Spurs star Walker the perfect upgrade for Guardiola’s new-look Manchester City

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A freshening up of the ranks is taking place at the Etihad Stadium, with additions being sought which better fit the philosophies of the club's coach


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It is, quite literally, a case of out with the old and in with the new at Manchester City.

A process which started last summer with the acquisitions of Leroy Sane, John Stones and Gabriel Jesus has been accelerated by Pep Guardiola in 2017.

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The Catalan coach inherited an ageing squad at the Etihad Stadium, with a cycle which had lifted City to two Premier League titles very much on a downward curve.

In many ways, the situation in the blue half of Manchester was not all that dissimilar to that over in the red when Sir Alex Ferguson slipped into retirement.

He did so aware that he had taken those at his disposal as far as he could and David Moyes, unlike Guardiola, did not act quickly enough to freshen up ranks which included the likes of Rio Ferdinand, Ryan Giggs, Nemanja Vidic, Michael Carrick, Robin van Persie and Darren Fletcher.

Kyle Walker Tottenham 11-17

City still found room for their experienced heads in 2016-17, but ensured that they were complemented and assisted by the exuberance of youth and those approaching or already at the supposed peak years of their career.

Things have been taken one step further over recent weeks with the release of 30-somethings Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Willy Caballero and Jesus Navas.

Yes, Yaya Toure has been handed a new one-year deal, but he is the exception rather than the norm.

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With the decks starting to clear, little time has been wasted in the pursuit of younger alternatives better suited to Guardiola’s philosophy of football, with £43 million spent on 22-year-old midfielder Bernardo Silva and £35 million on 23-year-old goalkeeper Ederson.

City are planning once again not only for the present, but for the future as well.

There are still holes to be plugged, but money is not an issue when you are bankrolled by someone with pockets as deep as Sheikh Mansour and there are several more names in the pot that could end up at the Etihad once the window re-opens and the summer transfer scramble gets into full swing.

  Chances created Assists Crosses Dribbles Tackle success Recoveries
Zabaleta 110 14 296 86 74.04 573
Sagna 44 4 119 19 65.59 217
  Passes Touches Duels won Aerial won Interceptions Mins played
Zabaleta 6362 9812 850 207 275 11987
Sagna 2880 4091 293 165 76 4533

Among those mooted to be targets are a number of fresh-faced performers who appear tailor-made for a City side looking to embrace a ball-playing system which leans heavily on technical ability and relentless work rate.

Kyle Walker is one such fancy, with the England international ticking many of the required boxes.

With Zabaleta and Sagna moved on, City need to find a new right-back and have surprised nobody by turning their attention to a man who embodies the modern day demands of those in his chosen position.

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He is slightly older than many of the others being pursued, at 27, but still has many years ahead of him and would ensure that vital Premier League experience is retained within the ranks, while also adding to the list of home-grown talents in top-flight and Champions League squads.

Walker would offer much more than those intangibles, though, with the Tottenham defender an obvious upgrade on those who have gone before him.

Kyle Walker Tottenham 11 17

Zabaleta was a cult hero at City, and rightly so, while Sagna was a solid option who could be relied upon to do a job whenever needed.

Neither, though, were particularly fleet of foot or renowned for their buccaneering bursts down the flanks – they may have made such moves on occasion, but their strengths lay more in the defensive third than the attacking one.

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Walker, in contrast, blurs those lines.

A desire to get forward can be a stick with which to beat players of his ilk at times but, with out-and-out wingers now a dying breed, full-backs are required to offer the width and delivery which allows those in more central posts to flourish.

Guardiola has, in fairness, embraced the use of widemen, with Sane and Raheem Sterling exciting options that would likely welcome the support of another energetic performer alongside them to offer both cover going backwards and support when pushing on the front foot.

 

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It may take some £45 million to tempt Spurs into a sale, but Walker has hinted at opening the transfer door with his post-season activity on social media and Mauricio Pochettino already has a ready-made replacement on his books in Kieran Trippier – while interest in Bournemouth’s Adam Smith has been speculated upon.

City, then, should be looking to roll the dice and sign another big-money cheque.

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Walker’s numbers since making the breakthrough at White Hart Lane in 2011-12 help to highlight how profitable he could be when picking up a baton left behind by Zabaleta – with a man who has 25 international caps to his name offering more in the areas that Guardiola places greater emphasis on.

More chances created, assists, crosses and dribbles show how useful he can be as an offensive weapon, while his passing figures will be welcomed by the creator of ‘tiki-taka’ and his defensive figures relating to recoveries, interceptions, tackles and duels won are not too shabby either.

There is, of course, never any guarantee of success in deals such as this, but having endured a first trophyless season of his distinguished coaching career, Guardiola needs to make the most of opportunities to acquire players that fit his mould while offering relatively little risk.

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