#AskCityWatch – 30 June 2017: Status of transfers, squad depth, Patrick Roberts’ future, Raheem’s fate

Every day, the City Watch Twitter account receives many questions so we decided to introduce a new #AskCityWatch feature to the website, answering as many of them as possible. And with it being the transfer season there is, as always, much mystery and confusion about who will be at Manchester City next season and where our transfer deals are at.

City Watch editor Anis Bazza has the chair for our first edition of #AskCityWatch, answering questions on transfers, the status of certain squad players, academy prospects and more.

Anis: I was actually having this conversation with the City Watch team recently. It honestly drifts and changes every year. Di Marzio’s word used to be the holy grail but he’s been hit and miss this summer. Sky sources were also traditionally reliable but they’ve either been completely wrong or late to their so called exclusives. Even reputable journalists like Gerard Romero, who reported Bravo, Stones and Sané first last summer, can get them wrong as we saw with Fabinho last month.

As for the outlets, you see a lot of replies to City Watch tweets with ‘Oh it’s the Daily Star’ or ‘It’s The Sun’ but people forget it’s about the journalist rather than the outlet. Unfortunately there’s no David Ornstein – a cult figure among Arsenal fans – for Manchester City so we usually have to rely on the off chance a big name like Mohamed Bouhafsi or Di Marzio to report on something City related for everyone to stand up and pay attention. People may prefer the more serious papers like The Times, Independent and The Guardian but that’s usually because they’ve been collectively briefed by the club.

I also think you have to look carefully in between the lines. City fans may detest journalists like Duncan Castles but when he’s talking about a Mendes client or Mourinho target, it’s worth listening to.

Anis: I think we should expect Manchester City’s strongest squad of this generation – period. If all goes as the club plans then there shouldn’t be a single weak-spot in the team. I’m talking about two pairs of more-than-capable full-backs, a frightening array of forwards and most importantly excellent squad depth. If Txiki Begiristain provides the goods then the pressure for Pep to deliver the big trophies is on.

Anis: Fernando and Fabian Delph are players Guardiola has not used at all this season. Manchester City have not and may not sign a central midfielder but I think it’s safe to say their fates are already sealed.

The understanding that Bernardo Silva will occupy a central position this season should all but push Fabian Delph through the exit door – if he wasn’t condemned already by his horrendous fitness record. Aleix Garcia going out on loan shouldn’t save Fernando either since, according to The Telegraph, Ilkay Gundogan is set to compete for a defensive midfield role.

City will be spending massively this summer and the Premier League interest in both of these players means City should be able to reimburse their pockets.

Anis: If you watched Real Madrid in the latter part of last season they were literally playing two different sides. An A-team and B-team. Ronaldo and co. would line-up for the important/home games while Alvaro Morata and James Rodriguez would almost exclusively play away games in La Liga. Having such an incredible squad meant Zidane could to keep his team fresh in the business end of the season and endure the long-term absences of an elite player like Gareth Bale.

Historically Pep has preferred smaller squads but the modern game – especially in the Premier League – has become so intense that you need a strong squad to compete. There will be ample games for all as City compete on all four fronts and if we can learn one thing from Real Madrid last season then it’s that they are the blue-print to follow.

Anis: To be quite frank, I don’t see anyone from the academy breaking through this season. I don’t think there’s anyone good enough or old enough. Of the top guys that are still here, Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho and Brahim Diaz are still very young and maybe they’ll be in line for a few appearances. But like some of the other lads out on loan like Pablo Maffeo, they’ll have to wait another year, at least.

Anis: Not so long ago you could sign players on a napkin. Manchester United signed Cristiano Ronaldo before their friendly with Sporting Lisbon was over. Now every semi-good player has a long list of representatives, image right teams and agents to deal with. And that’s before you deal with the actual club you’re signing from who are demanding more and more money in an age of surplus wealth. Players also want to go on holiday (if they haven’t got an international tournament to star in) after an exhausting season. It’s a tedious process, Ed.

Anis: In a world where money is no object I’d go and sign Jerome Boateng and pair him with Vincent Kompany. But they’d probably manage ten games together so I’ll have to say Leonardo Bonucci.

Anis: Arsenal are stalling as long as possible. They don’t want to sell without putting up a fight because they’ll have a riot on their hands. They also know that no-one will pay as much as us and Alexis doesn’t want to go anywhere but Manchester. Unless he signs a new deal, there’s only one outcome: They’ll wait for Alexis to push through a move, render him as the bad guy and then tell everyone they had no choice. It’s how it usually works.

As for Kyle Walker, it’s another case of signing a home-grown player. The process is always tedious and definitely always drawn-out – just think back to any of Stones, Sterling, Delph or Lescott sagas. Dealing with Daniel Levy doesn’t help either.

Anis: One of the more significant issues of last season was building out of the back. While a new pair of full-backs massively helps resolve that issue, I can’t help but feel we need another centre-back too. Guardiola adored John Stones because he was so good at positioning himself to receive while Nico Otamendi wasn’t.

Last summer we all sort of hoped we could just cope without full-backs and this summer has a very similar feel to that regarding our centre-backs. Even if we do get everyone else, I think a better defender than Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones could be the difference between a major title and several major titles.

Anis: If Alexis Sanchez and Ousmane Dembele both sign then not just Sterling but Sané too will face an incredible challenge to keep their spots. Alexis is probably among the best ten players in the world and Dembele is seriously hot stuff. If that’s the case (I highly doubt both will sign) then it’s sink or swim. Football is a cruel sport.

Anis: It certainly seems so! For a large chuck of the season it looked for all the world he was going to come back. Young, exciting and home-grown – he seemed a perfect replacement for a squad player like Jesus Navas. But it soon became clear Pep wanted a top bracket wide-man and at Robert’s age, you have to be playing regularly.

In all likelihood, Roberts will come back in pre-season, realise the level of competition, go out on loan to somewhere like Nice or Hoffenheim before being sold for a handsome profit. Manchester City made some money, Patrick Roberts got his career up and going, no love lost, no love found.

Anis: Based on the reports we’ve read, it looks like it’ll be Dani Alves first (within the next few days), then Benjamin Mendy and probably long after that Kyle Walker since City’s valuation of player is still some way off Tottenham’s. There maybe a Ryan Bertrand-shaped gap in-between Mendy and Walker if we’re lucky.

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