Manchester City's left-back dilemma: Guerreiro, Gomez & Guardiola's possible solutions to problem position

Pep Guardiola Marc Cucurella Oleksandr Zinchenko GFXGetty/GOAL

Throughout Pep Guardiola's six years at the Etihad Stadium, Manchester City have never really had a settled left-back. And it's proving a problem yet again, with the Premier League champions allowing Oleksandr Zinchenko to join Arsenal in the summer without, so far, being unable to find a replacement.

Marc Cucurella was identified as the top target but City never came close to matching Brighton's valuation of the former Barcelona defender and Chelsea snapped him up for a staggering £62 million ($75m).

It's been more than five years since City last bought a left-back in Benjamin Mendy, who has been the least successful signing of the Guardiola era.

The creative Catalan has managed to get by in the interim, successfully redeploying midfielders such as Zinchenko and Fabian Delph as left-backs, or moving across centre-backs to fill the void.

However, with just three weeks of the transfer window remaining, City are once again looking for a viable long-term solution to their one problem position...

  • Rayan Ait-Nouri Wolverhampton Getty Images

    New Signing

    Missing out on Cucurella was a blow with the former La Masia Academy player seen as someone who would fit in well working under Guardiola.

    But after just one season in the Premier League following last summer's switch from Getafe, City weren't prepared to pay a figure that makes him the most expensive left-back in history.

    Sources have indicated that the club are still exploring options for a new arrival before the transfer window closes.

    But with time running down to a deadline and City's need for a left-back well-known, getting a deal done may not be easy.

    City have looked at a number of potential arrivals including Borussia Dortmund's Raphael Guerreiro, Rayan Ait-Nouri of Wolves, and Stuttgart's Borna Sosa, but no official moves have been made yet.

  • Sergio Gomez

    Sergio Gomez

    City are closing in on a deal for the Anderlecht left-back, although a final agreement is still to be reached.

    The 21-year-old is being signed as a development player and could be loaned out to sister-club Girona in Spain's top flight.

    However, it hasn't been discounted that Gomez could remain at the Etihad Stadium, particularly if another new left-back doesn't arrive before the close of the transfer window.

    Gomez is another player to begin his career in Barca’s youth academy La Masia and was highly-rated before he moved to Borussia Dortmund in 2018.

    After two years on loan in Spain with Huesca, he moved to Anderlecht and had a standout season under former coach Vincent Kompany, with five goals and 12 assists as an attacking full-back.

  • Joao Cancelo Manchester City 2021-22Getty

    Joao Cancelo

    Any new arrival at the Etihad is certain to be competing with Cancelo for a starting spot.

    He may be right-footed, but the Portuguese defender is one of those players that seems to have the same impact whichever flanks he starts on.

    Having already played three seasons under Guardiola is also a significant feather in Cancelo's cap, given many players take a lot of time to get to grips with the former Barcelona coach's demands.

    Cancelo struggled in his first year, but has developed into one of the best full-backs in the world, whether stationed on the left or the right.

    Guardiola would be happy to have him and Kyle Walker as his two first-choice options but it would leave them short on back-up, particularly for a club determined to fight for all four major trophies.

  • Josh Wilson-Esbrand Manchester City 2022-23Getty

    Josh Wilson-Esbrand

    Still only 19, the Academy player impressed in a pre-season friendly against Bayern Munich, with many believing he could become Cancelo's deputy.

    Signed from West Ham, he has so far only made one senior appearance, in the Carabao Cup victory over Wycombe Wanderers, when he assisted a goal for Riyad Mahrez.

    But he was on the bench for City's Community Shield clash with Liverpool and the Premier League opener against West Ham.

    Wilson-Esbrand has impressed for the EDS side, scoring a spectacular solo goal away to Club Bruges, but has been troubled by knee and muscular problems.

    "If we can control his injuries, we will have a full-back for many years," Guardiola said after the victory over Bayern in July.

  • Nathan Ake Manchester City 2022-23Getty

    Nathan Ake

    The centre-back was another option mentioned by Guardiola after City's failed pursuit of Cucurella.

    Only a few weeks ago, Ake looked to be also heading to Stamford Bridge but no agreement was reached.

    Guardiola has assured the Dutchman that he is part of his plans and he has started City's first two matches alongside Ruben Dias.

    But competition will be intense, with John Stones looking to reclaim his starting place, as will Aymeric Laporte when he returns from a knee injury in the coming weeks.

    “Getting into the team has been the challenge since I've been here," Ake said on the pre-season tour. "We've got a very good squad, so I’ll play anywhere."

  • Kalvin Phillips

    'Some surprises'

    "Josh is there, Joao is there, Nathan can be there, and there are some surprises we can do," Guardiola said about his left-back options ahead of the West Ham match.

    It was the cryptic final option of those four alternatives that is intriguing, particularly for those that want to see how such a progressive coach will take the game forward.

    There was perhaps a glimpse of it in the 2-0 victory over the Hammers when Walker and Cancelo spent much of the match playing as central midfielders either side of Rodri.

    He has briefly experimented with the tactic before, but mostly with one full-back tucked in, however it was a move that Hammers' boss David Moyes said his side couldn't cope with.

    If Guardiola develops the strategy, it could see a player such as Kalvin Phillips or even someone more attacking take on the role, just as Zinchenko and Delph were able to adapt at left-back in the past.