Defeat at Liverpool last time out for Manchester City really has heaped the pressure on Pep Guardiola, with the Citizens boss enduring his worst ever start to a league campaign.
His side have now lost three of their opening 12 Premier League games and have seen their world turned upside down by the loss of Aymeric Laporte to long-term injury.
Vincent Kompany’s departure, John Stones’ injury problems, and Nicolas Otamendi’s erratic form and you begin to see why City have been struggling to grind out results like we all know they can.
Fernandinho and Rodri’s deployments as emergency central defenders says it all when it comes to central defensive options, so there’s a good chance that Guardiola will want to dip into the January transfer market in a bid to prevent Liverpool from winning their first Premier League crown.
But which defenders should he target? Who’s up for the job?
City could do worse than plunge for the 24-year-old who continues to impress week in week out for Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.
To get him, though, Guardiola may have to pay well over the odds, with the Cherries thought to be looking for around £75m for the highly-rated Dutchman.
Money has never been an issue for post-takeover City, but even they would have to consider parting with such a high amount. Even if they did, they might not get their man – with former club Chelsea thought to be considering activating the buy-back clause inserted into the deal they agreed with Bournemouth in June 2017.
Rumoured to be on Arsenal’s radar, Tah is a defender who is starting to grow a rather extensive list of admirers – and it’s easy to see why.
Strong and athletic, he is an imposing figure in the heart of Bayer Leverkusen’s defence and a player very much in the mould of City’s departed skipper, Vincent Kompany. The 23-year-old is not just physically imposing, he’s handy with the ball at his feet – evidenced by his 90%* pass completion rate so far this season.
That trait alone is likely to impress Guardiola, with playing out from the back very much on the ‘must-have’ list of skills.
Soyuncu has seamlessly stepped into a Leicester City backline that, despite Harry Maguire’s summer departure, currently boasts the tightest defence in the Premier League.
Guardiola is thought to be an admirer of the defender’s reading of the game, as well as his on-the-ball ability. City may be wise to move for the Turkish international, but the question is, how much would Pep need to pay for Leicester’s 23-year-old rising star?
The answer is likely to be a lot – given his form – as the Foxes are unlikely to want part with Soyuncu, even though Arsenal are also sniffing around.
At 32 years old, there will be those who think that Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen is past his best.
But we must not forget that City were led to the title last year by 34-year-old Vincent Kompany, proving experience can be crucial when it comes to getting over the winning line. The Belgian has proven his worth at Spurs by helping them develop into genuine title contenders in years gone by, but is yet to show any reward for his benefits.
Out of contract next summer, he represents an appealing option to City – as they may be able to tempt their north London adversaries into sanctioning a January sale that allows them to a recoup some kind of transfer fee.
Not only would this be a sensible option, given Alderweireld’s wealth of Premier League experience, but it would also be a frugal one.
The Belgian defender has made it clear that he’d be keen to experience a new challenge, and City could take advantage of Tottenham’s eagerness to cash-in.
Alderweireld was dropped for Spurs’ last game at home to Sheffield United, perhaps a sign that Mauricio Pochettino is beginning to look at life after the Belgian. If he is, City could come calling and he could be the perfect option for the next 18 months or so.