It has been of summer of significant spending over in the blue half of Manchester.
Pep Guardiola has laid down a reported £211.65 million on 7 new signings- 90 million more than their nearest rivals Chelsea- and the most ever spent by a Premier League club in a single transfer window. In addition to bolstering their eye-catching attack with Monaco’s Bernardo Silva and adding Ederson, now officially the world’s most expensive keeper, to their ranks, a cool £123.5 million has been spent on the recruitment of three new full backs, a position the side desperately needed investment in.
The first arrival was right back Kyle Walker, a 45-million-pound purchase from Spurs in mid-July, his lofty price tag making him the most expensive defender in footballing history. A record which lasted a total of 10 days, as left back Benjamin Mendy arrived from Monaco for an eyebrow raising £52 million. Add to that the £26.3 million arrival of Brazilian right back Danilo from Real Madrid and Pep Guardiola’s 120+ million full back revamp was complete. Despite however, the seemingly extortionate prices City forked out, these 3 signings are a necessary solution to a full back problem that has plagued the Manchester side for many years.
Full-backs have always been a crucial ingredient to any Guardiola side. At Bayern, Pep had the luxury of David Alaba and Phillip Lahm at his disposal. Defensively they’d operate as traditional bread and butter fullbacks but when Bayern had the ball they doubled up as midfielders, the pair’s elite footballing qualities allowing them to fulfil this role well and allowing Bayern even more dominance in possession. This however, is a decidedly difficult task when your fullbacks consist of Bacary Sagna Alexander Kolarov, Pablo Zabaleta and Gael Clichy.
Pep tried several different strategies; He changed formation to a back three, he tried to convert Fernandinho to a right back (and a left back), he frequently rotated his fullback pairing- all 4 recognised fullbacks each made over 15 premier league appearances- but the simple fact remained. Manchester City’s full back options were just not good enough.
Guardiola failed to address this problem but it had existed long before the Catalan’s arrival in Manchester. With the exception of Pablo Zabaleta, who will undoubtedly go down as one of the finest Premier League right backs of the last 10 years, City have struggled to sign top quality fullbacks. Aleksandar Kolarov and Gael Clichy, whilst good servants to the club in the 6 and 5 seasons they were at City respectively, never quite lived up to expectations and left for pastures new this summer with somewhat of a whimper.
Add to this a well past his prime when he arrived in 2014, Bacary Sagna, a struggling Micah Richards, and those 13 entirely forgettable games Maicon played in 2012 and the past few seasons make for worrying reading in the fullback department.
City’s failure to address this situation and almost go with the “trust the players we have” approach is a curious one for a club so associated with spending big money on big players. Between the 2013/2014 and 2016/2017 season’s City didn’t spend a single pound on fullbacks. Compare that to the £121.8 million spent on centre backs in the same period and it makes the situation even stranger.
Money aside, Guardiola has clearly looked at his side from last season, identified a problem and acted swiftly to address it. In Kyle Walker, City now possess undoubtedly the league’s finest right back, whose pace and attacking flair, their rivals Tottenham, will surely miss. On the other flank, Benjamin Mendy is one of the most promising young full backs in the world and was a vital part of Monaco’s first Ligue 1 victory in 17 years. With Danilo presumably acting as cover as well as competition at both right and left back, City have three of Europe’s best at their disposal for the upcoming season.
Whether Manchester City improve on a poor 2016/2017 season remains to be seen, but with their abundance of attacking flair and a much fresher back line their side looks far more well-rounded than it did last campaign. The early signs at the Etihad are promising and if Pep can bring the Premier League trophy back to the blue half of Manchester then £123.5 million may end up looking like pocket change.