With the curtains falling on the 2019/20 Premier League season, The Hard Tackle takes a look at how Manchester City can strengthen for the next campaign.
The Premier League season officially came to a close on Sunday, but the league had been decided long back. Defending champions Manchester City were dethroned by runaway leaders Liverpool who were crowned the winners of the Premier League with seven games to spare.
Prior to the start of the season, Pep Guardiola made two significant investments, bringing in Rodri from Atletico Madrid, and Joao Cancelo from Juventus. He also shifted Fernandinho to centre-back due to some unfavourable circumstances, which meant that Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones were demoted to fourth and fifth-choice centre-backs respectively.
Neither of Stones or Otamendi has reached the level City expected them to, which spelled trouble for the club the moment Aymeric Laporte picked up an injury. No one could cover for the Frenchman, which helped Liverpool fire themselves out of reach.
While Kyle Walker has managed to prevail this campaign after an average 2018/19, City have been exposed regularly from the left side where neither of Benjamin Mendy or Oleksander Zinchenko has managed to make a mark.
The Mancunian outfit has four forwards on their payroll, namely Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez. As the season wore on, Leroy Sane’s inevitable sale to Bayern Munich was confirmed, which meant another glaring hole which Guardiola needs to address.
Bernardo Silva and Phil Foden have been played on the wing several times to fill in for the absence of an extra winger, but with David Silva departing, they might not get the option to play in advanced roles.
There are at least three positions that the four-times Premier League champions have to improve in order to return to the top spot. However, making big signings might be difficult now with the coronavirus Pandemic impacting the transfer market. As a solution, The Hard Tackle lists three players Manchester City can sign from relegated clubs that can further strengthen their squad.
Centre-back: Nathan Ake (Bournemouth)
Manchester City’s had existing problems with centre backs before they went into this season, and were criticised for not turning their head towards it and adding quality depth to the position. They had players like Kalidou Koulibaly, Harry Maguire, Johnny Evans and Matthijs de Ligt on their radar but insisted on moulding Fernandinho into a centre-half.
It would have worked, had it not been for Aymeric Laporte’s injury which was the catalyst behind their derailed season. Additionally, Pep was slow to trust Eric Garcia, who could have been instrumental for them this season if deployed correctly. That said, it is likely that John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi will be sold, leaving a spot open for Laporte’s partner in the starting XI.
Nathan Ake seems to be the best solution for this. The Dutchman is already on the radar of both Manchester rivals, Chelsea, Liverpool among other teams. However, the prospect of joining City and playing under Pep Guardiola might be too good to turn down if they do indeed come calling. Koulibaly, too, remains a target for the Spanish manager.
Ake would be comparatively a lot cheaper than Koulibaly, and has the edge over him in a lot of other departments, starting with age. The Napoli sensation is 29 years old and has probably no more than 3-4 seasons at the top level, compared to Ake, who is 25 and could serve as a long-term solution.
I’m not too sad to see akè go because let’s be honest, the man deserves this move, an absolute incredible player and by far and away the best player I have ever seen in a Bournemouth shirt, we will miss you for sure but thankyou for absolutely everything @NathanAke ❤️ pic.twitter.com/2GebUbkQNg
— ryan 🦈 (@imyungryan) July 20, 2020
Moreover, Ake brings a ton of Premier League experience to the table having graduated from Chelsea’s academy and playing for Watford and Bournemouth. Despite being nearly 6 feet tall, he is one of the quickest defenders in the league, and can play as a full-back as well.
Since Ake is left-footed, Pep would be able to field a less heard of ‘lefty’ duo in the heart of the defence. He could also serve as an able deputy to Laporte and take the field alongside one of Garcia or Fernandinho. This level of quality at the back would take City several notches higher, and probably back to the Premier League crown.
Left Back: Jamal Lewis (Norwich City)
The left-back position has been an area of concern since the departure of Aleksander Kolarov. They have tried a bunch of different options here including attacking midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko, Benjamin Mendy, Angelino, Danilo, Aymeric Laporte and most recently Joao Cancelo. All of them have served well for a brief period, but have not managed to make the position their own.
This is where Jamal Lewis comes in. The Irishman came through the Norwich City academy in the 2018/19 season and was one of their best players that season as they gained promotion to the Premier League. He played 42 out of 46 matches for them that season, keeping 12 clean sheets and giving four assists. It was all capped off with his name in the EFL Championship Team of the Season.
Much like the rest of the team, he has hardly managed to replicate his form in the Premier League, despite showing a lot of potential. Compared to last season, he was directly involved in just the one goal for the Canaries this time out, a half volley from the corner of the box which slipped through to the far post.
He is a brilliant passer who will be easily able to fit into Pep’s inverted full-back role. Lewis also has the pace and stamina to run up and down the flank continuously.
The 22-year-old can act as the backup for Mendy before he is inculcated into the first team or can be rotated according to the opposition since Lewis boasts of a more substantial defensive base. We know for a fact that he has the ability to become the starting left-back after he won back his place in the team from Sam Byram.
Winger: David Brooks (AFC Bournemouth)
Sheffield United parted with David Brooks in 2018, and the player has since gone on to gain a reputation for himself in the top flight.
In his first season in the Premier League, Brooks made 30 appearances, scoring seven goals and assisting five times. However, before 2019/20 began, the Welshman picked up an ankle injury that ruled him out for nearly a year, requiring him to get two operations. He was lucky to return to action just in time to see the season out, but could not save Bournemouth despite his brilliant performances.
Understandably, no club would want to immediately cash in on a player who underwent two operations and a year on the sidelines. Nevertheless, Brooks has shown immense quality and could be a tremendous addition to the Manchester City squad. It is hard to imagine that the Cherries would have dropped down, though, had Brooks been part of their season.
Naturally left-footed, Brooks is at home on the right-wing, but could easily play on either side thanks to his pinpoint accuracy to hit crosses. Additionally, he is a fantastic dribbler who relies on skill and flair more than speed; a profile similar to Riyad Mahrez. He also boasts the ability to pick amazing passes that seep through the opposition defence.
Brooks is good enough to take over the right-wing spot from Mahrez who has himself had a stellar campaign. Bournemouth will be desperate to cut their losses next season, having suffered a huge financial hit due to relegation. This could mean the 23-year-old could be available for a bargain price. If Guardiola plays his cards right, this transfer could turn to become one of the best for next season.