Six Man City youngsters who can give Pep Guardiola decision next season – Alex Brotherton
Manchester City’s academy is currently enjoying a golden era, meaning that there are a handful of players desperately trying to impress Pep Guardiola and become regulars in the first team squad.
City’s failure to produce any homegrown talents for the first team was long an elephant in the room, especially after City spent £200m developing the City Football Academy which opened in 2014. The rise of Phil Foden was a landmark moment for the club, though, and with the quality of players in the academy seemingly increasing year on year, others should soon follow in his footsteps.
The likes of Cole Palmer, James McAtee and CJ Egan-Riley all impressed when making first team cameos this season, while Liam Delap looks to have a big future despite enduring an injury-hit campaign. But which academy starlets can City fans expect to make the leap next season?
At the start of last season Palmer was not regarded as the youth player most likely to make an impact in Guardiola’s squad, but he soon made everyone aware of his quality.
In 2021/22 he scored in all three cup competitions, including on his Champions League debut. With Gabriel Jesus looking likely to leave and Julian Alvarez potentially needing time to adapt to Premier League football, Guardiola is believed to be keen on giving Palmer more minutes on the right wing next season.
In January it looked like McAtee could leave City in search of regular first team minutes, but to the delight of everyone at the club he signed a new contract until 2026.
The 19-year-old enjoyed an incredible season, scoring 17 goals and providing seven assists in 22 Premier League 2 appearances. However, with Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan currently occupying his preferred positions, he faces a challenge to secure regular minutes.
Given that he is one of City’s most prized youth assets, it seems likely that he will be kept at the club in 2022/23 to train with the first team, rather than go out on loan.
Delap no doubt has a bright future ahead of him, but there’s a feeling he missed a big opportunity in 2021/22. Delap announced himself to the world by scoring on his City debut in 2020, and with no out-and-out striker in the first team squad, this season was a chance for him to earn more game time.
Injuries decimated his campaign though, and he played just 26 minutes of senior football. The arrival of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez seems an obvious threat to his development at City, meaning a loan spell would not come as a surprise.
Right-back Egan-Riley, 19, was one of five youngsters to make a full debut in City’s 6-1 defeat of Wycombe back in September. He benefited from injuries and suspensions to City’s defenders in the second half of the season, as he played the full 90 minutes of City’s goalless draw with Sporting Lisbon in the Champions League.
He was named among the substitutes in six of City’s last nine league games, making his Premier League debut in the 5-0 win against Newcastle. If City decide against buying another right-back, Egan-Riley could help provide cover for Kyle Walker over the next few seasons, as the England international approaches his mid-30s.
Like Egan-Riley, central defender Luke Mbete was regularly named among Guardiola’s substitutes during the second half of the season, as injuries to John Stones and Ruben Dias limited City’s defensive options.
The 18-year-old clearly has the talent to be an elite centre-back, but with Dias, Laporte, Stones and Nathan Ake ahead of him in the pecking order, it’s difficult to see him getting many minutes next season. He’ll likely continue playing for the EDS and joining up with the first team squad as and when needed.
The grandson of legendary City players Mike Doyle and Glyn Pardoe, it feels only right that Tommy Doyle should get his chance to become a first team regular at the club.
The midfielder made his full debut in the league cup back in October 2019, and while he was a semi-regular fixture on the bench, struggled to make the cut in 2020/21. He spent last season on loan at Hamburger SV and Cardiff City.
In a recent interview with Sky Sports said that he hopes to be able to be a regular part of the City squad in the future, although he admitted that, now aged 20, he needs regular minutes in order to develop.