Manchester City’s squad, apparently (according to journalist John Brewin on the most recent Second Captains podcast) needs 8 new players to succeed. *Needs*. *Eight*.
I posited that they could get away with only 2 signings, both in central midfield, and that the quality (or lack of it) at full-back had been overblown.
To which I got some strong responses…
But anyway, let’s look at this in some more rigorous detail. Just what kind of work do City need to do on their squad?
Running the numbers of minutes played in the squads of the Premier league top 6 (Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, the Manchesters, Tottenham) over the past 3 seasons, we can see how much depth teams are likely to need.
- 1 starter to play 33.44 90s
- 1 general back-up to play 4.51 90s
- (2 of the 18 squads used a 3rd keeper)
Options: Claudio Bravo (34 [at the start of] next season), Willy Caballero (35 next season), apparently not Joe Hart (30 next season)
Goalkeeper is a position where you just need quality. You’ll need to replace Bravo and Caballero either this summer or next, given their ages. With this in mind, isolating Joe Hart so fiercely is probably not advisable, because now City have two keepers in their mid-30s and a probable need to replace one of them next transfer window in order to avoid a crisis later on.
In terms of quality, either Bravo or Caballero is probably serviceable with a better team in front of them (and Bravo’s woes are probably partly the result of an unsustainable witch’s curse). They could manage with them, basically. But for purely age- and crisis-avoidance reasons, another keeper is a necessity – although this would stop being a necessity if Hart was deemed acceptable.
- 2 starters to play 30.64 and 24.73 90s
- 1 regular back-up to play 14.33 90s
- 1 general back-up to play 7.89 90s
- (3 of the 18 squads used a 5th centre-back)
Options: Vincent Kompany (31 next season), John Stones (23 next season), Nicolas Otamendi (29 next season), not Eliaquim Mangala (26 next season) or Jason Denayer (22 next season) apparently
Including this year, Kompany has only reached the threshold for the second starter’s minutes 4 times in the past 8 seasons, and only matched the minutes for the first starter twice in eight. Even if he plays every minute from now until the end of this season, that will only put him at the requisite minutes for the general back-up in both of the past two seasons.
It’s not out of the realms of possibility for Kompany to add 5 90s to his season-long tally next year and take him up to the ‘regular back-up’ territory, but to be safe we should probably put him down as the more infrequent ‘general back-up’.
This obviously necessitates a new signing at centre-back, unless Mangala is going to come back in as the 3rd choice. They could probably (and that probably is stretched) manage without a signing – they could bumble by – but it’s pretty much a necessity, if not a firm one. But who? A starter replacement for Stones or Otamendi would need to be truly elite and ready to step up for a starting partnership with the young Englishman within the next couple of years (Otamendi, by then in his 30s, probably moving permanently to the regular back-up role, if he hadn’t done already).
- 2 starters to play 30.43 and 22.78 90s
- 1 regular back-up to play 12.03 90s
- 1 general back-up to play 6.26 90s
- (5 of the 18 squads used a 5th full-back)
Options: Gael Clichy (32 next season), Bacary Sagna (34 next season), Pablo Zabaleta (32 next season), Aleksandar Kolarov (31 next season)
Apparently, according to my mentions, Guardiola’s system absolutely necessitates fast and fit full-backs. Apparently with an attacking corps of Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Iheanacho, De Bruyne, David Silva, Sané, Sterling, and Nolito, there is no way of Guardiola succeeding without athletic full-backs.
The current crop of full-backs being manageable for another season would require heavy rotation, of course, away from the general usage trend of the 18 top 6 teams studied. I’ve relented on my original position that City could get by without a full-back signing. Or rather, they could get by without one, but it would be enough of a risk to deem it a marginal necessity.
Assuming one of the four gets injured, the plan of heavy rotation falls apart, and one of these ageing players getting injured seems likely. Guardiola, for a time, seemed like he was coping with the lack of athletic full-backs by making them tuck into central midfield and using his frankly disgusting array of attacking talent to move out to the wings. This might have worked if functional central midfield players had been available.
I’ll allow Guardiola one necessary full-back signing. He can buy the young runner he wants and rotate a false full-back on the other side. Everything else is manageable. During writing, the news broke that Jesus Navas has received a contract extension, so you can throw him into the rotational mix too.
- 2 starters playing 29.22 and 23.94 90s
- 1 regular back-up playing 17.58 90s
- 2 general back-ups playing 10.82 and 6.88 90s
- (7 of the 18 squads played a 6th central midfielder, though with very minimal minutes on average)
Options: Ilkay Gündoğan (26 next season), Yaya Touré (34 next season), Fernandinho (32 next season), Fernando (30 next season), Fabian Delph (27 next season)
Gündoğan is the key. He’s a decent age and the best in quality of the bunch. However, in his Dortmund career – taking out the season where he played just 57 league minutes – he was remarkably consistent in playing 21-23 lots of 90 minutes a year. This isn’t quite enough to be a starter, and given his injury problems this year, there’s certainly no guarantee that he will be next year.
This leaves both starting slots open, and while it’s possible that a 32-year old Fernandinho could fill one (he’s performed well in a very difficult job this year), both are likely to need to be new signings. Expecting Touré and Fernandinho to fill these slots is an unmanageable situation, and Fernando and Delph clearly are not at the required standard, even – maybe – to fill the general back-up slots.
2 new starting central midfielders allows Gündoğan to be a regular back-up, and allows Fernandinho and Touré to be high quality general back-ups, while probably making other positions groups look like less of a problem too.
Attacking midfield and Forwards
I went through City’s attacking corps earlier, and I really don’t believe that you can justify saying that City need an addition in either of these departments given the quality that they already have. They can very easily get by without any new additions there. But, for the record and sake of completion, here are the minutes shares of the 18 top 6 teams looked at.
Attacking midfield needs:
- 2 starters playing 30.00 and 25.39 90s
- 2 regular back-ups playing 17.75 and 13.41 90s
- 1 general back-up playing 6.61 90s
- (8 of the 18 played a 6th AM, and 5 played a 7th, though all with minimal minutes)
- 1 starter playing 25.35 90s
- 1 regular back-up playing 12.91 90s
- 1 general back-up playing 7.68
- (8 of the 18 squads played a 4th striker, though with minimal minutes)
So, on reflection, I was wrong. City probably can’t get away with only 2 signings this summer – they need an extra one in each defensive positional group as well. Guardiola, and John Brewin, may very well want 8 new signings, but I only think they *need* 5.
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.
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