Which of Manchester City's big-money signings will be most important?
New Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has already re-ignited serious optimism amongst Citizens supporters, and he looks to be completing two massive deals at the Etihad, with Leroy Sané nearing a £37 million switch from Bundesliga side Schalke according to BBC Sport, while a £50 million move for Everton’s John Stones is also nearing completion, say Sky Sports News.
20-year-old Sané has been confirmed to have arrived in Manchester to finalise the deal with an agreement having been made between the clubs, after the player himself had been left out of Schalke’s pre-season training camp in Austria.
His arrival will be a huge boost to City’s attacking options having already snapped up Celta Vigo’s Nolito this summer, whilst Guardiola is hopeful a deal for John Stones can be agreed with the Toffees in the next week to bolster what was a fragile City defence last season in the injury-induced absence of Vincent Kompany.
Both signings will be important for the club as Guardiola looks to implement a more passing-oriented, playing out from the back strategy, but which of the two will be important for Manchester City with that in mind?
The City defence conceded 41 goals in the Premier League last season, the most of any other side who finished in the top four. With Kompany continually absent, Argentine Nicolas Otamendi came into his own somewhat, but compatriot Martin Demichelis; who has subsequently been released, and Eliaquim Mangala were hapless at times.
With the former already out of the exit door, bringing in a younger, more mobile and composed defender was always going to be high on the list of priorities.
Stones had his own hiccups in the Everton defence last season, found wanting in home games against Stoke City and West Ham United as the Toffees developed an unwanted trait of being unable to see out games.
He has found little respite in an England shirt either, giving away possession in dangerous areas in friendlies leading up to Euro 2016.
The youngster however has been forced to deal with transfer speculation for some time, and after having a transfer request refused last summer amidst interest from Chelsea, Everton seem unprepared to stand in the Yorkshireman’s way this time around.
At Manchester City, if Stones can begin to display the form he did before transfer speculation tainted his performances, there is every chance that he can be an important figure in stabilising City’s defence, particularly if Guardiola’s team submits to further injury woes.
Without Kompany, The Etihad outfit were very much caught flat-footed at times, and Stones will not only keep Otamendi and Mangala on their toes, but he has all the qualities capable of forcing his way into the first-team picture himself. It is an area where City must improve if they are to consider themselves serious title contenders again.
As for Sané, it may initially seem as if the going will be tough considering the swathes of options available to Pep Guardiola. Whereas City’s defence lacked a little last season, their attack scored the most goals in the Premier League last term, with a total of 71 in their 38 games.
However, some of The Citizens’ attacking options are beginning to fade, which may just provide Sané with a way in to make a real impact. Samir Nasri featured only 13 times last season and is fighting for his future at the club having already returned for pre-season training overweight. After a promising start, Raheem Sterling has slipped out of form and Jesus Navas has also done little of any note in the last 12 months.
When Kevin De Bruyne spent a period out injured, City looked very short-handed up front, and with several stars seemingly dimming at City, Sané may in fact, be of huge importance in terms of breathing new life into City’s forward line.
The signing of Nolito has already signalled Guardiola’s attacking intent, and the arrival of Sané will be one to really test the mettle of Sterling. If the England international continues to disappoint following his poor showing at Euro 2016, the £49 million signing may well be usurped by the young German.
Width will undoubtedly be the port of call for Sané whilst Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva occupy free roles behind Sergio Aguero to wreak havoc on defences. If City do find their ranks thinned by injury, Sané may even be pushed out wide with Aguero in a three-pronged attack with Silva, De Bruyne or perhaps even Nolito on the opposite flank.
Thus, though to the outsider there may be little room for Sané, he is important as is John Stones with regards to breathing new life into ahead of the Manchester City squad that are beginning to decline.
However, with still so much to offer in attack regardless, Stones may just be the man to have to make the biggest impact, given the shortcomings of the defence in the last campaign, and to many for this reason, he will be the new arrival judged the most. He has to come in and improve the playing squad in his position, otherwise he will ultimately be judged as a failure, whereas Sané may not have to operate under such pressure.
With more of the eyes potentially on John Stones given his role, it will be 22-year-old who will be the one to watch out of the two, and he may just have the bigger impact regarding how successful Manchester City are to be this campaign, and where they find themselves sitting come May 2017.
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