In order for City to progress next season, I believe it is imperative that the unrealised potential of certain current players be fully realised in conjunction with the limited transfer budget.
Put plainly, I have always thought that we impose 4-2-3-1 on to our best players when the alternative is to build a formation around the strengths of those players. The rebuild after losing Emi Buendia and Oliver Skipp gives Daniel Farke and Stuart Webber a blank canvas to start again.
Things to consider:
How to further improve last season’s defence *
How to improve ball retention and goals from midfield **
How to get Todd Cantwell scoring more ***
How to ensure chances are created for Teemu Pukki without Buendia? ***
Let’s look at the defence where some would prefer a switch to a back three. The transfer budget is probably limited to one centre-back of outstanding quality – such as Kristoff Ajer at Celtic or a loan bid for Joachim Andersen (Fulham/Lyon) – but consider the depth of our squad and it becomes clear we could also manage with injuries. We have Christoph Zimmerman and Andrew Omobamidele as cover, so a back three is viable.
The flanks are interesting. Assuming we sell Max Aarons, is there a chance of luring Connor Roberts from Swansea? The Swans are out of parachute payments and are cash-strapped, so I’d say that is a realistic proposition.
In central midfield, Kenny McLean is the only certain choice and has his limits, so is an area that needs strengthening. As a result, it was interesting to watch Poland hold Spain to a draw; a game in which Mateusz Klich dominated the midfield for Poland, much like Billy Gilmore did for Scotland against England.
If you can play Biesla-Ball, you can play Farkebal. With Klich, I’m sure the Pole would relish a starting role under Farke but moreover, you’d think Biesla would see the sense in getting big money for a squad player as he seeks to take Leeds into the top six next season – a possibility. Trading Max Aarons in a deal could be one option.
In attacking midfield, we only have two realistic options – Cantwell and Dowell – but choosing a formation that extracts their best qualities is crucial because both tended to be less effective in 4-2-3-1 when Buendia was absent from the team.
But in what other formation can you see the best of Todd or Kieran?
We cannot afford to replace them too, so we must complement their strengths. Adam Armstrong is an interesting proposition, but alienate him as a Buendia replacement on the right of an attacking three wouldn’t work in my view. An alternative would be to tweak our base formation and get him, like Cantwell, closer to Pukki, and then I can see a really strong case for a £10-15m bid. I think he’d be a shrewd buy only if you can play him appropriately.
As for the strikers, you can expect to halve Pukki’s output without Buendia even before factoring promotion. In the Premier League, teams worked out Pukki (regardless of the toe injury) and he stopped scoring halfway through the season.
So, on that basis, it’s not unreasonable to debate whether City might need to replace Pukki after losing Buendia. However, obviously, we cannot afford to replace the Finn, so surely we need to tweak the formation to compensate?
For me, the philosophy this summer needs to be about exploring the dormant potential of the existing squad and complimenting them with viable, cheeky transfers.
* There is no point paying £10-15m for Ajer if you are going to bench Gibson who already cost £8m. A viable alternative is to play a three-man defence and play them both. Grant Hanley in a three for Scotland kept at bay some of the reportedly best players in the world – Kane, Sterling, Foden, Rashford etc
** Hypothetically, persevering with Skipp and McLean, who scored three between them all last season, is not an improvement – it is the status quo. We need goals, height, and power to improve the midfield. Klich could be the answer, and he was instrumental in stopping Spain and can score at Premier League level.
*** In 2019/20 Cantwell started the Premier League campaign closer to Pukki as the central #10, and scored as many in the Premier League as he did playing from the left in the Championship. Pukki was scoring freely in the Premier League at that stage too. It is a tweak that was proven in the Premier League.
So, thinking out loud…
Giannoullis, McLean, (Skipp), Klich, Roberts
Gibson, (Andersen), Hanley, Ayer
Keep it fresh, keep it intuitive, keep it imaginative but keep it affordable.
Simply adapt and we can survive next season.
OTBC and enjoy your summer!
Bruce C says
There’s that word ‘tweak’ again, it gets uses a lot talking about our formation – “a fine adjustment to a mechanism or system”
This is a completely new formation, and I don’t dislike it but as you have alluded to it depends on the players we get through the door – If we get Skipp back then I don’t think it’s needed, without him then its a definite option as the central defenders could be horribly exposed without his wonderfully timed interventions. Also, the 5 at the back is great for crosses if your fullbacks can get forward effectively (Giannoullis yes) but converting crosses isn’t Pukki’s strongpoint…
Its a conundrum and I need to curb my impatience at seeing if we can pull a few rabbits from the transfer hat.
It all gets the brain working though so thanks for posting!
“Midfield Mike” says
Cheers Bruce. The word tweak was used solely on Adam Armstrong alone and how to play him if we are going to spend 10-15m on such players. A 4’ lone striker in the Prem with our team would be a joke, not to mention it means dropping Pukki, which is a debate for another day. So if City want to blow some money on Armstrong, we’d have to tweak how he plays without wasting his goalscoring prowess to the far right of the midfield, where he plainly isn’t quick enough to play anyway. Cheers
At 31 Klich does not exactly fit the profile of a Webber/Farke purchase so I do not see that happening in a month of Sundays.
martin penney says
Another good read.
I think most of us are probably concerned that without Buendia, Pukki might struggle to rack ’em up at PL level. 3-5-2 does seem like a good idea right now, but that depends on who comes through the door of course.
For what it’s worth I agree with ScotCan [above] that Klich is a non-starter.
About yesterday, Belgium proved why they are top football nation. Very one sided game, Finland didnt have single scoring chance. Belgium manager Martinez said that he asked his players 100% defensive concentration all game because Finland has very sharp strikers and if you let Finland to score first, game is impossible. Like always 2 best players of Finland, Hradecky and Kamara were brilliant. Problem is that is not enough at least against the very best football nations. In 5-3-2 or 3-5-2 problem was all the time, that wing backs Uronen and especially Raitala are way more full backs than wing backs. So the playing becomes very defensive if your wing backs are not able to attack. Also everyone could easily see why Roman Eremenko was so much wanted to be part of team, he is very creative attacking midfielder and Robin Lod is different type of player.
Mr Kanerva was blind to play Teemu Pukki all the time. Its difficult of course after all his vital goals before, but we had Marcus Forss in our roster. Teemu wanted so much to play in major tournament, but he was blind too about himself. Im not judging his tournament as disaster, but honestly if his name would not have been Pukki he would have been sit on bench more than playing. Kanerva basically humiliate our young talents Valakari and Forss. Forss got only few minutes in whole tournament and Valakari zero. Also because Pohjanpalo had very impressive tournament, it made Teemus tournament look even worse. Pohjanpalo played in his level, his scoring stats tells he has scored in every 94 minutes and everyone see why. Its just, he is little bit of gamble because of his very brutal playing style which have caused him injuries. If he is now able to avoid injuries, he should be banging plenty of goals where ever he plays next.
Euro tournament is to players huge market window, to many times its enough that they have been part of it even without playing time. So far Finlands players Joni Kauko has wrote contract with indian top club. He told before he had plenty of offers and will choose a club which is best to his life. Overall very finnish player transfer and likely he quit playing for national team and has every right to be disappointed his playing time in tournament. Teemu has by the way been hot topic in Turkey, again its Besiktas but this time they can offer him sure champions league group stage participation.
Kamara is a player I really like the look of – he has done well for Rangers, especially this last season just completed. Valued it seems at around £5M, told by his Finnish national manager to play at a higher level, a cheeky bid might not go amiss (the right age at 25 also).
I suspect that he will get offers from Europe with European playing time on offer.
Transfermarkt is nonsense place to look those player values. Rangers will not sell him under 10 million, maybe not under 20. He is transfer without much risk, plays regularly very well. He is also counted in England as homegrown player, im surprised if he stays in Scotland no matter they got champions league qualification football to offer. He has also 3 games ban in european cup games.
Pohjanpalo is valued in transfermarkt as 2 million. He was asked about it and he said that Leverkusen will never ever sell him with so low offer. It was before tournament. Guys/children who makes those value predicts are undervaluing finnish players very much but its not only nationality which gets their ridiculous low valuations. Armenia Bielefeld commented rumors about Pohjanpalo, that its financially impossible to them to buy him even they would of course take him if it would be possible.
To both these 2 this was good tournament, it was good also for Jere Uronen (Genk) and he is leaving Genk this summer. Kamara of course is player what we follow closely and to be honest scottish premiership is not league which is suitable to him no matter how many times they would be champions there.
Midfield Mike says
The problem with 3-5-2 is that we don’t have a second striker, Pukki doesn’t play well* with a second striker and there is no room for either Cantwell or Dowell regardless of a second strikerin 3-5-2.
However, I think 3-5-2 is appropriate for any newly promoted team, but I don’t think City can afford NOT to play certain guys, because they can’t afford to replace them as well as reinforce. I’m not bothered about Klich, I’ve offered numerous other suggestions like Mowatt, Grimes, Johansen at QPR etc.
The important thing is that the formation facilitates an immediate defensive transition into deep blocks as quickly as an opponent can counter attack…. something which we struggle to do from 4-2-3-1 attacking overloads. Skipp kept our heads above water toooooo many times last season.
*Pukki was brilliant in partnership with Rhodes in 2019 when Buendia dropped behind them but we’ve neither that type of second striker of ingenuity of Emi anymore,
Imagination and Innovation ? Divine Intervention needed more likely to stay up next season. Hoping the club can mastermind some exciting transfers in the next few weeks before pre season starts. OTBC
Alex B says
It’s OK for us armchair Fantasy football manager suggesting what systems could or should be used and I bet SW and DF are mulling over every permutations that we know and don’t know for a successful outcome this season.
In the article there was no mention of possible a star player for the DM role in Sorensen and that is his preferred position and it is only Skipps preformences last season that saw him play out of position.
Now being over 70 nostalgia comes to bite at funny times but putting up 4-3-2-1 I am now humming one of my favourite songs as in 5-4-3-2-1 its the Manfreds