Man City Squad: Keep or Sell? - The Midfield

In part two of this series, Joe Butterfield looks at the Manchester City midfield and gives his verdict on who stays and who goes...
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Of course, Fernandinho has just signed a new contract so this section is now entirely irrelevant, however had I written this before the new deal then my answer would have still been the same.

His leadership amongst the team is invaluable, he’s a proper captain. Somebody who isn’t necessarily playing every single game, and having aged even further since last year then I doubt his game to game influence will increase on the pitch, yet still brings the requisite leadership to the dressing room.

He is, naturally, still the master of the tactical foul and Rodri seems to be displaying the makings of picking up this particular trait. However, it’s the possibility of him taking the highly-rated Roméo Lavia, who will be joining the first team in training this season, under his wing which really excites me.

We’ve all got ourselves invested in youngsters who’ve gone on to just never make it in the first team, and the odds are that we’re doing the same thing again. But just let me dream.

Give him a statue: KEEP

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Rodri gets a lot of stick from some corners of the City supporting world and my personal opinion is that, more than anything else, it’s simply because he’s not Fernandinho. 

We’ve got used to having the best defensive midfielder in the league, a player who can combine the sheer physicality of N’Golo Kante with the s**thousery of Pepe and the playmaking skills of, well, Rodri. 

Rodri has obviously been signed to play with a different kind of system and it’s safe to say that his first season at the club was not the ideal scenario for him to impose himself on the squad, given the shambolic defensive displays which were going on behind him.

Last season, with Ruben Dias and John Stones locking down the defence, he’s looked much more assured and much more able to do what his role really is - transition the ball from the defence to the attack. There’s still some frustrations with just how quickly (or slowly) he can sometimes do this but he’s so calm on the ball that it can often feel like he’s not even aware that there’s a player nearby.

Because of the nature of the position he plays and because of his lack of physical mobility, it can often feel like when he has a bad game it completely exposes the defence, so it’s much more obvious that he’s playing badly more than others. Despite this, I think these days are actually much less frequent than many give him credit for.

I like him: KEEP

(EFE/ Carlos Garcia/Sipa USA)

(EFE/ Carlos Garcia/Sipa USA)

İlkay Gündoğan

Silky Ilkay has been one of the shining lights of the season. A serious contender for Player of the Season, both City’s and the Premier League’s, he took his game to a brand new level we’ve not seen before at City or Dortmund, finding himself able to add big goals to his game.

Our very own Deutsche Fußballmeister is probably the second best midfielder in the league right now in terms of both his ability to influence games and now his ability to add hard numbers to his game. It’s too bad he’s found this form when he’s only a few months away from turning 31 years old, because if he was in his mid-20s we’d be sorted for the next five or six years.

There was talk, before it emerged that Barcelona’s finances are about as sustainable as your average university student’s bank account, having dug so deep into their overdraft and having asked their parents for loans too many times to be able to go back and do it again, that Gündoğan might be on his way to the Catalan club. 

To be fair, if I was played as one of the 8s for the whole season, putting up career-best numbers in the process, and was then dropped back as a 6 for only the second time all season in the Champions League final, which I then went on to lose, I’d probably want to bin off the fish and chips for La Rambla’s finest tapas too.

He’s got lovely, thick hair, too. Even if he was a bad footballer, that would have me saying: KEEP

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Kevin De Bruyne

Just like Dias, absolutely nothing to say about this one: KEEP

Bernardo Silva

This is one of the more difficult ones.

It’s emerged, since the season ended, that Bernardo isn’t quite the happy chappy that we all think he is. He’s apparently felt this way for some time, with reports suggesting that he had a deal to join Barcelona lined up last season before they decided to hold Messi hostage for another year in his place.

Bernardo’s unhappiness is probably down to a few things. Not long before the Champions League final he was interviewed, during which he said that being played in different positions and being asked to do different roles in each game was making it impossible for him to find rhythm in his game. 

He obviously had the Benjamin Mendy tweet problems last season and anybody who follows Bernardo on social media knows that he loves spending his free time back in Lisbon with family, friends and sunshine. Being in Manchester for 18 months, playing relentless football twice a week and barely getting a break, has probably mentally drained more players than we think.

It says a lot about the kind of man Bernardo is that, if you were just going off his performances and work rate, you’d have absolutely no idea that this was the case. His only problem is that Barcelona, as previously discussed, are absolutely in the mud right now to the point where they can’t currently afford to re-sign Messi to a new deal, let alone think about spending the £60m+ required to get Bernardo on board, or pay his wages.

Having said that, if there’s a club that is willing to pay what we’d ask for him, then it’s probably time to let him go. He’s been a good servant to us though, if we’re being honest, in terms of outstanding seasons he’s only had the one in 2018/19, with two of the remaining four being solid and the other being outright bad.

With a heavy heart, I have to say: SELL

(Photo by MB Media/Sipa USA)

(Photo by MB Media/Sipa USA)

In the next and final part of this we move on to the attackers in the squad, coming soon!

You can follow Joe on Twitter here: @joebutters

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