Only three teams – Hull City, Crystal Palace and Sunderland – have kept fewer clean sheets than Manchester City this season, so it is hardly surprising that the Premier League title challengers are being linked with a steady stream of defenders ahead of the January transfer window.
City have managed just three shut-outs after 15 games and, if anything, their problems appear to be getting worse before they get better. As if conceding three at home to Chelsea wasn’t bad enough, City then went and shipped another four in their next league outing, a 4-2 defeat at struggling Leicester.
An ageing defence is starting to look past its sell by date, and their senior full-backs – Pablo Zabaleta, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna, who boast a combined age of 95 – are out of contract next summer.
Unless they address this problem, the latest predictions at Tipsters Review are likely to back against them in the Premier League title race. Yet, despite their woes at the back, City director of football Txiki Begiristain has played down newspaper talk of fresh bodies coming on board.
City will welcome 19-year-old Brazil striker Gabriel Jesus to the club next month after clinching his signing in the summer, but it appears he could be the only addition according to Begiristain.
“We have already done, no?” he replied when asked if City would strengthen in January. “We have Gabriel Jesus coming, he will strengthen our attack, so we are happy.
Begiristain can say what he likes but the rumour mill will keep on churning out the names.
In terms of players available in the New Year, Benfica’s Alex Grimaldo and Schalke’s Sead Kolasinac are also said to be on the club’s radar. Spurs’ Danny Rose is viewed as more of a long-term target., and The Sun has also thrown Juventus star Leonardo Bonucci’s name into the mix.
According to reports, City are also competing with Barcelona for the signature of Benfica goalkeeper Ederson Moraes and Red Ball Salzburg centre-back Dayotchanculle Upamecano. Brazilian Moraes holds an EU passport and is believed to be worth around €7million, while 18-year-old Upamecano would probably command a similar sort of fee.
If Pep Guardiola does open the cheque book and spend big, he’ll be hoping for more of a return on his investment than what City have so far enjoyed from John Stones. The England defender has struggled to adapt since arriving from Everton in a record £47.5m deal and his defensive shortcomings were badly exposed against Leicester. The latest predictions at Tipsters Review did not see that result coming.
To be fair to Stones, the three-man central defensive system deployed by Guardiola is hardly helping him, and an SOS could be put out to Southampton ace Virgil van Dijk, although the Dutchman is also being courted by Liverpool, who have their own well-documented problems at the back to contend with and have a history of signing ex-Saints, some obviously more successful than others.
Not helping City’s defence is the fact that when it’s breached, Claudio Bravo isn’t proving as able a shot-stopper as the man he replaced, Joe Hart. The Chilean has blown hot and cold but remains defiant in the face of fierce criticism. City fans would prefer it, however, if he defended his goal as resolutely as he defends his own ability.