This week, the returning figure that most fans were keen on was manager Pep Guardiola, who is back to health and back in Manchester after his back surgery. Guardiola was missed on the touchline against Sheffield United and Fulham, with Juanma Lillo guiding City to six valuable points – with Guardiola still playing a key role from afar in the preparation and in-game tactics.
Now Guardiola has returned, he will be looking to make up for lost time – in particular in introducing himself to two new signings. City begin a run of seven games in 23 days, including a trip to Germany, two trips to London, and a Carabao Cup clash up in Newcastle.
With Guardiola away, there have also been a number of developments regarding certain players – from two more injury concerns, Gareth Southgate&aposs comments on Phil Foden&aposs position, and some good performances from fringe players. Cole Palmer has left the club completely.
Over the coming days and weeks, Guardiola will have a number of priorities to address now he&aposs back at the club.
Before the international break, the midfield looked relatively settled, with Rodri and Mateo Kovacic regulars in Kevin De Bruyne&aposs absence, Julian Alvarez as number ten, and then Phil Foden or Bernardo Silva drifting in from the right to create a dual number ten system.
However, Kovacic didn&apost play on international duty and complained of a minor injury, with reports in Croatia suggesting he could be set for a brief spell on the sidelines. Alvarez will be flying back from South America, where Argentina played in high altitude in Bolivia, while Jack Grealish&aposs injury concerns mean Foden may be needed on the left.
So with a few players doubtful, and others maybe needing a little bit more time to readjust from the break, Guardiola&aposs first port of call will be to pick a midfield that can go to West Ham and help City win.
Guardiola will almost certainly be asked to respond to Gareth Southgate&aposs observation on Phil Foden&aposs suitability at the top of midfield, with the England manager suggesting there &aposmust be a reason&apos Foden doesn&apost play there for City. The comments were slightly misguided, but Guardiola has also refrained from playing Foden as an out-and-out midfielder for long periods.
Even when Foden excelled against Newcastle and Fulham behind Erling Haaland, he was drifting in from the right, relying on Kyle Walker to provide width on the entire right flank.
Concerns over Mateo Kovacic could give Foden an opportunity in the centre, or Guardiola may decide that the right-wing role works for now. Then there is the question of how to integrate Bernardo Silva into the same system – with Bernardo and Foden competing for the same role at the start of the season.
Jeremy Doku looked good in flashes on his debut against Fulham, but is yet to work with Guardiola until this week. He earned a Man of the Match award for Belgium over the break, and would be favourite to keep his place on the left wing if Jack Grealish is still out.
The key to getting the best from Doku will be to add the game-management and possession-based approach to the youngster&aposs flair, which takes some players longer than others. Getting Guardiola&aposs message across quickly will determine how soon Doku fully slots into the City system.
Then there is Matheus Nunes, a deadline-day signing from Wolves, who has had a fortnight to prepare after not being called up for Portugal. If City are light in bodies in midfield, then Nunes could get games over the coming weeks.
The transfer window has been a hectic one and City have been busy, with high-profile signings and sales aplenty.
City snapped up Croatian pair Mateo Kovacic and Josko Gvardiol from Chelsea and RB Leipzig respectively with the latest addition being Jeremy Doku. Wolves&apos Matheus Nunes then joined the Blues on deadline day. In terms of outgoings, Treble winner Ilkay Gundogan departed for Barcelona, Aymeric Laporte and Riyad Mahrez moved to Saudi Arabia, and Cole Palmer completed a shock move to Chelsea.
Our team of City experts will be on top of all the goings-on at the Etihad across deadline day and beyond, and you can get the latest updates and inside information to your phone by joining our new free WhatsApp community below.
We also treat our community members to special offers, promotions, and adverts from us and our partners. If you dont like our community, you can check out any time you like. If youre curious, you can read our Privacy Notice.
City have a busy schedule with two games a week, potentially until the New Year and beyond. They will need every member of their small squad to be available, including their new signings.