The Manchester City fans have been feeling dejected in the Transfer Tavern after watching their side suffer three straight defeats which have served to take the gloss off their scintillating season so far.
Pep Guardiola was brought into the club by the hierarchy at Man City to lead Europe’s latest big player into a new era of success almost two years ago – a feat which he is on the cusp of achieving. However, until the Citizens claim the greatest prize in European football for the very first time, namely the Champions League, they will continue to be regarded as an emerging pretender who possess nothing more than the potential to rise into the same bracket as the likes of Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and even their fierce local-rivals Manchester United.
That fact will provide the inspiration for Guardiola and his players to bounce back next season with a vastly improved campaign in the Champions League, but they must establish where they went wrong on this occasion in order to stimulate a notable improvement. Plenty of reasons have been cited for City’s defeat against Liverpool; refereeing decisions, a 20-minute lapse in concentration during the first-leg and a lack of ruthlessness from the Citizens are all credible explanations for City’s exit, but the over-reliance on Leroy Sane was undoubtedly a factor which cost the club dearly.
Sane’s brilliance this season has quite simply been a joy to watch, as his style of dribbling combined with his gazelle-like pace and agility has provided City with a destructive weapon on the left-side of their attack which has consistently sliced through defences at will. But against Liverpool his impact was stifled by a resolute defensive performance from an incredibly bright prospect, namely Trent Alexander-Arnold.
His performance over the two-legs was truly exceptional for a 19-year-old playing against a player of Sane’s calibre and, there’s no doubt he will be a future star in English football if he continues to perform in the same vein. However, Guardiola showed signs of tactical naivety by failing to adapt to the game-situation and swapping over Sane and Sterling on the flanks to provide a different attacking dynamic in the final-third.
Whether or not that decision was something Guardiola contemplated or not is something only he will know, but City’s lack of options in wide positions could have been a determining factor. With no wide-players on the bench to call upon, City continued to do their best to carve Liverpool open down their left-wing to no avail.
With that in mind, City should focus on signing a wide-player of genuine quality to support Sterling and Sane next season. There are plenty of candidates across Europe who could justify a move to the Citizens based on their form in recent seasons, but in the interest of building a squad for the future, Guardiola should make Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey (valued at £40.5 million by Transfermarkt) his number one target this summer.
The 20-year-old Bundesliga star is one of, if not the most exciting young-winger in European football. So far this season he has managed to score 11 goals and provide 6 assists from 28 appearances in all-competitions whilst predominantly operating on the left-wing for Leverkusen.
Bailey can also operate on the right-wing and cut inside onto his favoured left-foot to devastating effect and, his versatility in this regard would broaden Guardiola’s first-team options and increase his side’s unpredictability.
Considering the immense level of potential Bailey has demonstrated during his short career in Germany so far, it’s already fair to say he could easily become one of the most unstoppable attacking players in world football, so City should do everything they can to sign him this summer.
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