The strangest thing about Manchester City’s current malaise is how normal it all seems.
Since the 14-game winning streak that saw them clinch the Premier League title, Pep Guardiola’s expensively assembled side have experienced moments of brilliance rather than looking like the well-oiled machine who broke records on these shores.
This isn’t a tale of a great team crashing and burning - much as it wasn’t during the Spaniard’s fourth season with Barcelona - it’s a team seemingly coming to the end of its cycle. There just isn’t a huge amount of emotion in that.
Nine defeats last season saw their form drop dramatically and, this time out, they sit in 8th position and five points off the top.
With Guardiola’s contract running out at the end of the season, these are uncertain times for a club who seemingly based their success on a level certainty.
Be it building a regime ready for him to slot into upon his 2016 arrival or identifying the 2017 signings that would make them title-winners ahead of time so the summer moved smoothly, the ‘typical City’ tag of leaving things late seemed a thing of the past.
Since then, they’ve largely been reactive.
There didn't seem to be a plan to replace Vincent Kompany at the time and the same applies to the case of David Silva too.
In 2018-19, they still had the core of a squad to win the league title having only just amounted 100 points, but 2019-20 and the early part of 2020-21 look to be along similar lines to each other.
The recruitment has been a major problem. For a side boasting the riches City can can to have not signed a left-back in the last few years and have Liam Delap as their third-choice striker is frankly unacceptable.
With that in mind, GiveMeSport have ranked the last 7 major Manchester City signings based on their suitability to the squad at the time of their arrivals.
While Angelino looked a completely different player at times amid RB Leipzig's run to the Champions League semi-finals, his time at City was poor.
Brought back to the club in 2018 after being signed as a promising youngster six years earlier, the Spaniard proved unable to impose himself on first-team proceedings even amid Benjamin Mendy's struggles with fitness and form in equal measure.
6) Joao Cancelo
Of late, Joao Cancelo has started to get more of a run in the side but the hugely expensive £60m swap deal involving Danilo and Juventus looks somewhat ill-advised.
The Portuguese does, of course, offer cover and competition to Kyle Walker but, considering the desperate need for a left-back last summer, surely signing a natural option there would have been a better use of funds.
Guardiola has opted to deploy the 26-year-old there but he has been criticised at times by the likes of Sam Lee for his lack of suitability in that particular berth.
5) Riyad Mahrez
Strengthening any side after a 100-point campaign is a nigh-on impossible job.
However, following a £60m arrival in 2018, it's still not really clear as to why City signed Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City.
Despite missing out on Alexis Sanchez (thankfully) Guardiola still had Leroy Sane to go alongside Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and Bernando Silva in forward positions as well as Phil Foden.
With Sane now gone, the Algerian does feature heavily but that only works when applying hindsight. During his first season, he sat out 12 Premier League games despite being their club record signing at the time.
The Mahrez deal also came before Rodri signed and added some crucial cover to Fernandinho so perhaps that money would have been better spent elsewhere.
4) Nathan Ake
City's long wait for a central defensive back-up finally ended this summer when Nathan Ake was signed from Bournemouth for £41m.
A Premier League-proven player no doubt but, considering the Dutchman is naturally left-footed, was he ever really likely to start alongside Aymeric Laporte? Pundits such as Jamie Carragher have debated this topic.
It's hard to deny that he was a necessary signing, however.
3) Ferran Torres
Another reactionary signing after Sane's sale to Bayern Munich and the crisis engulfing Valencia.
Still, Ferran Torres does give City something they've lacked since the German was injured during last season's Community Shield - genuine pace to mirror that of Raheem Sterling's on the opposite flank.
Though not naturally left-footed like Sane, he was able to cut inside and score after a Champions League goal against Porto and offers another counter-attacking outlet, much as City had in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Though Rodri's signing did coincide with what seems to be the end of this trophy-laden Manchester City cycle, the 24-year-old has answered the Fernandinho problem.
A defensive midfielder capable of recycling possession (averaging 83.4 attempted passes a game at a success rate of 93.8/%), the Spaniard has started every game this season and represents a long-term option in the anchor role, as well as a potential partner for the veteran Brazilian in tough away games.
After so long waiting for a player in this kind of mould, he was an ideal signing.
1) Ruben Dias
The chase of Kalidou Kouliably this summer may have ultimately proved fruitless but, in Ruben Dias, City have a leader at the back.
These are still early days of course but The Athletic have spoken about the leadership qualities the former Benfica man has shown earlier in his career.
Even more crucially, the 23-year-old has already won more aerial duels (3) than any other City player this season, suggesting he will at least provide more of a force off the ground.
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