Man City Squad: Keep or Sell? - The Attack

Joe Butterfield continues his assessment of the Manchester City squad and, in the final edition of our three-part series, goes through Pep Guardiola's attacking options...

Riyad Mahrez

It took me a while to get Riyad Mahrez.

He spent much of his first season at Manchester City still in Leicester mode, insisting on cutting in on his left and shooting from absolutely anywhere because he thought that was what he had to do in order to make us win.

Then, in 2019/20, it clicked.

To be honest, it had started to click towards the back end of his first season in 18/19, but 19/20 saw him quietly be our most dangerous player in the front three of the course of the season.

Certainly our most consistent. The Algerian Messi was born - effortlessly taking 60 yard passes in his stride with a stroke of the outside of his left foot.

Last season saw him get 23 goal involvements in all competitions, with his most valuable contributions by far coming in the semi-finals of the Champions League where he absolutely roasted PSG. 

I celebrated those two goals in the second leg, securing our place in the final, as if we’d won the competition itself already and, honestly, it’s made me love Mahrez even more than I already did. He’s the most technically gifted player in the squad and Pep’s system has finally clicked with him.

It would be stupid to do anything other than: KEEP

Phil Foden

There’s always one in each of these, this needs no further comment: KEEP

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Raheem Sterling

I’ll be blunt - Sterling was poor last season.

In a Manchester City shirt he’s been unconvincing for a while now, though he’s still been capable of top quality performances like the ones he put in against Liverpool and Southampton this season.

When he was finally dropped after a shoddy performance against Manchester United, reports of a confrontation between himself and Pep Guardiola did the rounds and he didn’t start a game for the following few weeks. 

Raheem Sterling was apparently unhappy with being dropped and, honestly, this is probably a reaction that a lot of top level professionals have when their game time is reduced, especially when you’re somebody who’s used to being one of the first names on the teamsheet like Sterling has been ever since Pep arrived at the club.

He got his chances towards the back end of the season, though he was by no means in our strongest XIs, and didn’t do anywhere near enough in those cameos, for me, to warrant being given the start in the Champions League final which he was subsequently given.

(Photo by Iam Burn/News Images/Sipa USA)

(Photo by Iam Burn/News Images/Sipa USA)

Sterling tore it up at the European Championships, and was on track to be the main contender for Player of the Tournament if England had beat Italy in the final, so why am I starting with such negativity?

Well, it’s because there are some reports doing the rounds that Raheem Sterling is keen on the idea of a move. By the sounds of things, he’s by no means desperate to go and would quite happily stay if a move did not materialise, and it seems that the club’s stance is similar. Whilst they’d be happy to keep him and will offer him a new contract, if a bid came in at the right price then he would be moved on.

If that is Manchester City’s stance then I’d be inclined to agree.

Whilst I feel like Sterling’s lack of output and performances this season have been caused by a lack of a true number 9 in the squad, which will hopefully be rectified next season to get him back to his best, I feel like the moment a player starts entertaining the idea of leaving the club then it’s probably best to move them on.

Do I see anybody coming in with a transfer fee that would encourage the club to sell? No. Do I think that, when this move doesn’t materialise, he probably just stays and signs a new contract anyway? Yes: KEEP

Gabriel Jesus

We all love an underdog. And, in the context of this City team, Gabriel Jesus is the ultimate underdog.

Forever second-fiddle to the greatest striker the Premier League has ever seen and a young boy with the saddest eyebrows you’ll ever see on a footballer. He arrived from Palmeiras with so much promise but, despite his goal/games ratio, it’s fair to say that he’s not quite lived up to the hype he came in with.

He’s fine to bring in for the cup games, or for the occasional game against mid to lower table opposition, but ultimately you only need to look at how little the Brazilian has been used this season, despite the absence of Sergio Aguero. The false 9 system was preferred to him, and the strange thing is that it’s probably because the false 9 system was better for scoring goals. 

The fact that Pep is desperate for a true number 9 suggests that he ultimately wants to play a system with a 9, yet he only called on Jesus in the last few months of the season in the true dead rubber fixtures alongside Torres and Sterling, who were also the second string choices in their respective positions at the time.

It feels like Jesus has a lot of talent. He’s a pressing machine and, honestly, his best games for us have come on the wings but he’s just not a better option out there ahead of Sterling or Foden. He needs to go and be an undisputed number one striker somewhere and, if reports are to be believed, Juventus are very much hoping to be that club. A move would do him good and, let’s be honest, he deserves it.

Assuming we make a tidy profit on him, we should do the right thing for him and: SELL

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Ferran Torres

I once compared us signing Ferran Torres to signing Valencia’s equivalent of Phil Foden, and that’s something I stand by. Sure, he’s probably not on the exact same level of talent, but we’ve managed to pick up one of Spain’s most talented and well-regarded attacking youngsters for roughly £20 million. It’s unbelievable.

Torres maybe hasn’t had an explosive first season with the club, largely caused by the fact that it’s his first year in a brand new country and testing positive for COVID-19 during the season, which has probably had more of an impact on his physicality than we give credit for. However, he’s become a clinical player in his appearances that he has made and has shown a real striker’s instinct.

He’s been compared to a David Villa-esque player and it’s about as sound as a comparison as you can get. Somebody who’s comfortable playing on the wing as an inside-forward, with pace and strength, yet somebody who’s also got the natural movement and finishing to play as a striker. 

If we’re to get rid of Gabriel Jesus, I would have no problem with Torres being the back-up striker for the inevitable signing we make over the summer. He’s got the potential to become something really special, and I hope he does it here.

No brainer, we simply have to: KEEP

(Photo by Iam Burn/News Images/Sipa USA)

(Photo by Iam Burn/News Images/Sipa USA)

What do you think? Do you agree with my assessments? Let us know!

You can follow Joe on Twitter here: @joebutters

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