90min
Manchester City

How Manchester City could line up with Jack Grealish & Harry Kane

Max Cooper
The dream team
The dream team / ANDY RAIN/Getty Images
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When a watery-eyed Pep Guardiola shouted to the heavens, "WE CANNOT REPLACE HIM!" we almost believed him.

How could you ever find someone to step into the shoes of Manchester City's all-time leading scorer, Sergio Aguero? It's impossible.

Actually, it's not impossible, as it turns out. All you have to do is spend north of £100m on Tottenham Hotspur and England striker Harry Kane. That'll do the transfer trick. The writing is on the wall for Spurs: their captain and his ambitions have outgrown them.

The same could be said for Aston Villa skipper Jack Grealish. The latest word on the street is that the England heartthrob has agreed personal terms with Man City, and he is ready to move on from the club he grew up supporting as a child.

Now, this is terrible news for Spurs, Villa and the rest of the Premier League. With the two forwards on the way in for a joint cost potentially reaching £300m, it will take a gargantuan effort to stop Guardiola's mean machine.

But what comes as bad news for the domestic game, could be great news for the international scene.

Could we really ask for anything more than the best manager currently working in the game to coach England's four most exciting forwards in Kane, Grealish, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden? The quartet will achieve new levels of synergy that other national teams could only dream of, and all Gareth Southgate has to do is put them on the pitch at the same time.

That can't be too hard, right? Well, first, Guardiola will need to figure out how to squeeze them into Man City's starting lineup, so Gareth can copy his homework at the back of the class. So, let's have a look at the possible variations Guardiola can utilise with Kane and Grealish in the side next season.


5. Torres/Mahrez - Kane - Sterling (Grealish in behind & Foden in midfield)

Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez
Proven partnership / Michael Regan/Getty Images

Of course, we cannot forget that Guardiola already has a plethora of attacking talent to select from, including the unbelievably skilled Riyad Mahrez and Ferran Torres.

They could still operate on the right flank, with Sterling out on the left in his usual habitat, Kane down the middle and Grealish in behind. If we're squeezing Foden into the starting lineup, he could sit deeper in the midfield, although it's not his most natural position.

We're not entirely sure how much Mahrez or Torres would suit Kane's preference to dropping deep and linking up play either, while picking out pacy runners from wide.


4. Grealish - Foden - Sterling (Kane in behind)

Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane
Hugs all round / Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Yeah, this one is a bit bonkers, but put it this way: Could you see Guardiola puling this out of nowhere in the Champions League final? And the answer is almost always 'yes.'

Kane loves performing the playmaker role, so why not stick him in behind another focal point? Foden has played the false nine role before in his career, and it would allow the pair to rotate and pull defences all over the shop.

Add to that the pace of Sterling on the left, and the trickery of Grealish on the right, and you've got one mentally unpredictable front four. Mental is the right word, though.


3. Foden - Kane - Grealish (Sterling in behind)

Phil Foden, Harry Kane, Jack Grealish
The boys / Facundo Arrizabalaga - Pool/Getty Images

Another less likely alternative, given Sterling's blistering pace which suits the wide areas. Raheem the Dream has never really played in behind the striker, but his ability to dart into the tiniest of gaps and drive with the ball means he could probably nail it.

Foden has killed it for Man City on that right wing, particularly in a drubbing of then-Champions Liverpool last season. He has that knack to jink inside and find his teammates, while cracking off some dangerous shots from range.

And as for Grealish, well, we've seen just how devastating he can be on that left side.


2. Foden - Kane - Sterling (Grealish in behind)

Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling
Club and country / Andy Rain - Pool/Getty Images

We've almost cracked the code, here. England came close to starting with this front four against Czech Republic at Euro 2020, although Foden was left out for Bukayo Saka.

As far as the front three goes, there is pace, penetration and guile, with Kane the obvious benefactor of his winger's movements. Behind him sits Grealish, who has plied his trade as a number 10 for large parts of his career.

He's only really exploded since shifting out to that left flank, though...


1. Sterling - Kane - Grealish (Foden in behind)

FBL-EURO-2020-2021-MATCH44-ENG-GER
The ultimate lineup / ANDY RAIN/Getty Images

We think this is the best system that suits each individual and the entire team down to the ground.

Grealish has grown to appear far more comfortable on that left-flank, floating around and popping up into space when he can. Sterling has done the business on the left for years, but he showed at Euro 2020 he can be equally as devastating on the right.

Foden also proved during his early performances in the summer tournament that he can thrive in a more central position, carrying the ball and picking out those more advanced.

And then there's Kane, dropping in, allowing his runners in behind and finishing off free-flowing moves when he fancies it. Hand Man City the Premier League trophy, and England the 2022 World Cup right now.

Football is coming home (for real this time).

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