“I will tell you, you have to be so proud, the Premier League is the most difficult. I expected it would be like this, defensive and so difficult for many, many reasons,” said Pep Guardiola about how unexpectedly difficult the Premier League is just halfway into his first season with Manchester City.
But that sight of Guardiola, with a helpless look on his face at Goodison Park, depicted the picture of a man who seemed to be directionless. While he kicked off his project in England in sublime fashion with 10 consecutive wins, the former Catalan manager is paying the price for an unorganised revamp at the start.
The major concern for the Sky Blues has been the dependency on members who are steadily ageing along with serious injuries to first team players such as Ilkay Gundogan and Vincent Kompany. Having already filled their quota of attackers, the club needs a makeover in the midfield and defence as the summer recruits haven’t lived up to expectations.
But considering the fact that the Spanish manager is saving up for a summer project, he might resort to some temporary recruits in January to save his inaugural season at the club. Here, we take a look at a few:
#5 Grzegorz Krychowiak
Pep Guardiola is said to be a big admirer of the Polish midfielder after his stint with Sevilla where he won three consecutive Europa League titles. But ever since Krychowiak followed manager Unai Emery to the Parc des Princes, his form has witnessed a huge downfall. And with even playing time hard to come by for the Pole, the Parisian club have been open to offers from Manchester City and Arsenal.
With the Blues of Manchester suffering a midfield crisis, Krychowiak’s versatility of playing the holding midfield role and also a central defensive role can be a big boost to Guardiola. His tall and robust physique further enables him to keep hold of the ball dominantly when in possession along with being suprerior aerially.
Having started in only six of his 20 appearances for the Ligue 1 outfit, Krychowiak has lost his place to experienced veteran Thiago Motta in the pecking order. However, the Parisian club are keen on regaining the £34 million fee spent on him, which shall be no big task for City to meet.
#4 Ben Davies
As his frustration stemming from a failure to break into the Spurs first team mounts, youngster Ben Davies is a target for the likes of Manchester City and Crystal Palace. While luring Danny Rose to Manchester might temporarily seem impossible for Guardiola, he might resort to Davies as a short-term option, who can undertake multiple roles in defence.
The Spurs defender is technically strong with his left foot, can read the game well and is equally composed while playing out from the back – a deficiency that John Stones seems to be having.
Naturally, a left-back, Davies can also slot in at central defence, as he successfully did for Chris Coleman’s side in their surprising semi-final run in Euro 2016. The Welsh fullback is valued at around £20 million which is easily within City’s reach. Spurs on the other hand, are chasing City’s Tosin Adarabiyo and both the parties could eventually agree to a swap deal.
#3 William Carvalho
A surprise target for Manchester City, Portuguese midfielder William Carvalho is being viewed as a long-term heir to Yaya Toure. Emerging as a key figure for the Seleção in their remarkable Euro 2016 winning campaign, Sporting Lisbon have received multiple offers from England and China for the 24-year-old.
The defensive midfielder has an effortless style of play and has previously been compared to Patrick Viera. His brilliant work rate, ability to read the game and retain possession will certainly be an answer to City’s problems in middle of the park.
While Sporting cannot keep hold of Carvalho forever, his buy-out clause of £42m coud tempt the Portuguese outfit to offload him, which could also result be a good investment for the Citizens in the coming years.
#2 Aymeric Laporte
Letting the likes of Holger Badstuber and Virgil Van Dijk slip from their grasp has resulted in the Citizens reviving their interest in Aymeric Laporte. But as he awaits his international debut for Les Bleus, Laporte’s performances at the heart of the Bilbao defence have reignited the interest of many clubs across Europe.
Manchester City’s major concern lies in their backline, with a shaky John Stones and rash Otamendi failing to produce the goods day in day out. And the Frenchman very much fits Guardiola’s mould and would easily adapt to his possesion based system.
Despite his small physique, Laporte is a composed figure while playing out from the back and imposes himself on opponents. The Bilbao centre back has a release clause of £55 million and could be the right man to partner Stones at the back.
#1 Ivan Rakitic
While bringing Lionel Messi to Manchester City might sound ridiculous, their pursuit of his teammate Ivan Rakitic could be fruitful.
Rakitic is the type of player that can adapt to any midfield, as the Croatian brings in a different dimension using his energy and versatility in varied roles. His eye for a pass, ability to create openings and intense play in the final third has gained him a reputation as one of the prime midfielders in recent times.
When previously asked about working with Guardiola in November, Rakitic said: "It would be fantastic to work with him one day and if not I'll invite him for a coffee." The former Sevilla star has a €50 million price tag on him, and if Barcelona’s attempt to keep hold of Messi proves to be successful, they might feel no guilt in letting Rakitic depart.