City have been more active in this transfer window than most clubs. In this article, I will look at how things are evolving as the season fast approaches.
Daniel Farke will have known, for months, his preferred system for the Premier League. He will either want a back three or he won’t, but which will it be? It is important to know because the systems are so fundamentally different and massively impact on how the remaining midfield and attack are set up and who is recruited to best suit that system.
First off, it is important to understand that the passing angles created with three centre-backs can mitigate the necessity for deep midfielders to beat the press and trigger the first pivot. The idea is that beating a press results in a numerical overload in more advanced areas of the pitch. Therefore, Billy Gilmour might not always be deemed necessary if we play a back three. However, persist with 4-2-3-1 and GIlmour is vital, because, like Mo Leitner or Tom Trybull before him, Farke has the player to beat the press.
In midfield, without Emi Buendia in attack, there is a necessity for passing and creativity. If Gilmour is taking the ball from the centre-backs as the first pivot, as a central defensive midfielder, he will not be the man capable of setting a tempo. This leaves a massive onus on what we assume Pierre Lees-Melou must surely be bringing to the party. Furthermore, if Farke wants a back three with both Kenny McLean and Lees-Melou then the only way of playing Gilmour as well is with 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1.
Let’s think about these systems for a moment. Playing all three central midfielders in 3-5-2 would mean a second striker, and we don’t have one. And it also means no space for Todd Cantwell, Milot Rashica or Kieran Dowell. So is that likely? I suspect not.
A few months ago I suggested we’d be best suited to 3-4-2-1 and why I still like the idea, with the recruitment so far, I no longer see that as being optimum because move Gilmour forward closer to Teemu Pukki, and we become woefully short of pace and height in attack.
But I think that we must play a new formation because without Buendia, I have no clue where our goals will come from at the moment. Pukki without Buendia is not a threat in the Championship, let alone the Premier League.
We will need players closer to Teemu in order for him to compensate. I personally would like to see is Cantwell and Rashica start closer to Pukki as an attacking three, but this necessitates ball-playing midfielders as well as defensive energy and if you play a back three, it makes that midfield combination very tricky to get right, and McLean wouldn’t be one of them.
I only see that with Lees-Melou and Gilmour together, which would be a very brave call from Farke (and that’s an assumption that the Frenchman is suited to the role). It could well be that McLean is now the odd one out, unless we persevere with 4-2-3-1, in which case I see all three possibly starting, but I think the left of defence, with Ben Gibson and Dimitris Giannoulis, will be a weak link in that system, at this level.
I cannot get my head around not signing players like Alex Mowatt on a free or why Championship strikers like Yakou Meite aren’t given their chance. Adam Idah skinning Ben Gibson and slotting past Michael McGovern in a training exercise is not a yardstick to measure potential. It is a fallacy that he is expected to cover for Pukki in either injury or as a substitute.
Mario Vrancic could change the shape of games from the bench, a type of player we no longer have in the squad. Alex Tettey could see out a game defensively, a change we no longer have available on the subs bench. Buendia and Oliver Skipp have not been replaced, by Colney’s own admission. We are four first-team starters down and we’ve brought only three outfield players in.
Please God, get another striker. Fundamentally, City are, as things stand, starting this season weaker than we finished the last season.
So although I’m excited, I don’t see a logical, tactical evolution with the summer transfers so far. Meanwhile, Brentford have gone about this logically. They’ve nailed their #1 targets for Matchday 1, probably for their starting 11, and they’ve spent about the same as us (without selling Ivan Toney in the process).
They paid the extra for Kris Ajer that City would rather pay for a development player. The Bees have also brought in Frank Onyeka and Myles Peart-Harris. These further two players are very well-known names in positions missing from our jigsaw. I see a clear plan with Brentford’s signings; I see them, logically, slotting into a basic, well-drilled formation and improving it immediately, but I don’t presently understand the immediate integration of our own summer signings.
I would have expected Stuart Webber to have had nailed-on transfer targets the day we were mathematically promoted, months ago, but that really does not seem to be the case at all. So far, I see supplementary players unexpectedly snapped up rather than core players chased down, as Brentford have done.
To be clear, I recognise transfers are ongoing and I am very excited about all three outfield signings so far. I see them as valuable and I can see clear opportunities for them but I just don’t see an obvious transition into the starting 11 without further changes first.
I think Norwich would be foolish to release Cantwell and we were promised record signings after Buendia, losing Todd shouldn’t be a necessity to keep that promise. I see the transfers so far as half the job done, and it’s been done well, so let’s keep it going.
But please Stuart, let’s have a dedicated striker amongst the rest of the incomings. Josh Sargent perhaps?
Who is Gilmore? We’ve also signed Billy Gilmour from Chelsea who is arguably the loan signing of the season. An exceptional talent. Everyone is aware the transfer window is still open and it isn’t as straight forward as Fifa or Championship Manager to buy players?
Gary Gowers says
Apologies Ian – blame the editor. Very poor on my part.
Andy Grey Rider says
Winning the Championship is a waste of excitement considering the impending doom and gloom of relegation.
I judge Farke and Webber on their achievements and securing a second season in the Premier League isn’t one!
David Bowers says
I consider myself a hard to please fan, but I’d say this is a touch harsh. Certainly we shouldn’t necessarily trumpet ‘two promotions’ without noting the second wasn’t possible without a relegation.
But we are now PL and investing more than last time. That’s certainly an improvement from when Webber/Farke took over.
Time will tell if we’ve invested wisely and until the new signings have had a decent spell, I’ll pass no judgement on them. If we can avoid relegation, then mission accomplished. If we’re relegated and Webber leaves, then we’ll tackle that situation when it happens.
It is certainly make-or-break time for whether Webber’s tenure really has been a success.
Alex B says
A very god read buy disappointed in no mention of Sorensen who just might prove his worth if given a chance in the team possibly as a DM
Bruce C says
Agreed. MFW authors seem to have collectively decided to ignore Sorensen (and Dowell to a large extent). There is also a worrying obsession with bulking the squad with journeyman Championship players.
martin penney says
You’d have to be bored totally mindless to actually do this, but if you scrolled through my post-match pieces last season you’ll find plenty of love for Jacob Lungi Sorensen in there when he was covering at LB!
Alex B says
Hi Martin yeah I know that with myself you rate him as an unsung hero of last season possibly will turn out to be another Tettey
Bruce C says
That’s more than fair Martin. I’m desperate enough to have a spreadsheet to remind me of what players we have for what areas of the pitch.
Alex B says
A lot of rumours are generated by agents trying to drum up interest in their clients and city is a prime target.
Journey men from the championship can help us possibly stay up next season if they are of the right calibre but then they will expect higher signing on fee and wages not easy to navigate this transfer window
Im not impressed about Norwich transfer policy this summer. Actually if I think about it, its overall bad. There has been 2, obviously very lucky transfers Pukki and Buendia which has made that promotion-relegation situation possible. Then you have academy where you sell players to better clubs, there is not much any idea to trying to keep them.
In every league, to avoid relegation you need that league experience to make it possible. Now Norwich is buying players which they hope that their valuation would raise. Its known that when english clubs are trying to buy players abroad, asking price raises and sometimes a lot. I dont see that as team building, in a way its financial gambling.
Lees-Melou should be a player who takes starting lineup place and will make team slightly better. Ligue 1 is in huge financial problems so clubs there are forced to sell players. I still remind that Ligue 1 is almost 100% surely going to be nr 6th in uefa rankings, portuguese league is going to be nr 5. There is no top 5 leagues, there is top 2 leagues and Serie A and Bundesliga are very even after that. Now that Norwich seems to buy more players from greek league, cyprus league for example has been slightly better. 3 leagues are going and have been going downhill (russian, greek and turkish). Werder Bremen seems to be another obsession to Norwich, Bremen surely is forced to sell basically all their players. There is always clear reasons why some team was last placed, obvious one is lack of quality. You are building a team to play next season in championship again + you gamble and buy basically only young players.
Interesting transfer which saw Grealish leaving Aston Villa. Villa surely is financially stronger to compete in premier league than Norwich, still that transfer proved that they are not really able to challenge top of it. Villa fans surely must be pissed off, when they bought Buendia it looked that they are trying to build something.
Bruce C says
Well short of finding a hugely wealthy owner (and I don’t see them queueing up to buy City) I can’t think of a better strategy than we have – as Webber said you only have look at League One to see the clubs that have gambled and failed.
Prem league experience is of course desireable but there are relatively few players who have proven themeselves at that level who are affordable and want to come to a newly promoted team.
Still, Messi is a free agent now so you never know!
I dont believe that fans are watching or following football because of finance. I believe that fans also in England wants to see football which is unpredictable and where clubs are financially as close as possible each other. 100% sure you will also get bored to relegation, promotion circle.
Messi is leaving because of la liga financial rules, this is surely one of the best things what la liga could have ever done.
Midfield Mike says
I wrote this a week ago so an update:
I’m very pleased with the latest 2 projected signings, especially Sarjeant. I’d be very surprised if they loan rather than a buy a fullback, at the remote risk of being ineligible for Skipp. They need to buy someone to eventually replace Aarons anyway.
Additionally, I’m a big fan of Sorensen, I just don’t mention him as I see no way of him starting any matches except for to cover Gibson or Giannoulis for injuries. I don’t mention Dowell because I think all of the signings are better than he and he’d already be behind Todd, by a long way, as an attacking midfielder.
The big takeaway is the base formation DF plumps for. My piece was more about juggling who fits in where accordingly. For example, 3-5-2 would likely mean Sarjeant and Rashica in my mind, to protect a lead, for example.
Is there any desire for the MFW regulars to meet for a beer against LFC?
martin penney says
You can always count me in Mike – get my email from Gary G and send me details.