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Three positions Pep Guardiola must improve at Manchester City

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Pep Guardiola does not take over at Manchester City until July 1 but the problems he faces in terms of personnel are already being widely speculated about. City's poor display across the two legs of their Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid was characterised by a porous defence and a lack of urgency and creativity going forward.

Guardiola will face a tough task in the summer in getting his player transactions right and wholesale changes are expected, with many of the current squad likely to be shown the door. City have problems all over the pitch and will need to spend an enormous sum of money to facilitate the new manager's ambitions and style of play.

There are a few squad members that will feel safe from being expendable and big decisions need to be made to purge those who do not fit the mould of Guardiola's brand of football. City have struggled for consistency a huge amount this season and these struggles are, in part, down to a number of injury prone players missing large chunks of the campaign.

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The so-called 'spine' of the team over the past few seasons has been the quartet of Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero, a combination that, when all fit and firing, rarely sees City on the wrong side of a result. However, injuries have seen their appearances on the same team sheet become scarce and aside from Aguero, it is no certainty that they will be at the Etihad next season.

Toure is likely to leave due to contract disputes and an unsavoury relationship with Guardiola stemming from his time at Barcelona, whilst it has been rumoured that the new manager would prefer a 'keeper with more ball playing ability than Hart, such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen. It would be no surprise to see both of these players leave but Kompany presents a more difficult decision.

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The club captain is inspirational and is simply world class when fit but his injury worries are becoming highly frustrating to both club and player. He has had a staggering 33 injuries in his eight seasons in Manchester and has only played 10 league games this season, missing a total of 24 weeks, mostly due to a recurring calf issue.

Whilst Kompany is an outstanding player and captain when fit, it might be time to cut the chains loose on the Belgian as his injuries are starting to outweigh his playing contributions. Sentiment should not be taken into account in this decision; football is a business at the end of the day and having a player on the sidelines contributing to an enormous wage bill is not good for business.

City have been heavily linked with Athletic Bilbao's young Spanish defender Aymeric Laporte and his arrival could signal the end of Kompany's time at the Etihad. This leads us to the first position that Guardiola should address upon his arrival in Manchester.

Centre Back

Kompany's injuries combined with less than stellar play from City's other central defenders have seen this become a huge problem area for the club this season. When Kompany plays alongside Nicolas Otamendi things seem to be solid at the back but once one or both are unavailable, things simply implode.

Real Madrid v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg

Eliaquim Mangala has been nothing but poor since his arrival from Porto in 2014 and will likely be on his way out this summer, whilst Martin Demichelis has never been cut out for Premier League football at the back. Otamendi has had his shaky moments but has progressed week-by-week since his arrival last summer and should continue to improve and stay in the new manager's plans largely due to his ball-playing ability.

The previously mentioned Laporte and also Everton's John Stones are two targets that City are likely to pursue aggressively in the transfer market and both would help to shore up the defence.

Left Back

City have a strange problem at left back which was more evident than ever in the game at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday. They have two players, in Gael Clichy and Aleksandar Kolarov, who are both capable of starting but offer such drastically different skill sets it is hard to decide who is a better player.

Real Madrid v Manchester City FC - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg

Clichy is certainly the better defender but offers virtually no attacking ambition, something that really hindered City against Real Madrid. He is hesitant to get forward despite his pace and his first instinct is to cut back inside and pass the ball backwards or sideways, a trait typical of right-footed players playing on the left, yet Clichy is as dominant a left footed player as you will find.

With Clichy in the lineup City have next to no attacking threat coming down the left-hand side and the left-sided attacking player is almost always isolated, meaning they become predictable with their only wide threat coming down the right. Contrastingly, Kolarov is an exceptional attacking left back who is keen to get forward and can whip in dangerous crosses with his strong left foot.

City are far more creative and penetrative going forward with Kolarov as it gives them balance but this, in turn, leaves them with defensive weaknesses. Kolarov is a reluctant defender - who should really play a midfield role - and is lazy when tracking back as well as being undisciplined with his positioning.

FBL-ENG-PR-MAN CITY-WEST BROM

Whichever player is in the starting lineup, there is a deficiency on one side of the ball. So, City are left with a quandary here and the best solution may be to sign a more rounded player like Wolfsburg's Ricardo Rodriguez, and let one of their current left-backs leave.

Central Midfield

City were overrun in the middle of the park by Luka Modric and Isco midweek, the Real Madrid duo persistently found space and time and completely outplayed City's midfield players. Even if Yaya Toure were to stay, there needs to be an injection of talent in this area. Guardiola will look to add a distributional midfield player as is a requirement in all his teams and Ilkay Gundogan is the most common name being linked with City at this moment in time.

Toure does not work hard enough nor play in the style that Guardiola likes and so it is unlikely that he will be around next season. City also have Fernando and Fernandinho in this position and it is unlikely that both will stay. They each have their strengths and weaknesses and have put in sound performances for the most part but neither has set the world alight, leaving them vulnerable to a summer exit.

Manchester City FC v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: First Leg

City may go after a young playmaker like Paul Pogba but he will cost them a huge amount of money and so Guardiola could look to bring in Tiago Alcantara - a player he has had at Barcelona and Bayern Munich and someone he trusts to play in his system.

Aside from these three areas, there are a few other positions that City will need to strengthen and we should expect some big name players to be on the way out this summer. Jesus Navas, Wilfried Bony and Samir Nasri could all leave and few would argue against the notion that all three have failed to make an impact this season.

Attacking players such as Antoine Griezmann and Leroy Sane have been linked with City and it is clear that Guardiola will look to sign young, impactful players to rejuvenate a largely ageing squad.

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Topics:
Wilfried Bony
Aleksandar Kolarov
Vincent Kompany
Football
Premier League
Gnegneri Toure Yaya
Samir Nasri
Manchester City
Sergio Aguero
Joe Hart
Gael Clichy

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