In Manchester City’s last 8 fixtures in all competitions, a centre-back has deputised at right-back.
With Kyle Walker being out of action for a lengthy spell due to suffering an untimely groin injury, either John Stones or Manuel Akanji have filled in an unfamiliar position for Pep Guardiola.
Despite Joao Cancelo being a natural right-back by trade, Oleksandr Zinchenko’s summer switch to Arsenal has meant the Portuguese defender has had to continue operating at left-back in the Englishman’s absence.
In an otherwise near-perfect squad, there seems to be a chink in the Sky Blues’ armour at full-back, with only Walker and Cancelo available to Guardiola as established options.
With the Premier League champions gunning for silverware on multiple fronts as per standard procedure, there are 3 key reasons why they must bring in a brand-new full-back as soon as in January.
Kyle Walker’s potential physical regression
Just last season, Kyle Walker missed an alarming 10 games in all competitions due to injury.
After making an emergency return for Manchester City’s 3-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the 2nd leg of the Champions League semi-final, the 32-year old sustained yet another knock that kept him out for the remainder of the campaign.
With Walker already being out of contention for 8 games across all fronts this term, it would be naïve to brush off the ageing defender’s injury woes as a mere one-off.
Furthermore, the England international has not started in ideal fashion on the pitch as well so far this season, with his appalling display against Newcastle United instantly springing to mind, where he struggled to keep pace with Allan Saint-Maximin from the very off.
In a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa, the former Tottenham Hotspur star was surprisingly lax in possession for a player who has hit unseen heights technically under Pep Guardiola’s guidance over the years.
While this is not to suggest that Kyle Walker has fallen from grace, the decline of the great N’Golo Kante since the previous campaign is an indicator that a potential physical regression can catch up on the very best in the business.
With Walker’s availability as well as his form being in question, scouring the market for a reinforcement at right-back could prove to be excellent foresight.
Sergio Gomez being one for the future
Despite being a natural right-winger by trade, Sergio Gomez took to the left-back role like a duck to water under Vincent Kompany’s keen eye last season, and ended up winning RSC Anderlecht’s Player of the Season.
With David Ornstein of the Athletic reporting that the Spaniard was brought in as a ‘high-potential development talent,’ it was stated that he would been signed by the club, regardless of Oleksandr Zinchenko’s exit.
So much so that it has previously been mentioned that Gomez was initially set for a season-long loan to City’s sister club, Troyes in Ligue 1, before he was asked to stay put at the Etihad Stadium.
While the 21-year old seems to have the minerals to become the archetypal Guardiola left-back one day, it is telling that all his starts have come as a part of rotated sides in the Champions League so far.
With the ex-Borussia Dortmund starlet yet to make his first Premier League start, it’s clear to see that the club still reckon he has a way to go before he is ready to operate at the highest level.
As Gomez seems to be a project signing, Manchester City are effectively operating with a mere two senior full-backs, which emphasises why reinforcements remain key for a side with such lofty ambitions.
Managing Joao Cancelo’s minutes
Due to Sergio Gomez yet to establish his presence in the blue side of Manchester, it has been virtually impossible for Pep Guardiola to drop Joao Cancelo so far this campaign.
While a safety net in the form of Oleksandr Zinchenko was at the Catalan boss’ disposal last term, such is not the case this time around.
However, Cancelo was still the most played outfield player at the club in the league in the 2021/2022 season.
With the same being the case this season as well as the versatile full-back being a guaranteed starter for Portugal at the Qatar World Cup, it is key for City to bring in a fresh face at the back to give one of the side’s most key players a much-needed breather during the business end of the season.