Two statistics that offer hope to Man City’s talented young stars

It doesn’t take much to get fans excited when there is even the smallest sign that a star of the future is about to emerge from their club’s academy.

As such, the Manchester City faithful were broadly delighted to see Romeo Lavia handed a place on the Champions League A-list that was announced on Friday.

Meaningful action in Europe’s top competition is far from guaranteed but his selection still represents a massive show of faith for Pep Guardiola in the 17-year-old Belgian.

Phil Foden has plotted the path from academy standout to first-team star for City’s next generation to follow, but his journey also shows patience will be required.

We all remember the relentless calls for Guardiola to give Foden more game time or even send him out on loan. Just like the ‘Stockport Iniesta’, Lavia and the other key members of City’s Premier League 2 are likely to have to bide their time and snatch the opportunities when they come around.

Nevertheless, those chances could be more plentiful than some expect in the months and years ahead.

Second-smallest squad in the Premier League

Data collated by Transfermarkt following the opening weeks of this Premier League season show City to have 22 senior professionals on their books.

The depth of talent and quality at Pep Guardiola’s disposal provokes anything from wonder to envy among observers, but in terms of pure numbers, City have the joint second-smallest collection of senior players in the Premier League alongside Aston Villa.

Only Guardiola’s great mentor Marcelo Bielsa is operating with fewer (20) at Leeds United.

The average age of the City squad is 27.6 years, making it the seventh oldest in the division. Of course, this also speaks of a playing group in the prime of their careers and ready to add more trophies to the collection.

But the sands of time flow quickly in football and City’s youngsters should look forward to pressing their claims and where that might lead.

Lavia’s integration into the first-team squad feels telling in what could be a swansong season for Fernandinho, the club captain and defensive midfield lynchpin who will turn 37 before the end of 2021/22 when his contract expires.

Man City fans could soon see more of Romeo Lavia.

There is also a well-documented vacancy at centre-forward for when the prolific powerhouse Liam Delap is back to full fitness and able to building on his Golden Boot efforts in Premier League 2.

Cole in the goals and a double-treble

Other areas of the squad are far better stocked. To make yourself part of the conversation in the creative midfield positions at Manchester City, you have to make an awful lot of noise.

Thankfully, Cole Palmer and James McAtee are doing just that.

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Palmer scored a screamer in the 3-0 win over Scunthorpe United in the Papa John’s Trophy, a few days after revelling in a slice of the first-team action in the 5-0 thrashing of Norwich City.

McAtee was also on target at Glanford Park and a player who was previously noted as a gliding, delicate playmaker operating in those pockets of space that Guardiola loves has shown signs of turning into a goal machine.

His hat-trick for the EDS secured a dramatic win over Blackburn Rovers last month and he followed that up with another treble in the mini-derby against Man United.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - August 28: James McAtee of Manchester City (R) during the U23 Premier League match between Manchester United and Manchester City at Leigh Stadium on August 28, 2021 in Manchester, England.
James McAtee scored his second consecutive hat-trick for the EDS against United

Some of the finest players of their type in world football are there for Palmer and McAtee to aspire towards and learn from every day on the training ground. Guardiola spoke last season about how important those youth teamers who step up are to the collective, even before they enjoy frequent senior football themselves.

Regular first-team slots are the sort of thing that might look like a pipe dream now, but with Ilkay Gundogan turning 31 next month and into the final two years of his contract and Bernardo Silva having looked for a move prior to the season, a path might open up for McAtee and Palmer in time.

Edozie winging it

Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez similarly have terms that expire in 2023. If they don’t both hang around, Sam Edozie’s prolific pre-season displays on the left-wing and a gutsy showing in the Community Shield did his hopes of future progress no harm at all.

Luke Mbete has already featured in first-team squads. At centre-back, Ruben Dias, Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nathan Ake present an enviable array of senior options. If it doesn’t prove realistic to keep all four fully happy with their lot in the long term, Mbete knows he has Guardiola’s eye and should get the chance to make his case.

The majestic La Masia-honed Barcelona team Guardiola led between 2008 and 2012 means he is criticised any time he spends big money, accused of blocking the opportunities available to the youth players he professes to adore.

It’s another example of the City boss being held up to standards spared his contemporaries on account of his phenomenal success. Make no mistake, Guardiola will be delighted by Lavia and the rich crop of young talent keeping his senior professionals on their toes.