Despite winning his first six league games in charge of Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has not enjoyed his time in England. The Spaniard has struggled to find a rhythm with his new club. This left some to question whether or not he’s as good as advertised, and his previous two super clubs made him look better than he is. There is some truth to that but not in the way you might think. Manchester City is not as good as either Bayern Munich or Barcelona, and as a result, Guardiola has struggled as manager. City’s roster is woefully unsuited to Guardiola’s style.
Since it’s still the middle of the January transfer window, we’ll look at five players that City could sign to them a much more Guardiola flavor. While some, if not all of these players wouldn’t likely move to Manchester until the summer, it’s worth noting that Guardiola might have to make due with what he has at his disposal until next season. Their newest signing, Gabriel Jesus, would have featured on this list, but he’s already made his way to the Etihad.
Let’s start with the most realistic transfer available here. Juan Bernat is a player Guardiola knows well. The 23-year-old Spanish left back fills perhaps City’s biggest weakness. If he could pick a former Bayern full back to bring to Manchester, he’d probably opt for David Alaba, but Bayern wouldn’t part with the young Austrian. Instead, Pep could opt for Bernat instead. Bernat hasn’t played much this season, as Carlo Ancelotti certainly favors the aforementioned Alaba.
Primer entrenamiento del año en Munich! // First training session of the year in Munich! ❄️❄️ pic.twitter.com/oLfsmIoG5W
— Juan Bernat (@JuanBernat) January 13, 2017
When Bernat has played, he’s arguably outperformed Alaba at times. He’s good with the ball at his feet and has one of Europe’s highest passing rates for a left back, albeit in a limited number of appearances. Guardiola knows exactly what he’s getting with Bernat, and would take little time getting accustomed to his former boss’ system. Bernat isn’t a big splash, but he’s certainly better than City’s current left back option.
Another Bundesliga player that Guardiola would love to have in his squad is 21-year-old German international Julian Weigl. The Borussia Dortmund midfielder is a typical Guardiola player. He’s smart with the ball and his passing is otherworldly. Weigl’s completed 92% of his passes this season, much better than Kevin De Bruyne’s 81.2%. Weigl plays more of a defensive midfielder role, however, and his size might not gel with the Premier League’s physicality, but the Bundesliga is nearly as tough and his positioning and intelligence more than make up for his size.
[link_box id=”23195″ site_id=”158″ layout=”link-box-third” alignment=”alignright”]Toni Kroos
If Guardiola wanted more of a seasoned version of Weigl, and if City wanted to go for a bigger name, then Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos could be another name worth consideration. The World Cup winner played a season for Guardiola at Bayern in 2013-14 and knows what it takes to play for the coach. Guardiola wanted to keep Kroos following the World Cup, but the Bayern board opted to sell him to Madrid that summer. Guardiola wasn’t pleased to have lost such a prolific playmaker. Kroos would surely force a player like de Bruyne to play in a wide position, but that’s not uncommon for the Belgian. Kroos’ superior playmaking would work well with Sergio Aguero, Leroy Sane, and de Bruyne. Whether or not Madrid would be willing to part with him is another story altogether.
Probably the most important aspect of a Pep Guardiola side is the ability to play out from the back. It’s a primary reason Joe Hart was replaced by Claudio Bravo. However, Guardiola’s back four also need to be well adapted to playing with the ball at their feet. While Nicolás Otamendi and John Stones are good passers of the ball, their defensive ability leaves something to be desired. Stones is young and could be a formidable defender with time, but Guardiola surely wouldn’t mind another ball-playing centre-back who’s tough on the opposing forwards. Athletico Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte would be a great fit.
Statistically, Laporte doesn’t have the same kind of passing success, but he’s not by any means poor at it. What he is gifted at is defending. He’s quick and a good tackler. Guardiola needs a quick defender to deal with counters, the Achilles heel of his system. Laporte has proven capable at this over the years, and he’s still young. The French centre-back has been linked with moves all around Europe recently, so this deal isn’t a pipe dream. He wouldn’t be cheap, however.
Rounding out this list is another fullback. Benfica star Alejandro Grimaldo is a prototypical Guardiola fullback. He’s quick, he has great attacking instincts and most importantly can play that intricate style of passing Guardiola preaches. A bonus for Guardiola is the Portuguese fullback is great on set pieces as well, typically something Guardiola’s teams struggle with. Grimaldo has scored a pair of goals this season and picked up a few assists. Grimaldo has been linked with a move to City in the past, and given Guardiola’s terrible need for wide defenders, now might be the time to revisit those rumors. Grimaldo is the kind of player that could become Guardiola’s new Dani Alves.