This article is part of Football FanCast’s Opinion series, which provides analysis, insight and opinion on any issue within the beautiful game, from Paul Pogba’s haircuts to League Two relegation battles…
Manchester City have not quite been at their record-breaking best this year. Over the past two seasons, Pep Guardiola’s men have registered 100 points and 98 points, which is the most ever recorded by a top-flight team.
However, with three league defeats so far, the champions are struggling to defend their title, with large parts of this because of the defence.
Not much can be done about the unfortunate injuries to the likes of Aymeric Laporte and Oleksandr Zinchenko, but a recent report suggests that City may have shot themselves in the foot before the season even started. The Athletic’s Sam Lee states how the club were set to secure the signature of Ben Chilwell from Leicester City, but it fell through.
Lee said: “Up until late April, City had everything in place to sign Chilwell, but then they informed him with two games of the Premier League campaign left that they would not be following through.
“For whatever reason, City had come to the realisation they would not be able to sell Benjamin Mendy, given his injury history. They resolved to keep him and see how he progressed in the coming six months, even keeping a January move for a left-back, possibly Chilwell (although that is now unlikely), at the back of their minds.”
The left-back spot has been something of patchwork job for Guardiola over the best two seasons. Zinchenko and Fabian Delph – both midfielders by trade – have had to step into the position. Then there has been the recurring injuries of Benjamin Mendy.
The French full-back’s early promise at City was captivating. His lung-bursting forays down the left channel offered the club a devastating out ball and it was seen as a crushing blow when he collected his first major injury setback.
But he hasn’t returned in the same vein of form he was in during the formative stages of his City career, and his absence has created a long-term problem that is seemingly yet to be resolved.
Angelino re-signed for the Citizens in the summer and he may well keep Zinchenko out of the side when the Ukraine international returns, but it’s difficult to escape the feeling that Chilwell would have been a better fit.
Now a regular international with England, Chilwell is still only 22 and has proved to be one of the league’s best left-backs of late. He already has three assists this season and has more or less been an ever-present in Brendan Rodgers’ starting XI.
It seems City almost resolved their recurring left-back issue early this year and they may live to regret the fact they couldn’t conclude a deal for the Leicester academy product. As a homegrown talent with proven Premier League experience, he fits the profile of player City have been targeting in recent years, with the signings of Kyle Walker, John Stones and Raheem Sterling attesting to that policy.
Chilwell looks like one that got away.