It has been an enthralling two months in the world of football, as the 2016-17 summer transfer window has been one of the most active ones in recent years. While the record for the transfer fee was broken this time by Manchester United as they bought the charismatic French midfielder Paul Pogba, Real Madrid, who have been very fond of doing so in the past few years, just bought their own academy product back from Juventus in the form of Alvaro Morata. But most of the buzz was created by both the Manchester teams, not just because of the magnitude of the clubs, but also because of the managers associated with them.
While Jose Mourinho is back in the Premier League, this time with the Red Devils, after getting fired last season as the Chelsea boss, Pep Guardiola has come to Manchester City to prove that he, indeed, is the best in the world. And the Spaniard has lived up to the expectations so far in the transfer window, as he has landed some of the finest talents at the Etihad stadium. Guardiola broke the record for spending in a single window in the Premier League, splashing out a staggering £169 million. As the transfer window is now shut, we look at the Manchester City squad and the changes made for the upcoming season.
To say that Joe Hart is a good goalkeeper, will be an understatement and an insult to the Englishman. On his day, Hart is one of the finest goalkeepers in the world. The 29-year-old’s shot-stopping and positioning is excellent. But, in simple terms, he is not Guardiola material. Because even though a goalkeeper’s primary job is mostly related to his hands, Pep wants his goalkeepers to be equally good with their feet. And that’s the only reason why Hart’s departure from the City squad can be justified, considering that the big man has been with the club for ten years now. Hart’s loan move to Serie A side Torino is heartbreaking for the city fans, who have been firm supporters of the keeper throughout his career.
But Pep is the kind of manager, who has his own way of dealing with things. It doesn’t really matter to the Catalan manager whether a player is popular or not with the club supporters. What matters to Guardiola is that he can get what he wants from every single player on the field, as well as on the bench.
Guardiola found what he was looking for in this section of the field in the form of Claudio Bravo, who arrived from Barcelona for a fee of around €18 million. The Chile captain has been in great form over the past two years since joining Barcelona in 2014, and was instrumental in both of the Liga winning seasons for the Catalan club. Guardiola created the Barcelona way of playing football, and therefore he can rely on Bravo to fit in the City squad. But Bravo doesn’t offer a future prospect for the club, as the Chilean is already 33 and won’t be expected to play at the top level for more than a couple of years.
Section Rating – 8/10
Manchester City have always been popular for outscoring their opponents. But since the demise of their club captain Vincent Kompany, City have never been able to fill that void in their defence. While Lescott was never considered as the appropriate partner for the Belgian centre-half, the signings of Demichelis and Mangala over the past two seasons were expected to bring some stability to their defence. But both the players became nothing but a laughing stock for the other club’s fans as they continued to perform poorly. Surely City have improved with Otamendi coming in from Valencia last season, but Kompany was injured for most of the season last term, and Otamendi alone wasn’t sufficient to fill that hole. As a result, City finished fourth in the league last season, their worst finish in six years.
Guardiola has not made the same mistake that his predecessors did. As soon as Guardiola arrived in Manchester, his primary target was to land an exceptional centre-back at the club. And he delivered one of the most promising and exciting players at the moment in the world of football in the form of John Stones. The 22-year-old centre-back from England has been rated as one of the best young defenders in the world. Stones arrived from Everton for a jaw dropping fee of €55.6 million. The signing of Stones also gives Pep a psychological advantage over his great rival Jose Mourinho, who failed to land the former Everton man last season at Chelsea despite his best efforts.
Guardiola not only managed to grab a wonderful centre-back in Stones, but he was also able to offload the players who weren’t appropriate for his plans. Mangala, who never lived up to the price tag or the expectations at the Etihad, went on loan to Spanish side Valencia. On the other hand, Demichelis, who was constantly criticised for being too slow, left on a free transfer for another Spanish side Espanyol.
Section rating – 9/10
In the past few years, City’s main strength has been their midfield. But last season, it was clearly visible that City needed to replace their aging players. David Silva and Samir Nasri were both injured for a large part of the season, whereas Yaya Toure was not as effective as he had been for the Blues. Fabian Delph was brought in as a cover for both Toure and Fernandinho, but he himself was severely injured during the pre season last term. The only major improvement in the City squad was the arrival of Belgium star midfielder Kevin de Bruyne, who almost single-handedly took City to the Champions League semis. City needed a much needed change in their line-up as they looked out of sorts when their first team players were not available. And Pep provided that in style.
Ilkay Gundogan was the first to arrive in Manchester. Even though he is still injured and unavailable for selection, Pep has taken a very calculated risk in signing the German midfielder. Gundogan, who arrived at a fee of €30million, is still 25 and is considered to be one of the best in his role. And he will bring the much needed pace and strength in the City midfield. Another huge impact player signed by Guardiola is the Spanish winger Nolito. The Spanish international was signed for around €15 million from La Liga side Celta Vigo. Nolito is a wonderful dribbler and shooter of the ball, and with decent pace, he can be as devastating as anyone in this world. The added advantage of having the 29-year-old wide man is that he can fulfil the role of a striker when needed.
Pep also invested the club’s funds in the younger section, with the signings of 20-year-old German winger Leroy Sane and 19-year-old midfielder Ukrainian Oleksandr Zinchenko. The latter, who was signed for a fee in the range of €4 million from FC Ufa, has been sent out on loan to Dutch side PSV. On the other Sane is part of Pep’s current plans and is included in the squad for all major competitions. The €30 million buy from Schalke has incredible pace and can also play as a no. 10 in the midfield.
Pep not only handled the incoming market well in the midfield region, he was quick to clean up some room for the new signings. Samir Nasri, who has had a torrid couple of seasons with consistent injury problems, has been sent on loan to the Spanish side Sevilla. The 29-year-old former France midfielder was finding it hard to get back to full flow after returning from a serious injury last season.
Section Rating – 9/10
In terms of the forward line, with players like Nolito and Sane coming in, both of whom can play as a striker, Pep didn’t bring in another high profile striker. And he managed to get rid of the under firing Wilfried Bony. The big Ivorian never managed to get used to the life at Etihad, and was therefore loaned out to Stoke City. Edin Dzeko has completed his transfer to Roma for a fee of €11 million.
The incoming strike force for Manchester City doesn’t have a high-profile name. Marlos Moreno, the 19-year-old Colombian, has been signed from Atletico Nacional for €5 million, and has been loaned out to Spanish side Deportivo la Coruna. And the major addition to the attack of City this season is Gabriel Jesus, who has already been compared to Neymar because of impressive dribbling. The 19-year-old Brazilian forward had a wonderful Rio Olympics, helping his nation win the gold in football for the first time in history. Jesus was signed from Brazilian side Palmeiras for a hefty fee of €32 million.
Section Rating – 8.5/10