For a team of Man City’s strength, they’ve had some real problems obtaining their transfer targets over the last year or two. Particular problems have been seen in the heart of the midfield, with a number of important targets moving elsewhere since the arrival of Pep Guardiola.
For example, over the summer, Brazilian midfielder Fred opted to move to Man Utd over City, leaving Pep Guardiola without a new key option in the midfield. Just two months later, another target, Jorginho, chose Chelsea over the Citizens, leaving the club out of luck again.
As a result, Man City were forced to enter the 2018/19 season without a reliable defensive midfielder beyond Fernandinho and, to a lesser degree, Ilkay Gundogan.
Fortunately, as it turns out, failing to land these targets has proven to be a lucky escape for City. Fred has struggled to adapt in England, and he’s yet to force himself into the Man Utd first team on a regular basis. Jorginho, meanwhile, though a regular under Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea, has yet to bag a single Premier League assist this term, and he seems to have been found out by the Blues’ rivals in England. In the case of both players, their performances have not kept up with the expectation that surrounded their respective arrivals.
So for City, whilst not having the necessary depth has been a problem at points, they appear to have been able to avoid a couple of costly transfers – but that doesn’t solve the club’s problem. This summer, it’s more important than ever for City to invest in this area of the field. Fernandinho is going to be 34-years-old by the time the year comes to an end, whilst Ilkay Gundogan has refused to rule out leaving City in the summer, and so the prospect of not bringing in anyone else in this position should be giving Pep Guardiola sleepless nights.
Fortunately, City appear to have their eyes on finding a new target, and all signs point towards him being the best of the lot. Indeed, according to the Express, City are leading the race for Lyon ace Tanguy Ndombele, with the 22-year-old apparently valued at around £50 million.
Ndombele, though not a household name in England, has been one of the young shining lights over in Ligue 1 over the last year or so, and though Lyon have a squad filled with exciting young talent like Bertrand Traore and Houssem Aouar, the young Frenchman has stood out.
Naturally a defensive midfielder, Ndombele is able to play as both a number 6 and a number 8, and most notably, he’s able to offer a tremendous defensive influence in the heart of the midfield. He’s agile, he’s strong in the tackle, he’s got great anticipation and, most of all, he’s always eager to steal the ball and win possession back for his team. Statistically, he’s more involved defensively than Fernandinho – with an average of 2.3 tackles per 90 minutes, in comparison to the Brazilian’s 2.2 per 90 minutes (as per Who Scored). Of course, Man City are typically less involved in the defensive side of the game, but this still speaks volumes about how efficient the Frenchman is when looking to defend his goal.
Despite this, however, Ndombele has far more to his locker than just ensuring that Lyon are solid defensively. Indeed, perhaps the area of his game that is developing quickest is his impact going forward, hence why he’s been shifted slightly further forward at Lyon this term. Indeed, he’s got fantastic ability with the ball at his feet, offering, most notably, excellent dribbling and offensive passing. For example, he’s been able to offer an impressive return of 1.3 key passes per 90 games, and so it’s no surprise that he’s bagged 5 assists this term. What’s more, he’s averaged around 2.7 dribbles per 90 games, in contrast to Fernandinho’s 1 – and so that’s a clear difference between their respective styles. Fortunately, Ndombele is smart enough to balance his offensive movement with defensive ingenuity – and so, in many ways, he’s turned into the perfect central midfielder, especially for a Pep Guardiola team.
It’s taken City a while to solve this problem, but there’s a sense that they may have finally found their option in Ndombele. They can’t afford to let their lead in the race for the midfielder slip, as it could prove to be the most important deal they make all summer.
Man City fans – is Tanguy Ndombele the answer for City? Let us know below!