At the moment everything is looking great at Manchester City. Unlike their presumed title rivals at the start of the season (I’m looking at you, Chelsea) there aren’t many areas of concern within the squad.
This resurgence to the top is in part down to the summer overhaul that brought in fresh faces and competition for places, and it’s unlikely Manuel Pellegrini will rest on his laurels now. The resulting change in performance and attitude, typified by the impressive Champions League away victory against Sevilla, shows it doesn’t pay to remain static in the transfer market.
While the Citizens aren’t in dire need of reinforcements, and will be cautious of the inflated January prices, they may try and secure some deals and offload those deemed surplus to requirement to clear the decks before the summer.
With this in mind we take a look at the five Manchester City players most likely to face the axe should the move be right for the club.
The veteran Argentine defender had a difficult start to life at the Etihad. In the early days his positioning and lack of pace routinely left him caught out, exposing himself or his defence. The best example was when he was sent off against Barcelona in the Champions League, conceding a penalty in the process.
Those were dark days for the centre back but there was no doubt he had ability. Over time he settled into Premier League life and went from the easy target of the boo boys to the only defender City could rely on in Vincent Kompany’s absence.
Last season he verbally coached the inexperienced Eliaquim Mangala through matches. But time and transfers have caught up with him. He’s now behind the expensive signings Managla and Nicolas Otamendi and it’s just a matter of time before he returns to River Plate or has a spell at Rosario Central before retiring.
His enduring legacy will be the advice he passed on to Bacary Sagna, speaking from first-hand experienced, he pointed out that if you get a haircut as a Manchester City defender then your form will improve immeasurably.
Last season the left back position was Gael Clichy’s without question. Aleksandar Kolarov was continually linked with a return to Serie A when it looked like he was nothing more than the Frenchman’s understudy.
Injuries this year have derailed Clichy’s season while Kolarov has been able to perform to a consistent standard.
There’s a perception that the left back area is one position City could do with upgrading. If they do find a world class talent to fill the slot, at this moment in time, it’d be Kolarov City would keep to challenge the new signing.
At first look it seems highly unlikely the young French defender, that was signed for such a large fee, would be moved on. That price tag has been a heavy one to carry around. Reports range from the £32m to £42m as the sticky issue of dual ownership gets in the way, but one thing is certain: it was a hefty fee.
What makes it seem even less likely is how his form has improved. His start to the season, when he partnered Kompany during a run clean sheets, was proof he had settled.
But then the club signed Nicolas Otamendi for £32m. He was seen as replacement for Martin Demichelis and a way of adding depth to the squad. During negotiations City offered Mangala to Valencia on loan, the Spanish club refused.
This shows City have no qualms about ensuring Mangala gets first team experience elsewhere and the start Otamendi has made to life at the club shows he’s already above the Frenchman in the pecking order.
Only a consistent run of injuries to Kompany will prevent City flirting with the idea of loaning out Mangala.
After Manchester City brought in over £100m of midfield talent during a busy summer period of moves, it was obvious some existing players would be fighting to save their careers.
A quick glance at the options available to Pellegrini in the midfield department made it clear who had their work cut-out keeping a place in the squad. Players like David Silva and Yaya Toure are almost in a position where they can’t be dropped when fit. Jesus Navas is the manager’s personal favourite and this season he has gone some way to repaying the faith.
Sat awkwardly in a corner with a big neon light over his head is Samir Nasri. A perceived trouble causer and acerbic character when behind closed doors and not always willing to put in a shift when on the pitch.
He does offer something different, and has saved games for City, like the League Cup final against Sunderland and the away tie to Roma in the Champions League. Sadly for Nasri, the club want to progress and already it’s clear Kevin De Bruyne offers all the Frenchman can and more, without being ineffective for the majority of most games.
Any half-decent offer will see City wave Nasri a farewell.
We save the most controversial to last. It appears ludicrous to suggest Manchester City would contemplate selling a striker when it’s already been pointed out they need to add in this area.
What makes it seem even more unlikely is the how Bony himself was a January panic buy that was a little overpriced. Yet, he makes this list and with good reason.
It should be pointed out, he will only be shifted on when the club locate and acquire a direct replacement. The bad news for Wilfried Bony is that search process will already be under way. And he only has himself to blame for this.
He has been unlucky with injuries that have hindered his City career, even now he faces another lay-off. But there wasn’t a Manchester City fan alive that wasn’t 100% behind him when it was clear Sergio Aguero would be out for an extended period.
Sadly he never took the bull by the horns. There have been flashes of excellence, mainly when the Ivorian has relied on instinct, at other times his touch has looked clunky and his mental state unsure.
If a team offer City a decent portion of the fee they paid for the former Swansea man, they could be tempted to cut their losses and move on without him.