While all the transfer talk regarding Manchester City revolves around goalkeepers, full backs and creating possibly the most blistering attacking array of talent the Premier League has ever seen one position Guardiola cannot afford to overlook is centre back.
While criticism could (and should in many ways) be levelled at his attackers lack of clinical finishing last season it was mainly the defence that bore the brunt of both the fans and pundits frustrations.
Had Vincent Kompany not regained full fitness at the back end of the season the clamour for transfer activity would undoubtedly be around a centre back being brought in rather than other positions.
But irrespective of whether Kompany remains fit or not, Guardiola will be all too aware that he needs another option come the start of the season.
Kompany’s return is a huge boost and Pep will be hoping he plays more often than not alongside John Stones to aid the youngster’s development but beyond that there aren’t too many options.
Aleksandar Kolorov is quite simply not a centre back and although Nicolas Otamendi looked steady alongside Kompany, he is by no means the centre back that will bring trophies to City. Statistics aside (he made the whoscored.com European team of the season) it is plain for all to see that he does not possess any of the attributes needed to play in a Guardiola team at the top level. Too often he was caught out of position and his obsession with going to ground, coupled with his poor passing ability will not have enamoured him to Guardiola long term. Add to that the fact he was bullied by the more physical strikers in the Premier League (particularly Costa and Lukaku) and that he is nearly 30 and therefore unlikely to change his style of play now, means he is unlikely to feature long term.
The only other option in the current squad is to promote Jason Denayer but this is also unlikely. The young Belgian failed to impress Pep last summer and was loaned out to Sunderland where he failed to impress in a very poor side. Many would argue Kompany would fail to bring anything to that team, but that aside, he is unlikely to get another chance at City.
As well as being a superb defender Kompany brings crucial leadership to City and that is no doubt what Guardiola will be seeking in any player he brings in.
City had been linked with Virigil Van Dijk who does look to have all the attributes Pep wants in a player but whether it was the size of the fee and his wages or the fact that he doesn’t actually rate Van Dijk (sources have said City were never interested in him) it is looking unlikely that he will be playing for City next season.
Ever since Pep arrived the name of Leonardo Bonucci has been linked with a move to City. On paper it is undoubtedly the best option as he would bring the right mix of experience, leadership and class to City but there are stumbling blocks. Juventus are unlikely to let such a key player leave for anything less than a huge fee and Bonucci has recently signed a contract extension.
Beyond Van Dijk and Bonucci the options are thin on the ground, probably down to the lack of genuine top quality centre backs in world football more than any other factor.
City bought badly in this area in recent seasons (at significant cost) and to add insult to injury they have seen some of the players they once had blossom into excellent players. Jerome Boateng and Stefan Savic are now regulars at the highest level of football and injuries allowing there is no doubt Matija Nastasic would also be there.
One thing is for sure. Every team who has won the Premier League has had a solid pairing at centre back and no amount of other players can make up for that. City’s two title triumphs saw Lescott and Demichelis partner Kompany to excellent effect.
Stones is an excellent prospect but with four competitions to play in next season it is almost certain that having Otamendi as the only other option will see City fall short of their objectives. The next centre back to play in the sky blue of City will be a crucial decision for Guardiola.