Pep Guardiola analyses FA Cup semi-final defeat
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A handful of Manchester City players could soon be fighting for their starting spots under Pep Guardiola amid reports that the club have agreed a lucrative wage package with Borussia Dortmund goal-machine Erling Haaland. The Norwegian has a £63million release clause which is set to be activated this summer, and despite other elements of the deal making it a mammoth investment, the Sky Blues are believed to be in pole position to land his signature. Haaland’s prospective arrival at the Etihad would be hugely exciting for fans, but could spell bad news for four stars in particular.
The England international has struggled to find a home in the City XI since his Premier League record £100m move from Aston Villa last summer. Having struggled out wide and in midfield, Guardiola has found joy in fielding Grealish through the middle and he found the net against Liverpool in Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final defeat.
Haaland’s arrival would see that spot taken, however. Grealish would therefore be forced back out wide with stiff competition for minutes against Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling, or back into the middle of the park where Guardiola has shown a reluctance to field the 26-year-old due to the defensive demands that come with the role.
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If Grealish is pushed back into midfield, Phil Foden could follow him despite the sparkling youngster’s electric performances as Guardiola’s false nine. Gundogan would therefore face increased competition for minutes in an area of the field already extremely well-stocked for the Sky Blues.
Gundogan sensationally scored 17 goals in all competitions last term, but remains something of a rotation option as permanently displacing Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri or Bernardo Silva has proven virtually impossible. Haaland’s arrival could make life even tougher.
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City fans have found it tricky not to make comparisons to Sergio Aguero since the £14m January signing of young Argentine striker Julian Alvarez. The 22-year-old was loaned back to River Plate and has continued scoring at an impressive rate, notching seven senior caps for the national team to boot.
Alvarez is expected to join up with the Sky Blues at the end of the season, but his lethal finishing is highly unlikely to be enough to edge ahead of Haaland in the pecking order – particularly given the Norwegian’s reported £500,000-a-week wages. The likes of Kelechi Iheanacho and Gabriel Jesus have proven that it is possible to forge a career at City while posing as a second-string striker, but Alvarez may not have the free reign that he hoped for.
City fans can be forgiven for getting excited about 19-year-old Delap, who racked up 24 goals in 20 Under-23 matches last season. Some went as far as to say that the striker has something of a Haaland-like quality about him, with a commanding 6ft 1in frame and a powerful running style.
But the Dortmund man’s arrival in Manchester would naturally make Delap’s path to the first team that much murkier. At such a young age there is plenty of time to prove his worth, but it may take a loan spell to do that unless he is content to work with extremely limited opportunities.
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