Manchester City’s lack of depth in the full back positions was exposed in last season’s Champions League semi-finals.
With Joao Cancelo and Kyle Walker both missing, Pep Guardiola was forced to field John Stones and Oleksandr Zinchenko on the right and left side respectively. By the second half, Fernandinho was playing on the right.
It is therefore unsurprising that City have made the capture of a new full back one of their priorities for the summer transfer window with Marc Cucurella believed to be on the Premier League champions’ radar.
Brighton reportedly want a fee of at least £50m for the Spaniard, but Guardiola sees him as perfect for his team.
And with good reason. On and off the ball, Cucurella would be a good fit for City.
Marc Cucurella’s Premier League statistics
The 23-year-old is proactive in possession, as illustrated by his average of 3.85 passes into the penalty area per 90 minutes for Brighton in the league last season – this places him in the 88th percentile for players in his position.
On top of this, Cucurella is in the 99th percentile for passes under pressure per 90 minutes (9.51) and the 79th percentile for progressive carries per 90 minutes (6.07).
While Cancelo is most capable as a ball-carrier and Zinchenko is better as a ball-passer, Cucurella can do both. Guardiola wouldn’t have to pick between one approach or another with the Spaniard.
Technically, Cucurella’s game is sound. This is to be expected of a player who spent five years in the Barcelona youth system before joining the Camp Nou club’s B team.
Marc Cucurella in action for Brighton
The only surprise is that Cucurella wasn’t ever given a chance to prove himself for Barca’s senior team despite successful loan spells at Eibar and Getafe. The Catalans surely regret letting him leave.
But Barcelona’s loss can be City’s gain as they look to plug the holes that caused them to sink in the Champions League once again last season.
Cucurella gives City greater depth
Erling Haaland has already been signed to give Guardiola a designated number nine. The addition of Cucurella would certainly give Manchester City greater depth and there’s reason to believe he would become more than just an option off the bench.
At a fundamental level, the fact Cucurella is left-footed would give City a different dimension. Cancelo might be one of the most dynamic full backs in the Premier League right now, but the Portuguese international is naturally right-footed and frequently prefers to drive into the centre over stretching it wide.
Of course, Cancelo’s ability to drive inside is useful to Guardiola who likes to push his team as high as possible – Cancelo gives the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden the freedom to play closer to goal when he drives into central midfield – but greater width on the left side could give Manchester City even more space to play in.
Off the ball, Cucurella’s suitability for Guardiola’s high-pressing approach is clear in his statistics.
He is in the 91st percentile for tackles won per 90 minutes, but most impressive is his average of 5.84 successful pressures per 90 minutes, placing him in the 95th percentile for this data point among players in his position.
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Defensively, Cucurella is so comfortable that he even played as a centre back on more than one occasion last season.
“There were people who said I couldn’t play as a full-back because I couldn’t defend, but now I’m proving I can even play as a centre-back in a back three,” the 23-year-old said in an interview.
Cucurella needed time to acclimatise to the speed and physicality of the Premier League after joining Brighton last summer, but the 23-year-old grew as the season went on.
His success in Graham Potter’s team means Guardiola already has some solid evidence to suggest Cucurella would cope in his dynamic, forward-thinking side.
City have spent over £200m on full backs since the appointment of Guardiola in 2016, underlining just how important they are to the Catalan coach and his approach.
Cancelo and Walker in particular have been central to the success enjoyed by the club in recent times, but the arrival of Cucurella could stimulate further growth