Man City substitutes vs Real Madrid show pressing transfer need amid fresh Frenkie De Jong reports – Joe Bray


As Manchester City try to put the shock of their Real Madrid defeat behind them and focus on the Premier League fixture against Newcastle, the inquest continues within the media.

City’s players looked stunned on the Bernabeu pitch after Real’s brilliant comeback on Wednesday, and photos of the players returning to Manchester appeared to show a subdued mood among the squad. No player has commented on the defeat in public or on social media in a rare squad silence from a club that usually knows the right thing to say at all times, even in defeat.

Their immediate focus will be to get the mindset in a place that can face Newcastle on Sunday in a must-win Premier League fixture. But the fall-out from Madrid will continue into the summer, and when City do delve deeper into why they lost, they may reflect on something Carlo Ancelotti said before the game.

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“It will possibly be a long game too but it’s not so important who starts as it is who finishes it,” Ancelotti said in his pre-match press conference.

Ancelotti has reminded the world of his enduring qualities this season with a La Liga title and incredible run to the Champions League final. That comment also shows his understanding of what it takes to win a huge semi-final against a quality side. City’s starting XI was stronger in the second leg than the first, while Ancelotti dropped Rodrygo to the bench.

As the game ticked over to the last half hour of normal time, both sides looked to make changes and focussed on their midfields. By 90 minutes, Real were strengthened, and City didn’t have the personnel to launch a comeback they weren’t prepared to make.

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Rodrygo replaced Toni Kroos as Fede Valverde dropped back into the center, while City brought on Ilkay Gundogan for Kevin De Bruyne. Shortly after Riyad Mahrez gave City a two-goal aggregate cushion, Marco Asensio replaced Casemiro and Eduardo Camavinga came on for Luka Modric. Chasing two goals, Ancelotti had taken off his three most experienced, influential midfielders. City would bring on Fernandinho for Mahrez five minutes from time.

Eduardo Camavinga played a key role in Real Madrid’s victory over Man City

City’s changes reflected the need to manage the game, as they had done brilliantly all game. Madrid’s substitutes may have been seen as desperate if they hadn’t come back. But they did, and Ancelotti had given his players the energy and tactical advantage to push on in extra time.

“If we win tomorrow, it won’t be because we’re motivated or the magic atmosphere we’ll experience,” Ancelotti also said pre-match. “It will be out of collective commitment and individual qualities of our players.”

Ancelotti later admitted the atmosphere did help his side, but so too did the ‘collective commitment and individual qualities’ in those 90 seconds where Real drew level before the full-time whistle. His comments from him about the importance of the side finishing the game proved decisive in extra time, as City had a defensive set-up incapable of responding to Ancelotti’s men.

So what can City learn? Maybe that when it comes to replacing Fernandinho – and in the future Ilkay Gundogan – a new kind of midfielder is needed. Someone like Camavinga or Asensio who can play both defensive and attacking roles.

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Or someone like Frenkie De Jong?

The Barcelona midfielder has been linked with City once again since the Real Madrid defeat, and whether there is any likelihood of the Dutchman leaving the Nou Camp, it would reflect City’s need to be proactive when replacing Fernandinho. De Jong certainly fits the profile of player City should be looking for as their next midfield signing.

They will need a dynamic defensive midfielder – similar to Gundogan when he arrived, capable of doing the important and ‘dirty’ defensive role, but also offering a dynamic presence in the center too. Like Camavinga offered Real.

Madrid were able to bring on those players and it proved vital in reaching the final. As soon as City didn’t see out their lead, they just didn’t have a midfield capable of fighting back. They can change that in the summer.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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