Manchester City FC

Assessing whether Man City's striker dilemma could be solved by Lukas Nmecha

Ross Jackson
Jun 9, 2021, 6:00 PM GMT+1
Lukas Nmecha was top scorer at the Under-21 Euros
Lukas Nmecha was top scorer at the Under-21 Euros / Jurij Kodrun/Getty Images
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Be honest, you've probably lost count of the amount of times you've looked on a player's Wikipedia page before thinking to yourself 'he's still owned by [insert big club here]?!'.

Loaning out players for years on end - and seemingly forgetting they exist - seems to be the all the rage in football nowadays and Manchester City are one of the main culprits. Jack Harrison, the lad terrorising Premier League defences at Leeds - yep, still technically a City player.

It's not that most of said players aren't good enough to ever cut it at the top level, but more the fact City's squad is so bulging with talent that they'd never get a kick if they weren't loaned out.

However, one position in Pep Guardiola's side that doesn't have a queue of first-team players waiting to fill is centre-forward.

The departure of Sergio Aguero and mooted exit of Gabriel Jesus has left many wondering which superstar the club are going to sign. Guardiola has hinted he may not bolster his attacking arsenal this summer and while the City boss undoubtedly tried to hold back a wry smile when he made the comment, could he actually be telling the truth?

Lukas Nmecha spearheaded Germany's triumph at the European Under-21 Championship
Lukas Nmecha spearheaded Germany's triumph at the European Under-21 Championship / MB Media/Getty Images

Lukas Nmecha has been on City's book since he was just eight years old. Much like a lot of the players he'll have grown up with in the club's academy, the German striker could count on one hand the amount of appearances he's made in the City first-team, though temporary moves haven't been quite so hard to come by.

The 22-year-old has spent time with Championship sides Preston and Middlesbrough as well as a stint in the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg, and his combined tally of four goals in 69 appearances at said clubs probably tells you everything you need to know about just how well the moves went.

This season, however, has represented something of a watershed moment for the youngster. Having been deemed surplus to requirements at City last summer - shocking, we know - Nmecha sealed a move to Anderlecht where he's bagged an impressive 21 goals in 41 games.

Having carried his club form into this summer's Under-21 European Championship where he finished top scorer and bagged the winning goal in the final as Germany claimed their third title, it raises the question: is Guardiola not signing a striker because he believes Nmecha has a future at the club?

Guardiola has hinted Torres could play as a centre-forward
Guardiola has hinted Torres could play as a centre-forward / MARTIN RICKETT/Getty Images

If Jesus does remain at the Etihad Stadium and Guardiola decides to play Ferran Torres in a forward role as he's previously hinted, the addition of Nmecha to the first-team squad would leave City with three forwards vying for one position - more than enough competition for places.

But is he the right fit for City? And more importantly is he good enough? In a word, no.

One thing City have lacked in recent years is a plan B. We can appreciate Guardiola's insistence on sticking to his philosophy, but in the dying embers of a game there's absolutely nothing wrong with throwing a big man up top and launching it into the mixer - this is a team that threw David James upfront for crying out loud, now that's football heritage.

The likes of Edin Dzeko and Alvaro Negredo both did a great job of offering something different for the team while helping to take some of the pressure of Aguero, but Nmecha is nowhere near the level the aforementioned pair were at during their time on Eastlands.

Nmecha shouldn't be in the City first-team next season
Nmecha shouldn't be in the City first-team next season / MB Media/Getty Images

The 22-year-old has clearly come on leaps and bounds since his time in the Championship, though that's not to say he's at the level a side like Manchester City demand and - despite having slaughtered teams for doing this earlier in the piece - he'd be much better suited to a loan move away to perhaps a lower-table Premier League club in a bid to continue his development.

There's clearly something there with Nmecha, though the work rate he's shown and his ability with the ball at his feet just isn't good enough for a side looking to challenge for honours both domestically and continentally, especially given the money Guardiola will undoubtedly have available to him this summer.

It's difficult to see where Nmecha fits in at City right now because he certainly isn't good enough to warrant a place in the starting XI. And even if Guardiola were the type to throw a big striker onto the pitch when chasing games, being handed five minutes at the end of a match to just challenge for long balls is going to do nothing for his development or his confidence.

Very few loanees at City are ever given the opportunity to return to the club and show what they can do, yet Nmecha could one day break the mould. But for this season it's way too soon and it could impact his chances of cutting it at the top level in the long run if he is handed his chance.

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