Erling Haaland is about as free of risk as a transfer that could possibly be imagined in the game. Lionel Messi and Robert Lewandowski are possibly the only other players that would guarantee the goals that Haaland does, and those two are at the other end of their careers whereas Manchester City have signed the 21-year-old Norwegian for the long haul.

And with the transfer window returning to some degree of normality after two years affected by the pandemic, City are seizing the opportunity to do what Pep Guardiola suggested they would last summer and shuffle the squad. “You have to shake, you have to move,” he said ahead of the 2021 Champions League final. “With the same guys, it is almost impossible. We change – me included.”

Julian Alvarez is arriving from River Plate to add to the forward line, Kalvin Phillips is the primary target to replace Fernandinho, Marc Cucurella is wanted at left-back and Stefan Ortega is being looked at to refresh the goalkeeping roster. On the flip side, Gabriel Jesus is expected to leave, Raheem Sterling has not ruled out a move to Chelsea while Oleksandr Zinchenko and Zack Steffen may take up offers elsewhere if they think their game time will be limited.

Also read:Man City look to bring in new goalkeeper on free transfer

There are expected to be several new faces to get excited about, but the more arrivals there are the more chance that other players will leave. And however much experience the new players will have, that doesn’t always convert instantly into the type of know-how that Guardiola needs.

City’s manager has to have players that understand his football to succeed, and understanding his football takes time. Rodri, Riyad Mahrez, and Bernardo Silva had proven themselves in the Premier League, La Liga and Champions League yet all took at least a year to get accustomed to what was expected of them in the team.

Refreshing the squad inevitably means losing some of the football intelligence specific to Guardiola’s football, and City have been here before in saying goodbye to the likes of David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany. Jesus, Sterling and Zinchenko each have accumulated a wealth of this Guardiola-ball quality, and while there are arguments for all to move on it would leave a big void in tactical knowledge that the new signings would struggle to fill – at least at first.

City have never wanted to stand still, and a winning platform is the best position to do it from. If the signing of Haaland takes them several steps forward, Guardiola will have to hope that the risk of further changes does not destabilise what has been an immensely successful squad.

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