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5 Fernandinho back-ups Guardiola should consider

 • by Matt Gault
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Pep Guardiola had plenty of reasons to be happy on Sunday.

His Manchester City side beat Chelsea 2-0 at Wembley to clinch the Community Shield, a game in which a razor-sharp Sergio Agüero issued an emphatic statement of intent and Phil Foden reinforced his status as one to watch in the coming months.

One thing that continues to bother Guardiola, however, is City’s lack of cover for Fernandinho.

The Brazilian played all 90 minutes against the Blues but his manager is aware that, at 33, he needs support as City get ready to embark on another gruelling fixture schedule.

The Premier League champions possess enviable strength in depth across the pitch with the exception of defensive midfield. Fernandinho is Guardiola’s only senior midfield anchor.

The club have requested a work permit for Brazilian Douglas Luiz but are still expected to sign a midfielder before the transfer window shuts on Thursday night.

Here are five realistic candidates.

Mario Lemina

The Gabonese midfielder has admittedly struggled to consistently convince during his time at Southampton but is clearly talented.

Lemina joined the Saints in a club record £15.4million deal in 2017 and went on to make 29 appearances in all competitions as the club narrowly avoided relegation to the Championship under Mark Hughes.

However, while the 24-year-old has shown a propensity to go missing at times, the former Juventus midfielder may benefit from an inspirational teacher like Guardiola.

Lemina’s stats make for impressive reading, with 1.3 aerials won, 2.03 interceptions made and 2.87 tackles landed per 90. Lemina’s abilities are not to be doubted and, with Guardiola’s guidance, he could add some much-needed maturity to his game.

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Matías Vecino 

The 26-year-old Uruguayan was previously heavily linked with a move to Chelsea, but with the Blues seemingly wrapping up a deal to sign Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovačić, the path may be cleared for City.

Vecino is a steady presence in the centre. In his first season at Inter Milan last year, he averaged 59.38 accurate passes per 90, enough to place him inside the top ten in that category.

With 2.27 tackles won per 90, he is a robust enough midfielder to fill in for Fernandinho. He is a creatively minded player, too, possessing an effective combination of close control, vision and accurate long passing.

Importantly, Vecino offers a sense of balance in midfield, as evidenced in Russia this summer, where he started all five of Uruguay’s matches at the World Cup.

Tottenham Hotspur are also said to be interested in Vecino.

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Julian Weigl

Guardiola is believed to be an admirer of the 22-year-old midfielder and, according to reports this week, the City boss sent scouts to watch the young German in friendly action for Borussia Dortmund.

Like Vecino, Weigl is an exceptional passer and is comfortable operating in tight spaces. The Germany international is adept at using both feet and his quick-thinking allows him to both make tackles and skip past opposing players.

Weigl is known for his efficient distribution in deep areas and positioning, so much so that he has often been likened to Sergio Busquets in the past.

Dortmund have signed Axel Witsel to boost their own midfield options but the Bundesliga club would likely demand somewhere in the region of £50million for Weigl.

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Steven N’Zonzi 

Once relegated with Blackburn Rovers, N’Zonzi has gone on to become one of the most respected holding midfielders in Europe.

The Frenchman joined Sevilla in 2015 following a three-year spell with Stoke City and has helped the Spanish side to Europa League success in his first season.

The 29-year-old, who was part of Les Bleus’ World Cup triumph in Russia, has been heavily linked with a move away from the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, with Arsenal and Roma among the clubs said to be interested.

But he would be a solid squad option for City, too. Standing 6ft 6ins tall, N’Zonzi unsurprisingly dominated aerial battles last season in La Liga with 4.18 won per 90, while he also averaged 75.2 passes per game, placing him third.

A dominant, well-rounded midfielder, N’Zonzi has Premier League experience and would be a reasonably-priced and dependable option for Guardiola.

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Leandro Paredes

The Argentine’s impressive performances in the blue of Zenit Saint Petersburg have seen him linked with Inter Milan and AC Milan.

The 24-year-old has shone for the Russian side since arriving from Roma in 2017 and could be available for around £30million.

Paredes, who has three caps for Argentina, is a remarkably refined player, with pace, trickery, vision and tactical discipline. He can break up attacks and unlock defences and could fit nicely into City’s rhythmic, quick-passing style.

Once tipped as the ‘next Riquelme,’ Paredes has proven a more rounded and defensively-committed player than the iconic Argentine playmaker.

Powerful, astute and athletic, Paredes’ burgeoning status could be enough to convince Guardiola and City.

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