When new Chelsea signing Jorginho touched the ball in the Community Shield on Sunday afternoon, there were boos from the Manchester City fans at Wembley.
The Italian international had a choice to make when it came to joining a new club this summer. Whatever the circumstances of his move to London instead of Manchester, he ended up following his old manager Maurizio Sarri and City didn’t get their man.
It’s still uncertain what the fallout of that will be for the premier League champions. So far this summer, they have failed to sign a new deep midfield player and given the fact that they seemed to really want the former Napoli man – and the fact they’re perpetually linked to similarly positioned midfielders – it seems fair to say they’ve so far missed out on a reinforcement that Pep Guardiola really felt he needed.
What is unclear is why he thought he needed Jorginho specifically.
Obviously last season’s record-breaking campaign doesn’t mean City should be resting on their laurels, but of all the positions to be strengthening, midfield doesn’t seem like the obvious one. The trio of Fernandinho, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne was untouchable last year, and it forced players of the considerable talents of Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva either onto the bench or into a new position entirely.
Clearly it makes sense to reinforce this with back-ups of high quality. Teams who retain Premier League titles go from strength to strength because they freshen up their squads. But surely Jorginho (or any other deep midfield signing) would only be brought in as cover for Fernandinho – or at least there to take some of the load off his 33-year-old legs.
That’s why failing to land Jorginho may not be the best news City could have had this summer, but it’s why it’s probably not the worst either. Long-term, they’ll need a successor to the Brazilian midfielder who has been so key to his side’s success over the last few years, but in the short term if he can continue to perform to his top level for just one more season then Guardiola and his team will be fine.
And yet on Sunday, we might have seen another positive reason why City needn’t cry over losing their man to Chelsea: playing in the heart of midfield Phil Foden had a great game, and one that makes him look like he could be the answer that was right under the manager’s nose the whole time.
There’s a hype around the young man, which admittedly doesn’t help. Not only should people lower their expectations of what Foden can bring to the team straight away, but they should also remember that at the age of 18, players shouldn’t be thrown in at the deep end and forgotten about. 15-20 appearances for the first team next season (including a few off the bench) would be plenty for his development. More than that and you’re getting closer to burn-out territory.
And yet, watching him play the box-to-box role for a team who look like they are in the midst of leading an era-defining dynasty of English footballing dominance was eye-catching.
Manchester City lost out on a top target when Jorginho chose to follow Sarri to Chelsea instead. But despite the fact that the youth academy has produced few graduates since the 2008 takeover, the best answer to City’s problems this summer could be to blood a youngster from the system.