“Not another attacking midfielder. How many does Pep Guardiola need?”
It has been a common comment in the last few days, as Jack Grealish’s £100million move to Manchester City became a reality, and not just from rival supporters.
There are Blues fans out there who wonder why -—given the incredible array of talent already at Guardiola’s fingertips — he would add yet another one.
Some have even suggested that the most costly player in British football history could end up as an expensive bench-warmer, once Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Ferran Torres and Kevin De Bruyne are back up to speed, to add to the pre-season class already being shown by Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan.
The illusion is that City have a vast, bloated squad, with more players than they know what to do with, and simply keep adding to it.
That is despite the fact that the Blues actually had the fourth SMALLEST squad in the Premier League last season, with fewer players than Liverpool, Manchester United and the rest of their rivals — just 22 stars.
The mirage is created by the fact that City have so much quality, and so many transfer dollars, crammed into their relatively small squad.
As for why they need Grealish, a look at the midfield and forward assets available to City and, say, neighbours United, reveals exactly why.
It is necessary to lump midfield and attack in together for these purposes, as pinning down players like Foden or Daniel James as one or the other is virtually impossible in today’s game.
But United have a staggering 15 midfielders/forwards available to them in the coming season, if you do not count the unshakeable Andreas Pereira — namely Paul Pogba, Juan Mata, Jese Lingard, Fred, Bruno Fernandes, Amad Diallo, James, Nemanja Matic, Donny van de Beek, Scott McTominay, Edinson Cavani, Anthony Martial, Marcus Rashford, Mason Greenwood, and now Jadon Sancho.
Yet no-one batted an eyelid when Sancho joined the Reds for £73million last week.
By contrast, City — after adding Grealish — are up to 11 midfielders/forwards: Grealish, Gundogan, Rodri, De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Fernandinho, Foden, Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, Torres, and Mahrez.
It is quickly forgotten that in the past two summers, City have lost Leroy Sane, David Silva and Sergio Aguero, and have only brought in Torres and now Grealish as replacements.
So even if they sign Harry Kane as well, they will simply be back where they were — in terms of a trim first-team squad — three years ago.
Aguero during his presentation as a Barcelona player.
And that is not factoring in the very real possibility that the new arrival could pave the way for Bernardo Silva to be released, providing somebody offers a sufficient fee, while there is still a chance Gabriel Jesus could also go.
Guardiola expressed his admiration for Grealish in 2019, when he also suggested that City could not afford him , which is perhaps an indication that the Blues had already sounded out the £100million release clause.
The City boss aid then: “He’s incredible. A top player. I’m happy he stayed in the Championship to defend his club when he could have gone.
“He’s a talented player. He’s fast in the final third, vision and he always creates something. He is an exceptional player but too expensive for Manchester!”
The manager and the rest of the acquisition team clearly believes Grealish has since shown enough to suggest that he will add greater quality to the squad.
In terms of the central midfielder, the Blues have been a player down since Silva left, although the versatility of Foden and Bernardo has pretty much papered over any cracks that might normally have shown.
The truth is that Grealish brings those numbers up to speed, and joins a fairly small, high-quality squad, not a bloated, unwieldy entity.