While the arrival of Jack Grealish left plenty of room for initial optimism, the winger being the club’s sole recruit raised plenty of questions surrounding the balance of the team, with the squad looking a little lopsided without a recognised centre-forward.
Nearly four months on and we’ve gleaned a lot of information about this City squad from their on-field performances. We also know a lot more about their capabilities and where perhaps they’re a tad lacking.
With that in mind, we’ve selected five transfer questions that have been answered so far in 2021/22…
Do Man City need a striker?
That age old question with Pep Guardiola’s side. At times this season, the champions have been a little shy in front of goal despite creating a plethora of chances. The 0-0 draw with Southampton, 2-0 defeat to Crystal Palace and even the narrow 1-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers demonstrated this.
Yet of late, the Blues have shown they have no issue finding the back of the net, as the thumping wins over Newcastle United and Leeds demonstrated earlier this month. Since November, City have really got into their groove and are dominating games, stifling their opponents and denying them the opportunity to regularly attack.
All this comes from Guardiola’s remarkable striker-less system, and so effective has it been, talk of Kane moving to the Etihad has gone quiet in recent months.
However, Ferran Torres’s seemingly imminent move to Barcelona could change this, with the youngster perhaps the closest thing this squad has to a recognised centre-forward. They’ve managed fine without him for the majority of the campaign due to a foot injury, but Guardiola will no doubt want a long-term replacement if he’s to lose an attacking player.
Answer: For now, City are managing efficiently without a real striker, and it seems unlikely their chances of winning trophies this term will be impacted by a lack of a No.9. That said, there are still moments when having a player, such as Kane or Erling Haaland, to score those scruffy, instinctive goals inside the box, would be vital. Therefore, securing a top-quality striker in the summer should be among City’s top priorities.
Have they got enough resources at full-back?
The Blues have been essentially managing with three senior full-backs in Joao Cancelo, Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko,
By and large, the trio have remained fit throughout the campaign, a trend Guardiola will hope can continue to May.
In their absence, the Catalan has turned to his ample resources at the heart of defence, with John Stones and Nathan Ake deputising in the wide areas, while there’s plenty of hope surrounding the future of young full-back Josh Wilson-Esbrand.
Answer: City look like they have enough cover at the back, barring a calamitous injury record in the second half of the season, something no manager can account for. But Guardiola began 2021/22 with eight senior defenders, and Benjamin Mendy’s ongoing legal proceedings mean the City boss is one light in this area. Ensuring that number is boosted to eight again before next season seems like another summer priority.
Does Bernardo Silva have a future at Man City?
It’s incredible to think this season began with Guardiola admitting Silva wanted to leave the club due to a lack of game time. Fast forward three months and the City boss claimed the diminutive No.20 was ‘undroppable’ on current form.
Guardiola has managed to again get a tune out of Silva in a midfield position, which has subsequently eased much of the creative burden on Kevin De Bruyne.
The Portuguese international has been perhaps City’s best performer this season, and any suggestion he could leave the club soon seems ludicrous.
Answer: This is an easy one. Yes, Silva 100% has a future at City!
Is this squad capable of winning the league?
In the summer, there was a concern about how sustainable City’s striker-less system was. While last season it guided them to the title, perhaps this was a one-off, that opposition sides would figure out how to play against it, and not having Sergio Aguero as an option prevented them playing in a system with a recognised forward.
But those concerns have largely been abated this campaign, especially since the beginning of November. Only Liverpool have scored more in the league this season, while City averaged three goals per game in the Champions League.
Admittedly, form can change like the wind, but the Blues seem really to be back to their very best, with or without a striker.
Answer: Yes, this squad undoubtedly has the ability to win another title. This is essentially the same group that finished top last term, with the substitution of Grealish for Aguero, and the latter only played a bit-part last season.
Is there young talent coming through the ranks?
Perhaps the one criticism of Guardiola’s time at City is that, for a manager so renowned for fostering young talent, he’s brought through few players from City’s underage ranks.
Of the established first-team squad, only Phil Foden has really been nurtured through the youth levels, although Guardiola has played a huge role in shaping the careers of Gabriel Jesus and Zinchenko, both of whom arrived at City as teenagers.
Despite this, there are hugely encouraging signs with City’s current crop of youngsters. Cole Palmer has shown on a number of occasions just how talented he is. The attacker scored in the away Champions League win over Club Brugge and started his first Premier League game, during the 2-0 win over Everton in November.
He was replaced by James McAtee in that game, who made his league debut, while Samuel Edozie, CJ Egan-Riley, Luke Mbete, Romeo Lavia, Ben Knight and Wilson-Esbrand have all featured this season.
Chuck in the highly rated Liam Delap and Kayky, as well the on-loan talents of Gavin Bazunu, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Marlos Moreno, Morgan Rogers, Tommy Doyle and Yangel Herrera, and there’s no shortage of ability at under-age level
Answer: A glance through the above names and City’s recent record in youth competitions and there’s no denying the quality coming through. But finding a spot for them in one of the world’s best sides is another conundrum.