"Underwhelmed I Think Is The Word", "Things Are Looking Positive" - City Xtra Writers: Addressing The Elephant In The Room

Harry Winters discusses Manchester City’s summer transfer window and the potential implications of the Blues’ business, with City Xtra contributors Brandon Evans, Harry Siddall and Sangam Desai.
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In the aftermath of Manchester City’s Champions League Final loss in Portugal, Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak made two emphatic statements.

He said that the club would “bring quality into the squad in a couple of key positions” and that "I’m confident we will find the right player to fill those shoes,” when discussing how the club planned to fill the gaping hole left by Sergio Aguero.

As the transfer window slammed shut on Tuesday evening, after endless sagas, an anticlimactic window came to a close.

Despite securing the signature of Jack Grealish, Manchester City failed to sign their reported main target Harry Kane, and also opted not to pursue Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.

It is widely known that Guardiola likes to freshen up his squad, even after successful campaigns, and with City’s lack of recruitment leading to intense discussion among supporters, we spoke with City Xtra contributors Brandon Evans, Harry Siddall and Sangam Desai, to get their thoughts on the Blues’ underwhelming transfer window, and the effect it may have on their quest for silverware this season. 

With Jack Grealish being the club’s only high-profile recruit this summer, what do you make of City’s business throughout the summer transfer window?

Brandon: I believe that City’s summer business has been okay, however, it could have, and should have been far better. Jack Grealish is an excellent signing that will provide the side with an extra weapon going forward, however, the club not signing a striker must go down as a colossal failure by those in charge of City’s recruitment.

City’s need for a formidable striker was glaringly obvious throughout last season and should the club fail to retain the Premier League title, then a major factor in this would be the failure to sign a striker.

However, on a positive note, I think that the club keeping hold of both Aymeric Laporte and Bernardo Silva for at least another season bodes extremely well for the side owing to their obvious quality. 

Harry: Underwhelmed I think is the word I’ll use. It probably seems bizarre considering we’ve smashed the British record for the first time since signing Robinho, but that’s how I’m feeling.

First of all, Jack Grealish is a fantastic addition. The talent he already has, combined with the potential to grow even further, is a scary prospect for the rest of the league. Learning from the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan, I can see Grealish and Phil Foden dominating for years to come.

However, the elephant in the room is obviously the striker situation. I think that business was shambolic - from Harry Kane all the way to Cristiano Ronaldo. Even without knowing all the ins and outs of the Kane situation, letting Chelsea have a free run at Romelu Lukaku is bad enough.

Expecting Pep Guardiola to pull it off with no striker is a tough ask, so I think, all in all, the board will be slightly disappointed in how naïve they’ve been in negotiations.

Sangam: For me, the board’s performance was disappointing in this window. They have not only failed to address a well-known weakness in this star-studded squad, but the way they managed business this summer was appalling.

Their pursuit of Harry Kane did not materialise and that’s fine, such things are normal in football, but the sheer lack of contingency plans was embarrassing. If the club couldn’t secure a striker, perhaps they should have brought forward their left back and/or defensive midfield recruitment plans to aid them in launching a mammoth attack for a top forward like Erling Haaland next summer.

On a positive note, signing Jack Grealish is a fantastic piece of business and contract extensions for key squad members namely Ruben Dias, John Stones, Ederson along with future stars Liam Delap and Cole Palmer are strong moves for a secure future. 

Based off of City’s business and that of other clubs, do you think that City can effectively compete domestically and in the Champions League?

Brandon: Briefly, no. I think that owing to the club failing to recruit a formidable No 9, City will once again drop points in games that they ought to be winning, additionally, given that City’s title rivals have all strengthened considerably, I don’t think that City will get away with not having a striker again this term.

City have already dropped silly points in the opening day loss to Spurs and it’s become apparent that the false 9 system that worked to great effect last season has been figured out somewhat as Chelsea, Leicester and Spurs have all prevented City from scoring.

Sorry to be dour, but I think City will really struggle to retain the title given the strength of the league’s other top sides and I think that the lack of a prolific forward will once again hinder us in Europe. 

Harry: Oh, of course. This Manchester City were 270 minutes of football away from winning a quadruple last season, so I will not hear anything about us not being capable.

Other clubs’ business is a worry. We can’t get away from the fact that Manchester United will win something eventually. They’ve addressed key areas in their starting XI, and with the addition of Cristiano Ronaldo, they have a player who can win a game on his own. Chelsea too; even without Jules Kounde, Romelu Lukaku will bring what they were missing last season – goals.

City and Guardiola will just have to stick to what they know and really turn the screw when the crunch games come around. Picking up wins against these top sides will be even more important this campaign.

Sangam: Make no mistake, this City squad is still better than it was last season, and with the addition of the second-best creative player in the league, I expect them to be highly competitive throughout the season, but with a note of caution.

Huge responsibility rests on the young shoulders of makeshift striker Ferran Torres and Guardiola’s pack of false nines in the absence of a recognised striker. Nevertheless, barring multiple serious injuries and unpredictable COVID outbreaks, this squad will go head-to-head with others who have caught up to them, however, their grit and tunnel vision will be extremely important, now more than ever. 

Despite losing to Spurs, City have bounced back with the thrashings of Arsenal and Norwich. Are you worried for City going forward? Do you think they can win the title?

Brandon: Firstly, the thrashings of Norwich and Arsenal should be taken purely for what they are – two victories over two very poor sides and I think it would be wise to not get carried away given the manner of the wins.

Following on from this, owing to the strength of the squad I believe that City will do okay this season, however, I think that as the club failed to recruit a striker City will drop a considerable number of points, and with Chelsea having re-signed Romelu Lukaku – I don’t think that City will win the title this season and I believe that Thomas Tuchel’s side are favourites. 

Harry: Not worried, but maybe not as optimistic as last season. Title rivals have improved tenfold and winning the title this season will require maximum concentration in every game. Can we do that? Of course we can.

We have bucket loads of experience in this side now and winners who know what it takes to capture these major prizes. If we can keep pace with the leading pack until March/April, I think this side has the character to get us over the line. Back Pep, because he’s never shown us a reason to think otherwise.

Sangam: Aside from the transfer market frustration, things are looking positive for City. The Blues have bounced back after a disappointing loss against Tottenham - which can be put down to a lack of match fitness - and have evidently regained their optimum fluency, albeit against struggling sides.

City were expected to have a slow start to the campaign but their wantaway stars namely Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva and Aymeric Laporte have started the season brilliantly, and the overall mood in the camp seems to be extremely positive.

The fact that City have managed to keep hold of these important members and that they have started the season positively will help Guardiola immensely during these initial months. The Champions League final loss will have hurt the squad deeply and I believe the defending champions will be in a strong position to retain the Premier League title and challenge powerfully for the European crown with vengeance on their mind. 

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