Although City's roster is currently smaller than it was last season, they may have addressed a more pressing issue.
Manchester City will be pleased with their summer business when the clock strikes 11 p.m. on September 1st, and the transfer window closes.
This has been the club’s busiest transfer window since 2017, with a major squad overhaul following Pep Guardiola’s side’s four Premier League titles in five years.
Five members of the first-team squad have left the club: Fernandinho left after his contract expired, Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko joined Arsenal for £45 million and £30 million, respectively, Raheem Sterling left for Chelsea, and Zack Steffen signed a season-long loan with Middlesbrough.
Other sales, including that of Ferran Torres in January, have resulted in City raising more than £230 million in player sales in 2022. This enabled them to sign Erling Haaland for £51 million, Julian Alvarez for around £14 million, and Kalvin Phillips for £42 million.
The main complaint that supporters and even some club officials may have is that City did not sign Marc Cucurella from Brighton. Guardiola’s preferred left-back has joined Chelsea in a deal worth more than £60 million, after City’s final offer of £40 million was rejected.
Kyle Walker on the right and Joao Cancelo on the left will be City’s only senior full-backs to start the season. They are actively seeking another left-back, but it may take some time.
Many will argue that City should have approached Brighton about Cucurella earlier in the summer and devised a contingency plan for this exact situation, but it is what it is. Another issue raised by the saga is that City’s squad is currently smaller than it was last season.
Last season, Guardiola had 21 senior players at his disposal, which felt insufficient near the end of the season as injuries began to pile up. When key players were rested, City struggled noticeably in games like the FA Cup semi-final loss to Liverpool. They now have 20 players, but was squad depth truly an issue?
Last season, Guardiola had the resources to rest players like Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden; it’s just that the replacements didn’t always deliver when called upon.
Fernandinho, Sterling, and Jesus were three players who tended to come into the starting lineup when Guardiola decided to ring the changes. All are exceptional footballers, though the former is no longer capable of playing at the highest level.
Sterling shone in November and December, while Jesus stepped up towards the end of the season with outstanding performances against Real Madrid and Watford.
They were, however, untrustworthy. Fernandinho often appeared overwhelmed when filling in for Rodri, while Sterling and Jesus irritated fans with their wasteful finishing in front of goal.
One example is Jesus’ one-on-one miss against Liverpool at Wembley. He could have tied the game at 1-3 with 20 minutes remaining, but he didn’t.
While City’s summer business has been a net loss in terms of numbers, the quality – and reliability – has improved. Phillips is far more capable of covering for Rodri than Fernandinho, and Alvarez and Haaland will bring a ruthlessness to the attack that Sterling and Jesus lacked. In net, Stefan Ortega should be a more reliable backup for Ederson than Zack Steffen.
Of course, should City incur another injury crisis then depth may well become an issue. But contrary to popular belief, the issue last season was quality, not depth. In that regard, City’s summer business could not have gone much better.