently, he’d be wise to keep Aguero as he searches for his first English trophy; as a main striker and someone for Gabriel to learn behind.
Sign a Goalkeeper – It is no secret that Manchester City have a massive weakness at the goalkeeping position. In a widely-criticised move, Guardiola chose to let Hart leave the club on loan (purely due to difficulties in finding a permanent transfer so late in the window) and sign Chilean number 1; Claudio Bravo. His reasoning was that it would be too difficult to train Hart at this stage of his career to be strong with the ball at his feet which is essential for Guardiola’s philosophy where build up starts from the back. What he underestimated was that it’s even harder to train a player at a late stage in their career to be a good goalkeeper! Claudio Bravo has been completely incapable at every facet of the game.
As good as Jesus’ transition has been, Bravo’s has been the opposite. He has been unable to acclimatize to the abundant use of crosses in comparison to Spanish football, often seen flapping helplessly whilst struggling to deal with the physicality allowed in our league.
Joe Hart is by no means faultless, he’s surprised Torino with the number of mistakes he makes, but he’s a much better commander of his penalty area and defence. He also wouldn’t ever fall into the bottom three keepers in the league for percentage of shots conceded!
I’ll be interested to see which way Manchester City look to approach this problem. Whether Guardiola, arrogant to a fault about his methods, looks again to the leagues on the continent for a footballing goalkeeper or whether he goes for a proven shot stopper with physical prowess.
Rivals United have constantly been linked to Jan Oblak [should De Gea depart for the new age Galacticos] but I’d be surprised if City haven’t considered this signing as a possibility, regardless of Atletico’s high buyout clause on him. If not, provided the injury concerns are alleviated, Jack Butland would be a much-needed upgrade.
He’s a tall, physical presence in the box with very steady hands and decent shot stopping ability. He’s also trained with Stoke for the last few years and played in their windy stadium numerous times and so he’s more than adequate at handling crosses! He’d be cheaper in comparison to the prospects on the continent yet is a proven commodity in our league. It would also mean City continued to dominate the position between the sticks in England’s national side for the next few years.
Whichever way they go, a good goalkeeper is essential if City are to see any progress. Someone who instills confidence in their defence will also improve the team’s performances at the back, enabling them to finally see some return on the steep investment in centre halves to partner Vincent Kompany.
Decrease the squad’s average age – Considering the amount of money the club has invested in its youth facilities and scouting department, the team is still one of the oldest in the league with few academy players ever gracing the first team. Even Kelechi Iheanacho, who had shown previous potential, has seen little playing time behind Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero.
Whilst additions of Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus have improved the youthfulness of the team going forward, and certainly it’s an exciting triangle for the future, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
In midfield/defence, a large number of the team’s key players are over 30; David Silva , Yaya Toure , Fernandinho , Vincent Kompany , Bacary Sagna , Aleksandar Kolarov , Gael Clichy  etc. Both goalkeepers are over 30, Otamendi is 29 years old and the club has recently announced club legend Pablo Zabaleta won’t be renewing his contract at season’s end.
That is a vast number of key players from previous title challenges that are going to need replacing in a short space of time. I’d also argue that some of the signings they’ve made so far to address this issue have been unsuccessful. I don’t see John Stones ever being a truly successful centre back because he’s just not that strong defensively and doesn’t possess the intelligence to understand when not to play the ball from the back.
Similarly, the faith and money invested into Ilkay Gundogan was foolish based on his extensive knee injury history which has already come back to bite them; think Owen Hargreaves 2.0.
It’s hard to really suggest players for the team to sign because as I have mentioned already there are so many areas for the team to consider filling. I personally think they should prioritise a holding midfielder to allow freedom to De Bruyne/David Silva, someone along the lines of a Tiemoue Bakayoko or Stevan N’Zonzi. I also think they need to be younger at the bookends of their defence.
Based on reports it would appear they look to have found their replacement for Pablo Zabaleta in the unsettled Kyle Walker if the rumours are true and that would be a solid fit for the system Pep likes to deploy. Addressing the other side then they again could look to plunder the reigning French champions Monaco for the hugely talented and impressive Benjamin Mendy who has excited at both ends of the pitch for principality side.