Manchester City’s pursuit of a striker has been the talk of the summer.
First it was Harry Kane, then it was Cristiano Ronaldo. In the end, it was no one.
With Sergio Aguero gone after a glorious 10-year spell and no replacement signed, two players now find themselves unfairly thrust into the spotlight.
Ferran Torres, the man tasked with replacing Aguero’s goals, and Jack Grealish, the man some say funds for a new striker were unwisely spent on.
In Pep Guardiola’s eyes, Ferran is now a striker. The 21-year-old arrived last summer from Valencia as a winger, but a mixture of circumstance and good fortune has seen the Spaniard find relative joy in a central role.
According to The Athletic, Ferran worked extensively with Aguero on the training ground last season, taking guidance from City’s all-time record goal-scorer on movement and the ins and outs of being a number nine.
After some encouraging outings as a striker towards the end of 2020/21, most notably the 4-3 win away at Newcastle during which he scored a hat-trick, Torres has been Guardiola’s go-to option at centre-forward so far this campaign.
On his decision to use Ferran up front instead of Gabriel Jesus, Guardiola said: “Gabriel comes more to associate [link-up play], to drop a little bit, and Ferran makes movements more to the goal.”
After the 5-0 thrashing of Arsenal, the City boss likened his direct runs towards goal to those of Jamie Vardy. That’s high praise, but City fans need to temper their expectations of the rookie forward.
Whether they signed an elite striker or not, City were never going to struggle to score against the likes of Norwich and – in their current guise – Arsenal.
It is in the tight games, the Champions League knockouts and matches against title rivals, where City are more likely to need a guaranteed goalscorer.
Torres has huge potential, but at the moment he is very much all or nothing. When he clicks, he is brilliant. When he doesn’t, such as in the opening day defeat at Tottenham, he does next to nothing.
The Spaniard would have benefitted immensely from another season of learning from an elite striker. Yes, he now has an opportunity to learn on the job, but if expectations become too high then that could be counterproductive.
When Torres has his off days (as with any young player, they will happen) and City struggle to score, then Jack Grealish will also come in for undue criticism. Not necessarily for performances, but because of what he represents.
Those short-sighted enough to miss the bigger picture and underplay Grealish’s undoubtedly high value, may scapegoat the midfielder as the player City splashed out on instead of a striker.
Grealish is a luxury player, there’s no doubting that, but it was never an either-or situation when it came to pursuing him and Kane.
City wanted to complete both deals but it wasn’t to be. Such is the fickle nature of football that one day Grealish will be ‘Super Jack’, the next a £100million extravagance.
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Ferran is still learning his craft; he didn’t ask to replace a guy that scored 260 goals for the club. Grealish will be up to full speed soon; he didn’t ask to be valued at £100m.
Whatever happens this season at City (and, let’s face it, it’s unlikely to be a bad season in the grand scheme of things), patience is needed with both players.
If things go wrong in key games, both seem capable of sticking up for themselves, shutting out the noise and getting on with the task at hand.
Do you think City not signing a striker puts pressure on Ferran and Grealish? Follow our new City Fan Brands Writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.