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Manchester City

Is Middlesbrough’s Victor Valdes the solution to Pep Guardiola’s goalkeeping dilemma?

Martyn Cooke

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Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City in the summer of 2016 was heralded as the start of a new era at the Etihad Stadium. His predecessors, Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini, had succeeded in bringing intermittent silverware to the blue half of Manchester but had failed in their attempts at moulding the club into a genuine superpower of European football. It was time for Sheik Mansour to invest in a world class manager – enter a certain Spaniard who had completed trophy-laden spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Guardiola’s first season in English football has not been a failure, but neither has it been an overwhelming success. There will be no trophy celebrations at the Etihad Stadium at the end of the campaign and The Citizens have yet to guarantee their spot in next season’s Champions League with places in the top four still up for grabs. However, the team have progressed, the style of football has entertained and, on the whole, the Spaniard’s dealings in the transfer market have proven to be a success. You get the sense that a foundation has been laid over the course of the year that Manchester City will build on next season.

One of the main criticisms levelled at Guardiola has been his treatment of England international Joe Hart and his general approach to the goalkeeping situation at the club. ESPN are reporting that Victor Valdes is being lined up as a potential target for the summer following the Middlesbrough’s relegation and the 35-year-old is likely to be on Manchester City’s radar after spending four successfully years working with their current manager at Barcelona.

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Goalkeeping dilemmas

Victor Valdes has made 28 appearances this season, keeping eight clean sheets, for Middlesbrough this season and has proven himself more than capable of performing in the English top-flight. The 35-year-old still has one year remaining on his current contract, but the Teeside club will be looking to cash in and free up the Spaniard’s substantial wages.

However, a move for Valdes would do little more than highlight the long list of mistakes that Pep Guardiola has made when it has come to the goalkeeping department this campaign.

In the summer Joe Hart was frozen out and shipped out on loan to Torino whilst Claudio Bravo was brought in as his replacement under the pretence that England’s most prominent goalkeeper lacked the technical proficiency to fit into Guardiola’s total football philosophy. But the decision has backfired quite spectacularly.

Bravo has failed to impress in his debut season at the Etihad and, regardless of his ball-playing ability, has looked increasingly incapable of doing his primary job – making saves and keeping the ball out of the net. Poor performances resulted in the 33-year-old being dropped and replaced by reserve team goalkeeper Willy Cabellero, who is no superstar but looked like a definitive improvement on the helpless Bravo.

The end of the season presents Guardiola with a serious problem. Bravo looks ill-suited to the rigours of the Premier League, Cabellero is out of contract, and Hart is set to return from his season-long loan.

So what now? Does he keep faith in Bravo? Offer Cabellero a new deal? Reintroduce Hart? Or push all three to one side and purchase a new goalkeeper?

It would appear that Guardiola is opting for the latter.

But signing Valdes would present more questions than answers. The goalkeeper may have experienced a relatively successful campaign, at least on a personal level, with Middlesbrough yet is he truly the world-class player that should now be characteristic of Manchester City’s playing squad?

This is the same man that was incapable of breaking into the Manchester United first team just two years ago and there is no question that the 35-year-old is dwarfed by the talents of the Premier League’s leading goalkeepers such as David de Gea, Hugo Loris and Thibaut Courtois.

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A statement of intent

The goalkeeping issues at Manchester City have the potential to overshadow the positive work that Pep Guardiola is currently undertaking at the Etihad Stadium. The focus should be directed towards the exciting attacking talents of Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne and yet the emphasis is shifting once more towards who will be wearing the number one jersey next season. The manager needs to be concise and decisive in the summer and put to bed any questions surrounding the goalkeeping department.

Surely the choice is simply.

Guardiola must either admit that he made an error by exiling Joe Hart and reinstate the England international as the club’s first choice goalkeeper or spend big on a genuine world class replacement.

Signing Victor Valdes will be little more than a statement of uncertainty – what Manchester City need to do is demonstrate that they genuinely want to become one of Europe’s footballing superpowers.

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Featured Image: All Rights Reserved Jared129 (Jared129)

Martyn is currently a PTA and Research Assistant in the Department of Exercise Science at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). In addition to his teaching role he is also undertaking a PhD in Sports History that is exploring the origins and development of football in Staffordshire. Prior to working at MMU, Martyn spent a decade operating in the sport and leisure industry in a variety of roles including as a Sports Development Officers, PE Teacher, Football Coach and Operation Manager.

English Premier League

Manchester City would be taking risk by signing Napoli’s Jorginho

The Italian midfielder is enjoying a fine season in Serie A.

Jake Jackman

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Manchester City have clinched the Premier League and are set for a record-breaking season, but Pep Guardiola is a perfectionist and he will not rest easy over this summer.

The Spaniard will be keen to strengthen the squad to ensure they are even better during the next campaign. He will already have targets in mind and The Guardian report that Napoli central midfielder Jorginho tops the list.

The report states that a bid of £52.5 million will be enough to tempt the Serie A club to sell and that City view the 26-year-old as the perfect player to compete with the ageing Fernandinho.

After their exciting performances in Italy, a number of Napoli players will be subject of interest this summer and it looks like Jorginho could be one of the first to leave the club, regardless of how the season ends for the club.

The Napoli midfield has been central to their title bid and Jorginho has been the standout performer. He has shown himself to be relentless out of possession and progressive with the ball.

(Photo credit should read CARLO HERMANN/AFP/Getty Images)

Despite not having a lot of attacking responsibility, he has contributed two goals and four assists. The Italian international is currently averaging 1.67 chances created per ninety minutes, which significantly more than the 0.57 managed by Fernandinho.

There will be some doubts regarding his adaptability, as the Premier League is much more physical and Jorginho isn’t the most dominant of midfield players. However, he makes up for that with his intelligence and anticipation.

The 26-year-old has proven to be a more efficient ball-winner than Fernandinho, as he averages 1.63 successful tackles and 1.82 interceptions per ninety minutes. Meanwhile, the City midfielder is averaging 1.07 successful tackles and 1.43 interceptions per ninety minutes.

The standout part of Jorginho’s game is his passing and ball retention. He is very good at moving the ball quickly and putting his side on the front foot. The midfielder averages 94.44 passes per ninety minutes and 74.5% of those go forward.

The fact he has a pass completion rate of 89% underlines his quality on the ball and Pep Guardiola would view him as the perfect player to have at the base of a midfield.

(Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images)

City need a midfielder who can quickly move the ball across the pitch and put the talented attacking players in a position to cause damage.

Jorginho would be a good option to do this, but the price tag reported by the Guardian is a touch high. There would instantly be huge expectations on the Napoli midfielder and his lack of dynamism means that he would quickly emerge as a target for criticism.

There are advantages to signing Jorginho and he would be a good addition, but he isn’t going to push Manchester City to the next level.

Guardiola needs to sign individuals that are going to make improve the team’s chances in the Champions League and the midfielder isn’t one of those elite players.

At the reported price, he would be a risk and one that doesn’t offer big rewards.

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Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace should swoop for Manchester City’s Yaya Toure on a free

The Ivorian midfielder looks set to leave the Etihad this summer.

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Yaya Toure
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When Manchester City legend Yaya Toure was thrown on to the pitch with 25 minutes to go against Swansea City on Sunday, the City faithful were given a chance to celebrate the wonderful Citizens career of the Ivorian.

It was a perfect cameo for Toure, delivering a pinpoint chipped assist to Gabriel Jesus for City’s fifth goal.

Toure celebrated at the Etihad on the way to his third Premier League title, but he faces an uncertain future as Manchester City are unlikely to offer him a new contract.

The Metro reported that the 34-year-old wishes to remain in the Premier League, and Crystal Palace should seriously consider making a move for Toure.

Palace know all too well the supreme qualities of the midfielder. When Toure made his return from the exile Pep Guardiola imposed on him in November 2016, his first appearance came at Selhurst Park.

(Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ivory Coast international absolutely bossed the show that match, scoring two emphatic goals en route to a 2-1 victory, after three months out of the first team squad. It was a timely reminder of Toure’s unique skills, which would be perfectly suited to Crystal Palace’s style of play.

Roy Hodgson’s side play matches with a high-intensity, all-action swagger, and the coolness and relentless drive of Yaya Toure would slot in seamlessly. Toure would also add an experienced head to the Eagles, with lengthy spells playing for the best teams in the world.

Even though Toure is 34 years old, he still possesses a superb reading of the game and tremendous work rate. He is truly a box-to-box midfielder, running back to snuff out danger one moment, and striding forward and leading the attack the next.

A move to Selhurst Park would suit both sides, as the Ivorian wishes to keep his young family settled in England. Crystal Palace would do brilliantly to acquire the services of the three-time Premier League champion, a transfer that would lead them to the top-half of the top-flight table.

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Arsenal

Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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