3 Manchester City Players Who Are Fighting for Their Futures in Rest of Season
Pep Guardiola’s impending arrival at Manchester City has left every player in the Blues squad under pressure. He’s the most respected manager in the game, the coach considered the most innovative in world football who works with an intensity few can match. Players want to work with him to develop their game and, hopefully, win major silverware.
The City players have effectively been auditioning to be a part of the Spaniard’s revolution over recent months and will continue to do so between now and the end of the season. He’s likely to make big changes when he arrives, both in terms if incomings and outgoings. City’s existing players need to impress or face the prospect of being phased out.
He won’t have been overly impressed with he’s seen this season. City won the League Cup, a welcome bonus but hardly the most glittering prize, and progressed in the Champions League, a competition in which they have struggled. Their Premier League campaign, however, has been poor.
Injuries have undoubtedly affected them, but this season’s title race has been wide open, with the traditional elite all struggling. Had City played at their best for anything like a consistent period, they would be on course for a third title in five seasons. Instead, they sit fourth and embroiled in a battle to qualify for next season’s Champions League.
Quite how seismic the changes will be under Guardiola will be remains unclear, but there’s likely to be significant outlay. The new £5.1 million TV deal kicks in this summer and City are set to net more Champions League money than ever before after their run in this season’s competition. There’s also likely to be a number of sales to raise further money for Guardiola to reshape the team in his image.
Here, after last week's assessment of Eliaquim Mangala and Aleksandar Kolarov, we look at three more players who are particularly vulnerable ahead of Guardiola’s arrival.
Given Fernando cost just £12 million when he signed from Porto in the summer of 2014, he hardly ranks as the disastrous signing some have suggested he’s been.
He hasn’t reached the heights many expected, with the vast majority of observers unconvinced City have improved their defensive midfield options since Gareth Barry was allowed to leave, but Fernando, 28, offers City discipline and solidity. City’s best performances often happen when he plays well.
He does, however, lack mobility, and, at times, his passing lets him down. A functional, useful player he may be; a world-class operator he is not.
Guardiola may look to evolve the position. Fernando’s lack of passing quality may not appeal to the former Barcelona boss. Guardiola wants his sides to keep possession and pass the opposition to death. From what we’ve seen during his City career, that may not be Fernando’s game.
His role in City's first goal against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday won't have impressed, even if Joe Hart inexplicably played him into danger. He was too slow on the ball and lacked awareness of what was around him. His display thereafter was very good, and he needs to find more consistency.
He will be desperate to impress in the final weeks of the season.
The deal to bring Wilfried Bony to City in January 2015 has proven misguided. His goal record at Swansea impressed—he scored 25 in 54 league games—and there was a feeling he deserved a chance at a more ambitious club.
It simply hasn’t worked out, though. He’s managed 10 goals in 40 games across all competitions during his time at the Etihad Stadium. His lack of movement has rendered him useless for long periods. His confidence has been affected and his finishing poor.
City would be well advised to cut their losses and seek a replacement. In Kelechi Iheanacho they have a younger, more talented forward on their books already, and there will be players available who can take Bony’s place in the squad. Too often he's looked completely out of his depth, unsuited to the kind of pass-and-move football City favour.
Manuel Pellegrini’s patience with the Ivorian has bordered on madness at times this season. Bony has scored eight goals from 28 appearances. Iheanacho, a far bigger threat, has scored nine from far fewer minutes on the pitch.
Guardiola is unlikely to see a future for him. Even a run of form between now and the end of the campaign is unlikely to see him saved from the impending cull.
Samir Nasri’s injury problems have held him back this season. He returned to the squad for last week’s win over Bournemouth, having been out since mid-October after getting more than 100 stitches in his thigh.
He’s been missed. Nasri is a hugely talented player—arguably the best in the City squad at retaining possession. Given the style Guardiola likes to implement, he could flourish under the new City boss.
But he has plenty to prove. He has barely played over the last 12 months. He was taken off in City’s defeat to Barcelona at the Nou Camp in March of last year and played just four more times before the end of the season. This term he’s managed just nine appearances because of injury and, as a result, is no longer part of City’s Champions League squad.
At 28, his best years may very well be yet to come. He’s an intelligent, technically gifted footballer who brings the best out of others. His attitude has been questioned in the past, but when he’s in form and feeling comfortable with his surroundings, there is no doubt he is a brilliant player.
A big finish to this season could see the Frenchman force his way into Guardiola’s thinking.