How Manchester City should line up: FFT asks the experts

We're debating the strongest line-ups for the Premier League's big guns. How do you see it going? An ex-player, prominent blogger and FFT editor look at the various permutations...

The player: Tony Coton (Man City 1990-96)

(4-2-3-1)

Why this line-up

"I think the Manchester City defence looks a bit suspect this season, although Joe Hart was as solid as ever last season and will be again this. Mangala took a while to adapt to the English game but I think he'll probably start alongside Kompany. 
 
"With the defence in mind I think City need those two screening midfielders in Yaya Toure and Fabian Delph (when he's actually fit), who could prove to be a shrewd signing in midfield.
 
"Further up the pitch I've got no worries. Raheem Sterling will add pace to the side and he looks like he has settled right in in pre-season. If City sign Kevin De Bruyne then I think he'll fit right in too and David Silva remains one of the best players in the Premier League.
 
"Obviously Sergio Aguero is going to miss the first match of the season but he'll be absolutely crucial this campaign. City need him to stay fit because when he is there's no better striker in the Premier League." 

Blogger: Lloyd Scragg (@lloyd_scragg)

(4-2-3-1)

Why this line-up

"Selecting City’s XI for this season’s curtain-raiser at The Hawthorns is actually a lot easier than it normally would be, thanks in part to the Copa America, which has robbed us of the availability of four almost certain starters. Pellegrini stated earlier in the week that the South American quartet of Aguero, Demichelis, Fernandinho and Zabaleta will not be considered for selection yet, after only returning to training on July 29.

"The exclusion of Vincent Kompany will surprise a few I'm sure, but the truth of it is that he has been horribly short of form for the last 18 months now, and Jason Denayer is a more than adequate replacement; a remarkably composed young defender. Kompany, after returning to pre-season training two weeks before the entire squad in an attempt to recapture whatever it was that made him such an authorative defender in the first place, is facing a huge year. 

"Fabian Delph is already hamstrung, while there are also doubts about Fernando’s fitness (he missed the trip to Stuttgart and hasn’t been training), but the hope is that he’ll be ready by Monday. Presuming Fernando will prove his fitness in time, I expect him to be partnered in a central midfield pivot with Yaya Toure, who has recovered from concussion and looked in fine fettle before his collision with Keylor Navas.

"There have been a number of signs suggesting that Pellegrini intends to finally consign his beloved 4-4-2 to the scrap heap, and opt for a more resolute 4-3-3 formation (hence the Delph signing) with deeper midfielders. However, the distinct lack of central midfield options ahead of West Brom have rendered this prospect impossible, and thus there’s no other option but to go for something resembling a 4-2-3-1, with those three attacking midfield berths going to Raheem Sterling, David Silva and Samir Nasri.

"Sterling is a magnificent signing, and will give us genuine penetration from the left. His intelligent movement and blistering pace will naturally create more space for the magnificent Silva, who will look to drift into those vacated pockets and supply the striker. As for the other wing berth, unless Kevin De Bruyne signs by Monday, it’s a straight choice between Jesus Navas and Nasri.

"In the absence of Aguero, the obvious choice would be to install Wilfried Bony as the lone striker, but the Ivorian missed City’s entire pre-season tour with a mystery illness and looked horribly short of match fitness in our final preparation game. Therefore, I’d opt for the hugely talented Kelechi Iheanacho, who will begin this season as City’s third-choice striker after his promotion from the youth set-up."

FFT say

(4-3-3)

Why this line-up

It's no secret that playing 4-4-2 or even 4-2-3-1 has left City's midfield prone to exposure, especially when Yaya Toure is alternately leggy or overly keen to attack. The signings of Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling, both players suited to play in a 4-3-3 formation, would suggest that may be on Manuel Pellegrini's mind.
 
The first weekend will see a number of players absent, making for a tricky opening fixture, but when the squad is back to full strength an SAS front three of Sterling, Aguero and Silva looks very threatening.
 
In defence, Bacary Sagna and Aleksandar Kolarov are competent, if unremarkable, stand-ins when Zabaleta and Clichy are unavailable, but the intrigue is in the centre. With Martin Demichelis approaching his 35th birthday and Eliaquim Mangala yet to truly impress – and even Vincent Kompany looking wobbly at times – 20-year-old Jason Denayer could be set for a breakthrough season.

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