Man City transfer arrogance sees them *only* win the double, but theirs is an easy lesson to learn

Will Ford
Man City
Manchester City's summer transfer window was uncharacteristically poor.

Manchester City may *only* win the double this season and we blame their transfer business. Matheus Nunes, Cole Palmer and Declan Rice are among their terrible decisions.

As Pep Guardiola turned to his bench in a bid to land a knock-out blow to Real Madrid in their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday, we wonder whether he regretted their summer transfer business.

Instead of Matheus Nunes or Jeremy Doku, he could have had Cole Palmer or Riyad Mahrez; Ilkay Gundogan or Declan Rice could have been playing alongside Rodri, who was forced to plough his usual lone furrow at the base of City’s midfield, with Mateo Kovacic only deemed worthy of an eight-minute extra-time cameo ahead of a penalty shoot-out he would fluff.

For a club famed for nailing it in the transfer market, things have not gone so smoothly of late.

It’s not been terrible. The first leg against Madrid saw £80m summer signing Josko Gvardiol score a stunning and crucial goal, and in the previous summer they landed both big-game bottler Erling Haaland and Manuel Akanji for a combined fee of less than £70m, which is patently ridiculously good business.

But Kalvin Phillips also joined, and is now rotting at West Ham along with his market value. Nunes has done next to nothing since City shelled out £53m at the end of the transfer window. Kovacic has been about as good as he was at the end of his time at Chelsea, with the expectation that he could be an able replacement for Gundogan looking as daft now as it was to those who watched the Croatian toil last season.

Having previously gone about their transfer business with the efficiency of a serial killer, City acted like first-timers this summer, not by failing to plan, but by panicking when forced to deviate from that plan. They were caught off guard and made poor decisions when backed into a corner.

A report on Thursday claims they’re once again locked in talks with West Ham over a move for Lucas Paqueta, who was their top playmaker target last summer before they were put off by his alleged betting breaches. Faced with that unforeseen problem they panicked at the end of the window and turned to Nunes, who is inferior to the extent where we’ve either got to question the existence of a shortlist of alternatives, or the intelligence of whoever drew up any shortlist where Nunes sat second. Neither reflects well on sporting director Txiki Begiristain.

But maybe City just aren’t used to not getting their way, and when they don’t – like a toddler unable to express themselves – they act rashly with little thought of the consequences.

Like everyone else, they probably did not see Palmer leading the race for the Golden Boot come this stage of the season. But it felt like a strange transfer for all involved at the time: Chelsea spending £40m on another exciting young forward; Palmer leaving the treble winners; City selling a clearly talented player who had presumably been earmarked to play the role in the squad vacated by Riyad Mahrez.

READ MORE: Premier League icon could stop Palmer being the lowest-finishing Golden Boot winner ever

And while both Chelsea and Palmer are now reaping the rewards of their risky decisions, City are left ruing a mistake that they wouldn’t have anticipated being quite so keenly felt, and certainly not so quickly. But there was always likely to be a problem with no succession plan in place for the succession plan.

Do they regret the sale of Palmer more or less than failing to increase their bid for Rice by a measly £10m? He was rubbish against Bayern on Wednesday, but has been superb for the majority of this season for Arsenal. They wouldn’t be challenging City for the title without him, and City would probably also be well clear of Liverpool if Guardiola had Rice to play alongside or in place of Rodri, who’s been out on his feet in the last few games. This time they didn’t even put up the pretence of there being a Plan B after losing the transfer battle to Arsenal.

We’re so used to Guardiola’s seamless evolution of his side with ordinarily big departures offset by genius additions. David Silva, Leroy Sane, Vincent Kompany, Fernandinho, Sergio Aguero and Raheem Sterling left and they got better. But this time losing Gundogan, Mahrez and Palmer has made them worse.

That dip in quality may manifest itself in a double rather than a treble this season – it’s hardly time for crisis talks. But this season has proved that City are vulnerable to transfer missteps like everyone else. Unfortunately for those hanging onto their coat-tails, theirs is a relatively easy lesson to learn: We don’t always get our way so have a Plan B and a Plan C.