Filling the void: Manchester City's hunt for the next big thing after Mahrez's exit

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Filling the void: Manchester City's hunt for the next big thing after Mahrez's exit
Mahrez left Manchester City for Al Hilal this summer
Mahrez left Manchester City for Al Hilal this summer
Reuters
On the back of a historic treble, Manchester City go into the 2023/24 season with every hope of challenging on all fronts again. But with key players leaving, the pressure is on to find replacements who fit the mould of a demanding manager in Guardiola.

The latest player to leave in search of a new challenge (or payday) is Riyad Mahrez (32) and whilst the Algerian's influence had waned in recent seasons, City will be light in his position if they don't find a replacement.

In this series, we delve into three possible signings the club in question could make to 'fill the void' in their team. In this piece, Flashscore will assess potential right-wing signings after Mahrez's exit and Bernardo Silva's uncertain future. 

The obvious choice - Bradley Barcola 

Lyon's exciting French U-21 international Bradley Barcola (20) is first and foremost the obvious choice because Manchester City have been heavily linked with a move for him. 

90min reported in July that Manchester City are considering the dynamic winger as a potential Mahrez replacement. And when you look into the player- his numbers and how he could fit into Guardiola's style of football - you start to see why he actually should be the obvious signing. 

His five goals and 10 assists in Ligue 1 last season is impressive when you consider he only made his breakthrough into senior football in the 2021/22 campaign, and even then he only made 11 appearances, which mostly came from the bench. 

He is now a mainstay in Lyon's team, and to have 15 goal involvements in your first full season of senior football gives you an indication of Barcola's ceiling. 

What kind of profile is Barcola and how could he fit in at Man City?

Barcola is in some respects a skilful and traditional winger who likes to take on his man and create chances for the centre-forward.

The fact that he is comfortable off both the left and right wing makes him versatile and unpredictable to defend against because he can switch flanks mid-game. 

His 6'0 stature means he has more physicality than some wingers and when you add his sharp turn of speed and effortless ball control, he is a difficult man to stop.

In addition to his dribbling abilities, Barcola has the ability once he's run down the byline to cut the ball back for whoever is making the run into the box with pinpoint accuracy. 

He can at times be wasteful in this regard and does need to improve his consistency in the final third but under Guardiola's renowned player development, he is sure to do so with time. 

One aspect of Barcola's game that Guardiola would be particularly interested in is his ability to arrive unmarked at the back post to tap in after a clever darting run. Raheem Sterling had a similar ability in his time at the Etihad and scored a vast amount of goals for City from a similar position.

Barcola may still be a work in progress but at 20 years old and with Guardiola coaching him, he could reach ceilings even Mahrez didn't manage. 9/10

Alternative - Michael Olise 

Another France U21's international and emerging talent is Michael Olise (21). Despite only being a year older than his French counterpart, Olise has been playing senior football at first Reading and now Crystal Palace since 2019. 

Olise has had to make his way up from Championship football to Crystal Palace, joining from Reading in the summer of 2021. In that time he's become an integral part of Palace's furniture, impressing some of England's biggest clubs with his fearlessness on the ball and his wicked delivery into the box from open play and set-pieces. 

Whilst Olise has yet to become a regular goal scorer and can at times panic when through on goal, his 11 assists in the 2022/23 Premier Leaguer season highlight why is so sought after. 

A prime example of Olise's set-piece weapon was on display in the Seagulls' 2-1 win over Wolves in October last year.  From the right-hand side and some distance from goal, he whipped a ball into the box which had so much power and spin, it only needed a slight touch from the onrushing Odsonne Edouard for the ball to nestle into the bottom corner. 

Olise, however, is just as dangerous in open play with his delivery, and his ability from wide positions to find the perfect cross for the striker to attack is the Frenchman's biggest asset. 

This was on full show in Palace's 5-1 dismantling of relegated Leeds United in April. Olise has a brilliant ability to slow down play, take one touch to set himself and whip a cross in with accuracy and venom. 

This was exactly what happened against Leeds and it was Jordan Ayew the beneficiary this time as he rose well in the air and directed a bullet header past Illan Meslier.

You could already envisage Erling Haaland getting on the end of a beautifully whipped Olise cross, a scary thought for the rest of the league. 

Olise's numbers will only improve in a side with Erling Haaland leading the line, and with a reported £35m release clause, he would be a cost-effective addition. 8/10

Wildcard - Matheus Goncalves 

Flamengo's rising star Matheus Goncalves (17) is the definition of a wildcard option and the thing worth pointing out straight away is he is unlikely to slot straight into Guardiola's team like Olise or Barcola could.

However, with the likes of Phil Foden, Bernardo Silva (for now), Jack Grealish and academy prospect Cole Palmer already first-team options, perhaps there's an argument for bringing in someone like Goncalves, because the potential of the Brazilian prospect is huge - he could be the next big thing to come out of South America. 

Since Goncalves has just been loaned out for the second consecutive season after joining Bragantino in January, City wouldn't be able to sign him this summer, but they could look to make an agreement with Flamengo for a future transfer as you would expect his transfer fee to skyrocket as he gains more exposure to senior football.

Although Goncalves hasn't had much senior game time to look too closely into his stats, he has shown glimpses of what he's all about when he's had chances. 

The Brazilian is similar to Barcola in terms of his ability to play off the left and right as well as possessing a directness and willingness to take on his man. 

His close control and agility at speed is impressive and it is the area of his game that makes him eye-catching. In terms of dribbling ability, Goncalves ranks the highest out of the three, it's just about adding goals and assists to his game now.  

End product is an area of improvement and a reminder he is still raw but in his few senior goals he has showcased his finishing qualities, scoring from tight angles and striking the ball with speed. 

Goncalves may be too much of a gamble now but the future is bright for the Brazilian teenager and if Manchester City don't snap him up, another big European side will. 7/10 

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