HomePREMIER LEAGUEPep Guardiola has hinted at how Manchester City's midfield might look in...

Pep Guardiola has hinted at how Manchester City’s midfield might look in the coming decade.

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Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola may have hinted at the future look of the club’s midfield.

The magnificent have fallen. The most beautiful autumn. Empires fall. The elite of the elite have fallen victim to the vicious cycle that will inevitably plague clubs with relative troubles following ecstatic triumph. Even Manchester United, which appeared to have an unbreakable stranglehold on the English game, eventually abandoned their grip and spent a decade being mocked, providing much-needed catharsis for the rest of the country.

Those who had a safety net of unimaginable wealth were not safe. Chelsea’s fortunes have risen and fallen like the Tower of Terror, and the club is going through a particularly frightening moment despite spending a small country’s GDP on players in six months. Liverpool was heralded as one of the best teams ever less than a year ago and is now in a slump. The question is if Manchester City will ever break the cycle.

The Blues have been on an upward track since 2008, with only a few of small setbacks along the road. They have won four of the previous five Premier League titles and show no signs of slowing down.

In addition to the seemingly limitless riches that should ensure they never leave the top table for the rest of time – depending on the judgement of the independent panel following the Premier League’s charges – they have always managed to combine money with exceptional competence. While the rest of the ‘top six’ have seemingly made foolish decision after dumb decision over the previous decade, City have seldom, if ever, gotten it wrong when it comes to the team on the field.

Recruiting, youth development, and, most crucially, building the club from top to bottom to be the ideal environment for Pep Guardiola to succeed. It has worked remarkably well.

That simply raises a troubling question that has yet to be addressed and will not be until 2025 at the earliest: What happens when a club established particularly for one management no longer has that manager? When steadfast managers depart their roles, as Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger demonstrated, a near-impossible-to-fill void is left in their wake.

It’s a dilemma that hangs over the horizon like a rising typhoon, but unlike United or Arsenal, Guardiola will almost likely leave City’s squad in good enough shape to compete for championships. The middle, in particular, appears to be future-proof.

This is an intriguing development because it appears to be the position that need the greatest reinforcement this year. Before the new season begins, Kevin De Bruyne will be 32, Ilkay Gundogan will be 32, and his contract, which ends in the summer, has yet to be renewed, Bernardo Silva has wanted to return to mainland Europe for years, and Kalvin Phillips has yet to feel like he belongs at the Etihad.

A marquee summer signing feels necessary, and the signing of Jude Bellingham, like Erling Haaland did last year, appears to make too much sense. Even if the youthful prodigy does not join Manchester City, Guardiola has chosen two other players who could soon be starting in midfield.

Phil Foden is the obvious choice. The homegrown hero rose through the ranks and clawed his way into the City team as a midfielder, but has spent the last three seasons as a winger. Guardiola has mentioned repeatedly that it is because he wants control in the middle of the field, something the risk-taking Foden cannot currently provide but is confident he will in the near future.

“He can play there, still I have the feeling he’s still young. Some maturity to understand what happens in the middle to read what happens,” the manager said last week. Because when you play [on the wing] you are moving the right, do these kind of things, in the middle many things happen and you have to read what happens to react properly. And still he’s young.

“The skills he can do it absolutely. The action, he did in Nottingham, like shoot and putting the balls in for Erling, is the position for Messi when attacking in that period, is perfect from Phil.

“Phil is really good doing that, in the pockets, in the right like Kevin plays, phwoar, but it’s not just that, sometimes you have to read when the ball is left, right, when to take positions, when you drop. Sometimes when you play outside it’s easier to do these kind of things but with time he will do it.”

Rico Lewis might be the guy to replace Foden in midfield in the not-too-distant future. The teenage right-back returned to the club for the 4-1 win against Bournemouth and once again dazzled with his ability to play the tricky inverted-full-back role despite not having completed his A-levels.

Guardiola praised Lewis’ performance on both sides of the field and feels he has the qualities to play in City’s No.8 position, which is presently held by Gundogan and De Bruyne. “Playing there is a unique position,” he explained.

“After there are players not with the quality to play there and have to play wide. That’s why when I put Rico at No.8 and No.10 I’m sure he can do it.

“Rico at the end can play an 8. For the fourth goal he moves perfectly in the pockets, Phil has the ball and how he attacks the byline in the crosses. I’m pretty sure in the future he can play there many, many games.”

With City’s midfield looking certain to be world-class for the next decade, the club may be able to avoid the inevitable decline that has plagued every other club, even if Guardiola’s departure comes to pass.

Pep Guardiola has hinted at how Manchester City’s midfield might look in the coming decade.

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