The one transfer that solves Manchester City’s problems

We have come a long way since every bloke and his dog were anointing Manchester City Premier League champions in September. Between then and now their title challenge has fallen off the rails a little, while Pep Guardiola seems to have as well.

Not only are their defensive issues holding them back, but at the moment City are also encountering major issues in midfield and Guardiola clearly does not have the players he would desire.

Ilkay Gundogan had been in good form before an injury ruled him out for several months – not that City paid attention to that – Fernando’s strengths don’t go much further than being a destroyer and he’s even been poor at that, Fernandinho has been unable to fully impose himself against the best teams and  Yaya Toure is being deployed too deep.

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Against Liverpool, City were particularly ineffective in midfield, with Fernandinho not the kind of distributor Guardiola would usually pick in a deep role and Toure was cumbersome, laborious and poor in possession.

Their need for something new was laid bare. There may be an answer on the horizon, though.

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Steven N’Zonzi is being strongly linked with a move to City and would be a fine addition.

In Spain, the former Stoke City man has developed into a fine midfield pivot, with his excellent ball control and passing range helping him become one of the league’s best in his position. Genuinely.

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But what makes the current speculation interesting is that Jesus Navas and Samir Nasri – already at Sevilla on loan – could be included in the deal as a straight swap.

Now, perhaps seeing Nasri leave permanently would not be something to shout about considering his season so far, but his bonkers recent social media storm shows he comes with a lot of baggage, and it’s unlikely he will ever command a first-team place at City again. So why not make use of him in a swap for a much-needed player?

As for Navas… Well, his days at City are definitely numbered. This season he has made only six starts in the league, with Guardiola generally using him for an injection of pace off the bench. Initially a good signing from Sevilla in 2013, but his quality has gradually waned and he is starting to outlive his uses at the Etihad Stadium.

Jorge Sampaoli’s side will be eager to bring Navas back to Sevilla for a number of reasons, but mainly his pace suits their current system, he is adored by the fans and he will boost their “homegrown” quota in the Champions League.

It’s a deal Sevilla will likely go for in the current climate and is absolutely a risk worth taking for City. N’Zonzi represents great value for money across the board, with his distribution, ball control, poise and defensive capabilities making him a fine all-rounder. They currently don’t have anyone with such a wide skill set and, without a swap, he will cost €30 million.

Not only is that a figure that Sevilla will likely hold out for, but with Chelsea and Barcelona also circling they probably wouldn’t have to wait long for someone to match it. And that’s why City have the upper-hand with Navas and Nasri.

But will the opportunity to see an in-form Nasri slowly descend into uselessness again at City prove too great a lure for Guardiola?

 

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