For this week’s City Xtra column, Amos Murphy takes a look at every member of the Manchester City squad and assesses their start to the 2023/24 campaign.
We’ve reached the halfway point of the campaign and while the Manchester City squad enjoy the Abu Dhabi sunshine for some warm weather training, what better time to take a look back at the season so far?
Just like an old-style school report, I’ve ranked every player in the Manchester City side with an ‘A-F grade’, with ‘+ and -’ marks on offer to differentiate the top scorers and low performers in each bracket if necessary.
One of Manchester City’s standout stars from the treble win and a player whose contributions went somewhat under the radar, Ederson has continued his strong form this time around.
No major issues to report, City’s Brazilian shot-stopper has been as steady as ever and was rewarded for a stellar year recently, having been named The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper for 2023.
Back-up to Ederson, but a confident pair of hands when called upon. With a couple of Premier League appearances, Stefan Ortega remains one of the best – if not the outright best – number two goalkeeper in English football.
He hasn’t played at all this season, but it’s Scott Carson, so it’s an automatic A.
A scapegoat at times, particularly among certain online circles, Manuel Akanji isn’t the most revered member of Manchester City’s backline, but he’s certainly one of the most dependable.
Maybe the standards have dropped in City’s defence this season, but it’s certainly not Akanji’s fault.
Another Mr. Reliable at the back, Nathan Ake’s minutes have been cut short at times due to arrivals elsewhere, but the piano-playing Dutchman remains a consistent performer when on the pitch.
The dictionary definition of a squad player, with a bang average grade to match. Who knows if Sergio Gomez is a defender, midfielder or even winger? The Spaniard himself is probably left questioning just that at times.
Sergio Gomez: C
Inconsistency more than anything else has plagued Ruben Dias’ start to 2023/24. Performances have ranged from imperious displays of defensive dominance, to shaky showings littered with uncharacteristic mistakes.
Still, Dias manages to snatch a B, just about.
The much-maligned Kyle Walker, it has to be said. City’s new permanent captain has been in and out of the headlines, both for his on-field and off-field antics.
Credit in the bank after his strong start to the campaign is the only thing stopping this grade from being lower.
Another heavily criticised member of City’s defensive set-up, but as far as first half-seasons under Pep Guardiola go, Josko Gvardiol has impressed enough to justify a B.
A poor attendance record is hampering John Stones here. Excelling when on the pitch, but unfortunately for City that hasn’t been often enough.
Teacher’s pet and understandably so, Rodri has once again enjoyed a wonderful start to the campaign. The only thing stopping City’s Spanish anchor from picking up perfect marks was his misbehaviour during September’s Nottingham Forest fixture.
Proof that everyone, including Rodri, is human afterall.
From one exemplary student, to one who will likely finish the term having been transferred out of class. It hasn’t worked out for Kalvin Phillips during his spell at City. Shame.
Wonderful start, rocky middle and a pretty steady end. That’s probably the best way to describe Mateo Kovacic’s first six months in a City shirt.
Given the relatively low-risk transfer fee City paid for his services, it’s hard to argue this has been a bad move (so far).
Considerably more money than fellow summer arrival and midfield counterpart Kovacic, Matheus Nunes hasn’t seen the pitch as much as he’d probably have liked during the first half of the campaign, but that doesn’t take away from his contributions up until this point.
Word on the street is he’s impressing behind the scenes, so perhaps one to watch in the second half of the season.
Is he a defender, or is he a midfielder? Well, Rico Lewis is pretty much anything you want him to be. City’s teenage sensation from the treble season has continued his upwards trajectory this time around, continuing to shine whenever he’s on the field.
There’s a reason City have done so much to keep Bernardo Silva at the club in the last couple of summers, despite the Portuguese midfielder’s desire to explore alterative options elsewhere.
It will be a sad day when he does leave the Blues, that’s for sure.
Kevin De Bruyne
You know those classmates who never revise, but still pass every test regardless? Yeah, that’s Kevin De Bruyne.
Based purely on the (admittedly very few) minutes we’ve seen him play this season, it’s a deserved A grade for City’s King Kev.
It’s felt like Jack Grealish has been suffering from a hangover (no, not that kind) this season. So influential during City’s successful 2022/23 treble win, the England forward hasn’t quite captured that same brilliance this time around.
Hampered by injury and illness, it’s a solid B grade for Grealish.
Blink and you’ll miss him. That’s been Jeremy Doku at times this season, with the new arrival having enjoyed a lights-out start to his City career.
Being said, there have been moments of rawness at times, meaning Doku’s half-season grade is capped where it is.
If City win anything of note this season, it will be – in part – down to Julian Alvarez’s contributions in the first half of the campaign. The selfless Argentine has featured heavily for City so far, often out of position too.
From deputising for De Bruyne during his injury layoff, to more recently being deployed as the out-and-out centre-forward, Alvarez has once again proved himself to Guardiola.
Erling Haaland, remember him? Even though the Norweigan has only been missing for around a month or so, given City have played eight matches, fallen out of the title race, worked their way back into it and even won another piece of silverware in that time, it feels like Haaland has been missing forever.
From the 20 or so games he has plyed this season, Haaland has been his usual goal-scoring best.
And finally, best in class. It felt like Phil Foden needed a ‘big’ season at the beginning of the campaign, but few could’ve predicted the impact he’s had so far.
Granted, he’s another player to have benefitted from absences elsewhere in the squad, but Foden has certainly taken his chance, establishing himself as one of City’s ‘undroppable’ players.
Who knows what 2024 holds for the Stockport Iniesta? But if it’s anything like the second half of 2023, it will no doubt be special.
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