The Fixes That Can Help Pep Guardiola and Manchester City Stay at the Top

Dean Jones@DeanJonesBRFootball Insider at Bleacher ReportDecember 12, 2019

Manchester City's head coach Pep Guardiola during the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester City and Manchester United at Etihad stadium in Manchester, England, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)
Rui Vieira/Associated Press

Defeat in the derby on Saturday was the latest signal that something needs to change at Manchester City.

The champions' 2-1 home loss to Manchester United was unforgiving in both the way the team were undone and the nature in which they were unable to respond.

Their fourth Premier League defeat of the campaign left them 14 points adrift of leaders Liverpool and facing fresh questions over whether this could be the final season for manager Pep Guardiola.

Bleacher Report sources suggest that key decision-makers Txiki Begiristain and Ferran Soriano are already looking into ways they can ensure City's English dominance does not end soon. From managerial staff to players, everything is under scrutiny.

So let's start with the main man himself—could this really be the beginning of the end for Guardiola? Some say yes.

Several well-placed sources, among them intermediaries, agents and journalists, feel Guardiola could go at the end of this campaign. Among the issues raised, the most interesting was that there is a feeling his messages might not be having the impact on the squad that they once were.

One insider said: "Listening to the same voice becomes an issue at a lot of clubs, and just because Pep is the best, that does not mean he is immune to such an issue. There is nothing wrong with what he is saying. But it just might not be having quite the same affect on some players that it once did."

It's an interesting thought and a similar problem to the one Mauricio Pochettino suffered this year before Tottenham Hotspur sacked him in November.

The message from within the club, though, is there is no chance of Guardiola leaving the club soon and that he will see out his contract to 2021—at least. That may well be true. Because the same sources who raised concerns about his messages not hitting home also believe we could see a shake-up of his backroom team.

Bringing a new coach into the setup could breathe fresh life into the team.

This also leads us on to Mikel Arteta, assistant coach at City and seen by many as the obvious choice to succeed Guardiola. He is highly regarded at City and elsewhere, as Arsenal and Everton are keen on the prospect of hiring him for their vacant head coach positions.

Looking around the Premier League, there is an obvious sense of emotion attached to managerial roles. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, Frank Lampard, Freddie Ljungberg and Duncan Ferguson are all club legends managing top sides in permanent or temporary roles.

As one source told B/R: "It's strange that clubs still get dragged into this need for an emotional bond rather than having a clear strategy to recruit a top coach who is better qualified for a role—especially when the stakes are so high financially."

Arteta is different. He's part of the process at City. A good coach with incredible insight on every player, some believe he's the No. 1 succession plan and that the champions are likely to appoint from inside the club.

But is it that straightforward?

It was suggested to Bleacher Report that being so close to this group of players does not make him the best candidate to take over from Guardiola. Those concerns about familiar voices and familiar messages could remain. B/R sources believe it is also one of the reasons that Arteta is intrigued by the prospect of going to Arsenal instead.

BURNLEY, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and his assistant coach Mikel Arteta walk across the pitch at half time during the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester City at Turf Moor on December 3, 2019 in Burnle
Visionhaus/Getty Images

Let's move forward with the assumption that Guardiola does stay for now, possibly with an addition to his backroom staff. What are the issues we can expect to be addressed in forthcoming transfer windows? How do City adapt this squad?

For 18 months there has been a stance that City are not prepared to compete for the biggest players on the transfer market. Fees upwards of £80 million is an area they have simply not wanted to step into. For this reason, they will not be bringing in any superstars. Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Gareth Bale might all become available in 2020, but City won't be chasing them.

Their recent moves back it up: Their record signing is Rodrigo, a £62.8 million capture from Atletico Madrid. They decided not to pursue Harry Maguire, a top defensive target, as soon as they realised the type of fee they would have to pay to sign him.

Even away from the out-of-this-world finances that would be involved, their priorities are in defence. 

B/R understands that a plan to sign two defenders over the next two transfer windows will be put into place in the new year and that two of the men high on the agenda are Bournemouth's Nathan Ake and Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly.

Ake will be an interesting battle given Chelsea want to re-sign him, while Koulibaly's signing would be a game-changer.

Playing Fernandinho at centre-back was always in Guardiola's thoughts as a back-up plan for this season, but the need for someone new—someone reliable and experienced—is becoming tempting, according to sources.

It has been a strange year at Napoli, and there is a feeling that the Senegal international could finally be open to a Premier League move next summer. If that happens, City will be looking at their transfer policy and wondering how far they need to loosen the purse strings in order to keep moving forward with the rest of Europe's elite.

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