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Man City have had more transfer flops than Man Utd and Chelsea in 2023/24

Manchester City keep winning football games, which is a very good way of papering over the cracks of what is still weirdly deemed their impeccable recruitment. We make it six flops in the last eight signings…

The tie was already over, and so was the game after nine minutes. There may never have been a more uneven match-up in Champions League knockout history – but we’re not going to whine about that again (though we nailed the predictions). Nor are we going to speculate over a double Treble, or marvel at the consistency of Rodri, or drool over the absurd and terrifying talent of Oscar Bobb. Instead we’re going to have a pop at the champs.

READ: The Rodri Conundrum and four more reasons why Man City won’t win the Premier League

Josko Gvardiol, Mateo Kovacic and Matheus Nunes all started Wednesday’s clash having been signed in the summer along with Jeremy Doku, who missed the game through injury. That quartet cost a combined £220m, in what currently looks to be quite the waste of money.

Pep Guardiola is given transfer leeway other managers aren’t afforded, owing to the time its taken some of his best acquisitions to adapt and develop under his stewardship. Jack Grealish is a notable example, but the same was true of Riyad Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo, all of whom were eased into life at City before playing significant roles in significant club successes.

But the evidence of last season suggests signings now either hit the ground running, or never get going. Erling Haaland and Manuel Akanji at one pole, vital to the Treble last season and as important in the current campaign, Kalvin Phillips and Sergio Gomez at the other, with Phillips now on loan at West Ham and Gomez coming off the bench on Wednesday for just his 12th appearances of the season in all competitions, stuck as he is behind at least three centre-backs for his left-back berth.

Doku got half of his ten goal contributions for City in one ludicrous game against Bournemouth at the start of November, and has got one goal, against Huddersfield in the FA Cup, and no assists in 15 appearances since. He was particularly ineffective in the Manchester derby.

Gvardiol started 19 of the first 23 Premier League games of the season, but may well struggle to get back in the team on the back of Nathan Ake’s displays in his absence through injury. He’s looked nowhere near the defender who bossed proceedings for Croatia in the World Cup before coming rather unstuck against Lionel Messi. Only one Man City player lost possession more than Gvardiol (3) against Copenhagen, and that was Nunes (4).

Gvardiol Man City

Manchester City paid £80m for Josko Gvardiol in the summer.

And he, like Kovacic, has been a pale imitation of Ilkay Gundogan, if that was indeed the plan, with Nunes such a downgrade that he’s been pushed to the wing where he can’t affect the game too negatively.

Some or all of the summer signings could come good, and City fans will hold out particular hope for Gvardiol, not least because he cost them a cool £80m, but such limited bang so far for such significant buck is remarkable.

Guardiola and sporting director Txiki Begiristain don’t get it in the neck for what would undoubtedly be deemed transfer flops had they been signed by Manchester United or Chelsea, partly because of a lack of coverage in comparison, but mainly because they don’t need the new signings half as much as their rivals.

But when you compare the transfer windows of those clubs signing for signing, you could reasonably claim that City had the worst of all of them.

Not only did City sign suspect players, they also sold one of the signings of the season in Cole Palmer to Chelsea, who could claim Djordje Petrovic, Nicolas Jackson and Axel Disasi also represent decent acquisitions, while injuries make it impossible to judge Romeo Lavia, Christopher Nkunku and Lesley Ugochukwu. Moises Caicedo is the one summer signing who has undoubtedly struggled.

Meanwhile, Rasmus Hojlund and Andre Onana have turned things around in impressive style at United, for whom free transfer Jonny Evans has been useful, and though Mason Mount looked well short of his best, judging him on the basis of 600 minutes feels kneejerky in the extreme.

There’s nothing like winning every football game on offer to paper over the cracks in what is still deemed by many to be near-impeccable recruitment. But that wasn’t the case last season, when the two gems balanced out the two flops, and certainly isn’t this season, as we still wait for any of the four to prove they’ve been worth the outlay.

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