Although Manchester City have one of the best squads in Europe, they still finished a whopping 18 points behind runaway champions Liverpool last campaign. With Chelsea enjoying one of the best transfer windows in recent memory, and Manchester United beginning to find some rhythm under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the Sky Blues must make crucial tweaks if they are to improve on last season’s position.
City have already conducted some shrewd business this summer with the early signings of Nathan Ake and Ferran Torres. Another centre-back would be a massive bonus, but serious questions remain about the left side of the defence.
Are Left-Back Reinforcements Needed at Manchester City?
Who is in the Shop Window?
Of the few names mentioned, David Alaba seems the most likely candidate if fresh meat is to come in. The connection makes sense given the 28-year-old Austrian’s fruitful spell under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich. However, a £60 million price tag may be a stumbling block given the astronomical sums thrown at City’s defence thus far.
The likes of teenager Alphonso Davies, the best left-back in the world at the time of writing, are surely unattainable. Besides, his recent Champions League win begs the question of why he would want to leave a side at the very top of their game.
The domestic crop of left-backs also offers little hope. With Ben Chilwell now a Chelsea player following his move from Leicester City and Andy Robertson in no rush to end his love affair on Merseyside, the two best in the Premier League are firmly off the market.
Indeed, Alaba seems the only remote possibility. A more reasonable deal would have to be thrashed out with Bayern however, and rumours have recently dried up. With this in mind, perhaps City would benefit most from working with what they already have.
Plenty of Choices in the Squad
A number of current squad members have tried and failed to cement their position at left-back in recent months. The talented Oleksandr Zinchenko was a sublime spot at £1.7 million and has looked exciting, at least offensively, against lesser sides. Ultimately, though, his pedigree as an attacking midfielder detracts from his true defensive capabilities. Defensive mastery does not take just a couple of years and City certainly do not have the luxury of facilitating on-the-job learning.
Benjamin Mendy, the first of three £50 million+ full-backs, started promisingly but soon fell victim to long-term injury. An astounding athlete, but not the most technical, his ability to charge down the wing whipping in crosses is evident. Although, he has occasionally failed to convince, particularly since his injury. However, his price tag may effectively make him the first choice for another season. Fans and manager alike will be demanding a greater level of consistency from the Frenchman.
Joao Cancelo was a rogue ingredient thrown into the mixing pot at left-back during the back end of last season. Being right-footed, the tricky Portuguese perhaps saw his City career blossoming down the right side, although he has struggled to unseat Kyle Walker since arriving from Juventus. Despite this, his performances raised a few eyebrows. Lung-busting surges created left-sided overloads, alongside Raheem Sterling, which put sides firmly on the back foot.
At £60 million, Cancelo is an extremely expensive asset in City’s ranks. Having demonstrated his ability to play on the left last season, perhaps City would benefit most from using this asset as something of a utility full-back. It is often said that competition gets the best out of players. In that case, if Cancelo is, at the very least, able to put pressure on the starting spots at both right and left-back, and of course take over if required, he has added value to the team.
Ultimately, it may be down to Benjamin Mendy to command the left side of defence this season for Manchester City. Although, he can perhaps owe this luxury to the scarce crop of attainable talent at left-back in the current market.
With City’s problems last season largely boiling down to defensive frailty, a few alterations are needed. Nathan Ake is unlikely to answer all of City’s prayers in this regard. Certainly, Guardiola will need to keep a close eye on proceedings at left-back early in the season, with an unconvincing starter and promising deputies ready to battle it out once again.