It is no secret that Manchester City have an important summer transfer window ahead of them. Jesus Navas, Yaya Toure, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta, Gaël Clichy, and Willy Caballero all run out of contract at the end of June, Manchester City will be coming off of somewhat disappointing Champions League and Premier League campaigns, and Pep Guardiola will be entering the second year of his Manchester City project. If Pep is truly going to create something great with Manchester City, this is the summer where he absolutely needs to bring in the right players with enough quality in the right places.
Manchester City do not need any reinforcements up front. Between Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, and Kelechi Iheanacho, City have three strikers that can cut it in the Premier League when called upon. It does seem that Aguero and Iheanacho are not the exact types of player that Pep is looking for, but Aguero is one of the best strikers in the world and Iheanacho has an innate goal scoring ability, no matter the opponent. On the wings, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sané are still young, but both look like they could become some of the best players in the Premier League, while Nolito should be serviceable as a backup winger for at least another season. Jesus Navas running out of contract means that City will probably need to add another winger to the first team. I hope that Patrick Roberts, who City have loaned out to Celtic FC for the season, will return to Manchester and provide depth on the wings in the first team next season. Roberts is rapid, has a decent finish, and has the added bonus of being home-grown in England. Between Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, and Ilkay Gündogan, assuming he can stay healthy, which is a big question mark, City not only have some of the best attacking midfielders in the league, but also some of the best players in the world.
Manchester City’s transfer priorities should absolutely not be attackers, wingers, or even attacking midfielders. Manchester City need defenders and a goalkeeper. As things stand, City’s keeper situation is a bit of a mess. Joe Hart, last season’s City number one who has been on loan in Italy, looks like he will not be playing for City as long as Pep Guardiola is at the helm, Claudio Bravo, who Pep personally chose to bring to Manchester for his ball playing and distribution abilities, has turned out to be a bit of a transfer bust, and Caballero, who was brought into the club to serve as a backup, but now has been starting matches with a bit more frequency, is out of contract in the summer. City must bring in a new keeper over the summer. Ederson Moraes, the 23-year-old Benfica keeper, and Geronimo Rullo, the 24-year-old Real Sociedad keeper, are the leading candidates for City according to the media, but who knows what will actually pan out this summer.
Sagna and Zabaleta, City’s two first team right-backs this season, will both be leaving City this summer. That leaves City with a bit of a dilemma because no matter how you look at it, Manchester City absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, need to sign a right-back. I hope that Pablo Maffeo, a Manchester City youth right-back currently on loan at Girona in the Spanish second division, will, at the very least, come back and operate as a backup in the City squad next season. At left-back, City have a similar situation. Clichy and Kolarov are City’s two left-back options at the moment, but Kolarov’s lack of pace has forced Pep to use him more frequently as a central defender and Clichy runs out of contract at the end of the season. Manchester City need to sign a left-back in the upcoming transfer window.
Central defense is another question mark for Manchester City. John Stones will certainly be nailed on as a starter next season, but his central defense partner remains a question. The two front-runners for the job are Vincent Kompany and Nicolas Otamendi. Kompany is one of the best central defenders in the world when fit, but his inability to stay fit for more than a handful of matches a season has left his future at Manchester City in doubt. Otamendi, on the other hand, does not have any fitness issues, but has a propensity for making rash and irresponsible challenges. Currently, Kompany and Otamendi are not consistent and solid central defenders to partner John Stones. First and foremost, City have to decide whether or not Kompany can consistently stay fit. If he can, then I do not believe that City should prioritize signing another central defender. If he cannot, then City must sign the likes of Virgil Van Dijk to partner Stones.
With Yaya Toure running out of contract this summer, City will rely upon Fernandinho, Fernando, and Fabian Delph as their defensive midfield options next season. Hopefully, Aleix Garcia and possibly even Jason Denayer, two young City players, could feature more and more as the season goes on as well. As long as Delph can stay fit, City do not need another defensive midfielder. Many assumed that Delph was signed by City because he is English and could be an effective backup player. Admittedly, I thought the same. But, after two phenomenal performances against Hull City and Chelsea, Delph is more than capable of becoming a mainstay in City’s starting eleven.
Statistics regarding defensive midfielders can be misleading and are often manipulated to fit a narrative. If a defensive midfielder completes seven tackles a match it could be concluded that they are the second coming of Ngolo Kante, one of the top defensive midfielders in the world, or one could decide that they are forced to make a lot of challenges to make up for poor positioning. A defensive midfielder that doesn’t make a single tackle could be hailed for their terrific positional play, or they could just be very poor. A high pass accuracy could be indicative of a great deep lying playmaker, or it could mean that the defensive midfielder only passes backward. A low pass accuracy number could mean that the defensive midfielder is being relied upon to create chances from deep, or it could mean that they are not good with the ball. Statistics without context are meaningless, especially with regards to defensive midfielders.
So, I am not going to use any statistics from Delph’s matches against Chelsea and Hull City, no matter how flattering they may be. Instead, I am just going to talk about Delph’s play style in the two matches, and how it could be beneficial to City in the future. In the two matches, Delph seemingly offered two entirely different things. Against Chelsea, Delph was happy to shield the City central defense alongside Fernandinho. His positional play was good, he won challenges when needed, and he kept possession moving sideways, backward, and forwards. Against Hull City Delph was tasked with picking out attacking passes from deep, creating chances, getting forward when the timing was right, and retaining possession, all while keeping his defensive responsibilities in mind. Delph was very good in both matches and in both roles. If Delph can stay fit, he should be a serious contender for a starting spot in a City midfield already jam-packed with talented players.