Despite a comprehensive 6-1 hammering of struggling Aston Villa, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City still find themselves an eye-watering 14 points adrift of Liverpool at the summit of the English Premier League (EPL). There were certainly signs that City were getting back to their best at Villa Park, with the incisive interplay and intensity setting a benchmark for the remainder of the season.
Nevertheless, many pundits and reporters believe that there will be significant changes afoot at the Etihad in the summer; particularly if City end up trophy-less and Merseyside is dancing to Jurgen Klopp’s tune.
Although City recently overcame their bitter Manchester rivals in the first leg of their Carabao Cup semi-final tie, Guardiola is still said to have been unhappy with the way his side played at Old Trafford. Despite the fact they are still highly likely to finish second in the Premier League, battling on both Carabao and FA Cup fronts, and are the outright contenders to win the Champions League for the first time in the club’s history, there is a feeling that this squad could get a major overhaul in the close season.
There are still voids to be filled in the City squad, particularly since the departure of legendary centre back Vincent Kompany. Meanwhile, Argentine striker Sergio Aguero is now 31 years of age and the club will be keen for Guardiola to look longer term and find a replacement for a player who has recently become the EPL’s highest-scoring foreign player in the history of the league.
With City’s riches and rapidly advancing off-field infrastructure, you would be forgiven for thinking that Guardiola would be looking forward to being active in the summer transfer market. However, when pressed on the likely overhaul, Guardiola admitted he wasn’t relishing the prospect, adding that the club would have to build a new squad again “but in an absolutely different way”.
Why Guardiola is anxious about a summer rebuild
Arguably Guardiola’s greatest attraction to Manchester was the opportunity to build a new successful squad for City supporters to enjoy. Their historic domestic treble achieved last season was the pick of the bunch in terms of their most successful period.
However, Guardiola appears to be fearful that some of his most valuable players may decide to move on at the end of the season, particularly given that the club has a desire to start a new
chapter and challenge Liverpool in 2020-21. Guardiola admitted that some players he “believes want to stay might knock on the door and say, ‘I want to leave’.”
Aside from replacements for Vincent Kompany and a long-term solution for Sergio Aguero, City also look set to bid a fond farewell to stalwarts such as David Silva this summer. Fernandinho’s future is also still up in the air, with his contract expiring in June. Both players have played a key role in cementing City as one of the most feared club sides in Europe, but are getting to the age now where new blood is needed. Winger Leroy Sane is also in high demand in Germany, with Bayern Munich keen to reunite him with his homeland.
Replacements in the back line are much-needed
Guardiola has been without number-one centre back Aymeric Laporte for much of this season so far due to injury. Although he is inching closer to return, his absence has made it clear the fragility of the rest of the backline, with the likes of John Stones struggling for consistency in the last 12 months. Promising centre halves Pau Torres from Villarreal and Ruben Dias of Benfica are two starlets that are very much on Guardiola’s radar, but he could face competition for their services from the likes of Barcelona.
Guardiola has battled valiantly to stick plasters over the selection issues at left back in the last two campaigns. However, injury issues with Oleksandr Zinchenko, along with Benjamin Mendy’s inability to settle in the north-west of England, means that a left back will also be a priority in the close season.
Leicester City’s technical full back Ben Chilwell is high on the list of replacements, but his fee would be astronomical given the Foxes are themselves trying to build a side that can compete for the title again.
One thing’s for sure, the break-up of this season’s time will be a poignant moment for most City fans who waited decades for a team like this. However, if Pep can successfully build a second squad, he would cement himself as one of the best European coaches of all time, given that even the likes of icon Jose Mourinho have struggled with creating long-term dynasties.