The age of Pep Guardiola is fully underway at Manchester City, with the dashing Catalan now officially unveiled and three new signings already in the Etihad can.
Former Borussia Dortmund star Ilkay Gundogan has been out in force since his £20m move, with the 25-year-old revealing that Guardiola needs ‘a player like me as a central midfielder’, while Spanish international forward Nolito has been given the number nine shirt, suggesting he’s back up for Sergio Aguero.
The capture of Ukraine teenager Oleksandr Zinchenko won’t unduly worry City’s remaining first-team midfielders, but reports of an imminent £40m move for Schalke’s Leroy Sane should send shivers down the spine of at least two out wide.
According to WhoScored.com, the 20-year-old Germany international, who bagged eight goals and laid on six assists during the last Bundesliga campaign, operates mostly on the flanks, with 17 of his 29 all-competition Schalke starts in 2015/16 coming at right/left attacking midfield or wide forward.
Considering 15 of those appearances came on the right, Sane’s signing would clearly spell bad news for Jesus Navas, City’s attacking-midfield starter in 22 of their Premier League fixtures last term.
Seven assists and zero goals is not a good return for a player in such an expensively-assembled squad, and with David Silva and Samir Nasri both able to cover on that side of the pitch, Navas looks likely to be an early casualty of the Guardiola regime.
On the other side, Raheem Sterling must also be under real threat after proving beyond all doubt that he cannot play there during England’s limp Euro 2016 campaign.
After chucking the best part of £50m quid at Liverpool for Sterling last summer, the 21-year-old cannot be dispensed with so easily, but his days on the wing are surely numbered.
Can Sterling adapt to Guardiola’s tactics, tuck in centrally and become the player many believed he would after Liverpool’s Premier League title near miss two years ago?
With Silva and Kevin De Bruyne both set to compete for the spot behind the striker, Sterling should be braced for a slow season.