With Liverpool currently lording it at the top of the Premier League table, Pep Guardiola will be desperate to reassert Manchester City’s dominance.
The reigning English champions fell to a 3-1 reversal at Anfield on Sunday, widening the chasm between themselves and Jurgen Klopp’s men to nine points.
City’s Merseyside mauling could have a significant bearing on who tops the table come May, with Guardiola once again left scratching his head as to how Klopp outfoxed and outmanoeuvred him.
The Catalonian’s weaknesses – for which there are few – were laid bare under the lights of a raucous Anfield crowd: Vincent Kompany’s sizeable void has been heartfelt, Sergio Aguero remains without a career goal at Liverpool’s home, and David Silva’s absence highlighted his still profound influence.
With Aymeric Laporte not expected to return until the new year, Silva set to leave at the end of the season, and Aguero turning 32 in June, Guardiola will feel reinforcements are needed to keep up with Klopp’s side.
As such, the Daily Mail have reported that City’s top brass will be willing to sanction a nine-figure war chest to find replacements for Aguero, Kompany and Silva. So, who could Guardiola turn to in the market?
Vincent Kompany: City’s defence falling apart without their former captain?
- Man City career: 360 appearances (2008-2019).
- Key stat: Man City have conceded 13 goals in 12 EPL games, compared to seven conceded in Kompany’s final 12 league outings.
- Key quote: “It will be so difficult to replace Vinnie. Everyone has their strengths, but Vincent is special. I will miss him a lot.” – Guardiola, 2019 (Man City).
- Current alternatives: Eric Garcia (18), Taylor Harwood-Bellis (17).
- The dilemma: Star centre-back Laporte is out until the New Year with a knee injury.
Leicester City have been in imposing form this season, with Brendan Rodgers’ men recently leapfrogging Man City to take second spot in the Premier League.
A lot can be said about their ruthless frontline, but the Foxes’ defence has arguably been even more impressive this campaign.
Backline woes almost seemed a foregone conclusion at the King Power once Manchester United signed Harry Maguire, but with Soyuncu stepping into the fold, Leicester’s defence has been formidable.
The Foxes have conceded the least number of goals in the league this season (eight), while Soyuncu seems to possess all the key attributes of a ball-playing centre-back capable of thriving in Guardiola’s possession-heavy system.
If it’s a blend of defensive resilience and a competent passing range that Guardiola desires, then he should look no further than Skriniar.
The Inter Milan centre-back has formed part of an imperious centre-back trident under Antonio Conte this season, alongside Diego Godin and Stefan de Vrij.
Only teammate Marcelo Brozovic (807) has registered more successful passes of any Serie A player this season than Skriniar (757), so he would slot seamlessly into Guardiola’s backline.
Blessed with aggression, great athleticism and a lion-hearted mentality, the Slovakia international would be sure to beef up the City defence, though he certainly wouldn’t come cheap.
Certain quarters have already linked Skriniar with a move to the Etihad – a reported target in the summer – after Laporte went under the knife earlier this year.
Following a heated dispute between the Napoli players and club president Aurelio De Laurentiis, there could be a number of departures from the San Paolo Stadium in the not too distant future.
This comes after Carlo Ancelotti’s men refused to take part in a training retreat organised by De Laurentiis, who is now threatening to fine his players.
Prior to the disruption, De Laurentiis revealed that he would likely be forced to sell Koulibaly at some point in the months or years to come, but that may now be sooner rather than later with reports suggesting he is willing to let a number of his key players leave.
The former Manchester United target would be the perfect fit for Guardiola. He boasts a physically-imposing presence, possesses an excellent distribution and is defensively exceptional. That kind of all-rounded ability is rare to find in a defender.
David Silva: City captain’s inevitable departure a major cause for concern?
- Man City career: 395 appearances (2010 – present)
- Key stat: Silva has registered double the number of assists (four) this season compared to this stage (two) last campaign.
- Key quote: “He’s one of the most intelligent players moving in these small, small spaces. It’s the most difficult thing. He is one of the best I’ve ever known.” – Guardiola, 2019 (The Telegraph)
- Current alternatives: Phil Foden (19)
- The dilemma: Silva has confirmed he will leave Man City at the end of the current campaign.
Bruno Fernandes has been directly involved in 15 goals in 16 games for Sporting CP this season in all competitions:
Insane numbers. 😍 pic.twitter.com/Pprb6erq45
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 7, 2019
The Sporting Lisbon magician looked destined to leave the Portuguese capital in the summer but was unable to secure a move away from the Estadio Jose Alvalade.
Fernandes’ quite ridiculous 20 Primeira Liga goals and 13 assists made him hot property during the previous window, while that form has also spilled over to this term.
He has so far registered five goals and five assists in the Portuguese top flight while bagging a further three in the Europa League.
Compatriot Bernardo Silva would no doubt relish playing alongside a player who appears almost tailor-made for a Guardiola side.
He is slick, technically proficient and boasts a refined end product. Fernandes would have no difficulties acclimatising to Guardiola’s liquid football.
EXPLAINED: What makes Jack Grealish and John McGinn two of the most intriguing midfielders in the Premier League w/@Coral
Serving up some serious stats. 📊pic.twitter.com/L2QPpb4Nay
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 1, 2019
Guardiola recently labelled the burgeoning Brummie as an ‘incredible’ talent but conceded his side would not be able to afford the Aston Villa captain.
This statement may seem a tad bemusing given City boast some of the deepest pockets in world football.
Should Guardiola double-back on his statement and look to prise Grealish away from his boyhood club, he would be getting a very gifted and creative footballer, one who can unlock doors and make things happen.
He has already showcased his unwavering ability in the top-flight and continues to grow with every passing game. Under Guardiola’s tutelage, the skilful playmaker could really take his game to untapped heights.
Should Guardiola want a less financially strenuous player to bolster his ranks, he may look to pillage top-four rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
Wantaway talisman Eriksen looks set to leave north London at the end of the season and will be free to talk to foreign clubs on January 1.
Although Daniel Levy would grimace at the thought of selling a key player to a rival club, he would probably shudder even more at the thought of losing Eriksen for zilch.
The meticulous Spurs owner may therefore be tempted to entertain a cut-price deal for the Denmark international, one where City could profit.
He hasn’t had the greatest of seasons, but once his future is resolved, Eriksen will likely resurrect his career and stake a claim as one of the continent’s best playmakers again.
Sergio Aguero: Does Gabriel Jesus need a rival successor to City’s record goalscorer?
- Man City career: 352 appearances (2011 – present).
- Key stat: Aguero averages more shots (4.64) and goals (0.84) per 90 minutes in the Premier League than any player (15+ apps only) since Pep Guardiola joined City.
- Key quote: “Aguero a special talent and he will die scoring goals.” – Guardiola, 2019 (Man City)
- Current alternatives: Gabriel Jesus (22), Ian Poveda (19).
- The dilemma: Reports indicate Aguero – whose contract runs out in 2021 – could leave at the end of the season.
Erling Braut Haaland
Erling Braut Håland has now scored FIVE hat-tricks for Red Bull Salzburg this season.
26 goals in 18 games. 😳 pic.twitter.com/GZiVHitMad
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 10, 2019
The teenage phenom has risen to meteoric prominence this campaign courtesy of his explosive goalscoring exploits for Red Bull Salzburg.
He has proven himself in the Champions League as well, and at Anfield – something Aguero is yet to do – which would certainly appeal to Guardiola.
At just 19, some may feel the towering No. 9 is still too raw, but a quick look at his scoring rate this term – 26 goals in 18 games – will tell you otherwise.
The prominent adage reads that ‘age is but a number’ which seems to ring true here. And let’s not forget that Guardiola has been responsible for the developments of Thiago Alcantara, Sergio Busquets and Pedro to name but three.
Five players have scored 10+ goals in Europe's top five leagues this season:
🇵🇱 Robert Lewandowski
🇮🇹 Ciro Immobile
🏴 Jamie Vardy
🏴 Tammy Abraham
🇩🇪 Timo Werner
Two new additions today. pic.twitter.com/tfX2LnC6Ll
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 9, 2019
Only two players have recorded a hat-trick of assists and goals in a single match in Europe’s top five leagues since 2004/05: Luis Suarez, and Timo Werner.
The German speedster has been in red-hot form this campaign and would add serious firepower to Guardiola’s frontline.
In 11 Bundesliga games for RB Leipzig this season, Werner has notched 11 goals and four assists, making him one of the most en vogue forwards across Europe.
His relentless pressing game, pace and experience would make him an ideal successor to Aguero.
Lautaro Martinez is the first Inter Milan player to score in three consecutive #UCL games since Samuel Eto'o in 2010.
4 games, 3 goals for the Argentinian. pic.twitter.com/1MlXVSje12
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 5, 2019
The Inter Milan striker has really come into his own this campaign and is starting to strut his stuff under the careful watch of Conte.
Partnering Romelu Lukaku in a two-man strike force, the Argentine has bagged eight goals across both Serie A and the Champions League this term.
Martinez is blessed with exceptional link-up play and has drawn rave reviews for his timely runs, which would certainly bode well in a side replete with the world-class creators that City have.
He is another who wouldn’t come cheap, but the mere thought of Martinez running riot in the final third with the likes of Bernardo Silva and Kevin De Bruyne picking him out is a frightening prospect.