If Manchester City get what they want this summer, next season could indeed look particularly rosy for the England champions.
City are on the verge of reclaiming the title they surrendered to Liverpool last year, and Pep Guardiola is showing all the signs of a man who doesn’t want that title to pass away.
Never shying away from the transfer market, City will take another plunge at the end of the season and two goals shot straight to the top of the priority list.
Guardiola will have an exciting squad on their hands next season with City ready to spend
Erling Haaland is at the top of City’s wish list this summer, while a move will be made for Jack Grealish
As reported by Sportsmail this week, both Erling Haaland and Jack Grealish are seen as necessary things for City as Guardiola prepares to reshape his starting XI and add a youth injection.
Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin De Bruyne will all be 30 before next season kicks off, meaning City has one eye on the steadily rising average age of the squad.
Fortunately for Guardiola, many of the stars are still at the top of their game, while it is hoped that a new contract with De Bruyne can be finalized in the coming months to secure his best years at the Etihad.
However, with the possible double arrival of Haaland and Grealish, City would be a tempting force to move forward.
Guardiola is presented with various ways to incorporate them into his side, which the master tactician in him will be particularly enthusiastic about.
Sportsmail approached what Haaland and Grealish would bring to the table for City, and how they could fit into the already impressive system …
Erling Haaland – striker
It is a given what the role of Haaland would be on the side of the city. The 20-year-old is a relentless scoring machine and that’s exactly what Guardiola’s team needs.
Little will be done to the position of Haaland. He will be at the top, down the middle, quite often operating as a lone attacker.
So a lonely striker, without the direct support of a partner.
Instead, Haaland will have a star-studded array of support around it, but more on that later.
The Norwegian is statistically the most prolific striker in the area in each of European football’s top five leagues.
In 21 Bundesliga matches this season, Haaland has scored 21 goals.
At Borussia Dortmund, Haaland has continued his march to become Europe’s top scorer
Despite missing time due to an injury, the striker has regularly returned directly to the side and resumed where he left off. Haaland also has eight league assists to his name so far this season, along with ten goals in the Champions League.
For City, he would replace Sergio Aguero, who is leaving his throne after 10 years of service.
Guardiola would like a bona fide goalscorer to come in and hit the back of the net from the start, and Haaland would be the first choice, even for Tottenham’s Harry Kane.
The Norwegian will take charge and Guardiola will rally his troops to find Haaland in the box so he can do what he does best.
Raheem Sterling’s tempo on the grand pianos will certainly contribute, while the work rhythm and inventiveness of both Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva will play a crucial role.
But this is where Grealish comes in as what could be a perfectly planned move from Guardiola …
Jack Grealish – CAM / left wing
Chances are Guardiola will deploy a row of three behind Haaland as a supporting cast to develop the goals.
Grealish immediately appeals in this regard, and it is clear why City is showing interest.
The 25-year-old has worked for Villa in a similar style for years, and his rise over the past 24 months has been nothing short of rapid.
Grealish has proven to be not only good enough for the Premier League, but also one of the best ball carriers and holders in English football.
Grealish has grown stronger with Villa and is now one of the best English football clubs
He works hard, is notoriously strong in possession and always comes for the pass. It is an ideal set of properties for Guardiola as he plans for the future.
Grealish is also a frequent dribbler and is the most fouled top flight player next to Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha.
This is a valuable asset to City, as Guardiola plans to use Grealish’s ability to make gaps and run with the ball at his feet to make room for Haaland to run behind.
With Haaland in the lead, City’s Spanish boss would have the opportunity to play Grealish directly behind him, with support from both Sterling and Foden. Or, if the game comes out, Bernardo Silva.
The older options, like Mahrez, could then present a formidable option from the exchange bench, whether that appeals to him personally or not.
Grealish knows the Premier League inside out and, as he has shown during his service in England, is well used to stepping up his game to play alongside top stars.
The move from Villa to City is not expected to be an obstacle for the playmaker, and Guardiola hopes that Grealish can soon become a cohesive cog between club icon Kevin De Bruyne and potential co-arrival Haaland.
City’s front lines enjoy the chance to alternate during matches meaning Grealish could very likely switch in and out of position with Foden on the flanks, and allow the academy’s graduate to take the central position.
The arrival of Grealish could see Kevin De Bruyne’s role in midfield change to gain more freedom
The same principle applies to Sterling.
A notable impact of this system, however, could be that De Bruyne takes on an increasingly deeper role in midfield, probably alongside or ahead of Guardiola’s trusted General Rodri.
The deep-seated star is seen as the heir to Fernandinho’s throne, offering a layer of protection to the defense while De Bruyne weaves his magic right in front of him.
With Rodri only 24, this would mean De Bruyne would be one of the squad’s veterans next season as he prepares to turn 30 in June.
Likewise, it should be noted that Gundogan has been sublime for City this season and is a contender for PFA Player of the Year. However, history shows that the German is one of the most unfortunate when it comes to injuries.
This season, Gundogan has been especially lucky to stay fit and healthy, and the majestic shape has flowed as a result.
Next season, with a small midfield adjustment, Gundogan can see a lot more of his football coming from the bench.
Given his body’s track record and the fact that he will turn 31 at the end of the year, City can greatly benefit from such talent as an option down the sidelines.
The image below illustrates how both Grealish and Haaland could fit into the City XI and how the team would adapt as a result.