Manchester City

Manchester City

Premier League • England

Pep Guardiola tipped to axe four-time Prem winner from Man City squad after ‘scathing’ assessment of tactical nous

Pep Guardiola during a Manchester City match

Pep Guardiola shouting from the touchline during Manchester City match

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has been backed to cut ties with one of his most experienced players after publicly slating his performances and ability to learn.

Several players could leave City in the summer. Centre-back Aymeric Laporte is fed up of not being in the starting eleven and is therefore ‘likely’ to depart, according to transfer journalist Dean Jones. Tottenham are interested, although they will struggle to land Laporte ahead of Barcelona.

Laporte could be followed out of the Etihad by midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva. Gundogan is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and Barca are keeping tabs on him as well. Silva, meanwhile, is being looked at by Paris Saint-Germain.

But now it seems Kyle Walker might be axed by Guardiola this summer as well. The right-back has been an incredibly reliable performer for City since joining from Spurs in 2017. He has made 238 appearances and helped City to win four Premier League titles, one FA Cup and four League Cups.

However, Walker is no longer guaranteed to start under Guardiola. The manager has changed from a back four to a back three, with Manuel Akanji operating as a right centre-back. John Stones has started to play just in front Akanji in a central defensive midfield role, leaving no room for Walker.

Ahead of City’s game against Southampton on Saturday night, Guardiola was asked whether Walker would be able to play in the new Stones role. He replied: “No, he cannot do it. He will always have pace; Kyle at 60 years old will be the fastest player in this room.

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“To play inside you have to have educated movements – he doesn’t have every one of the characteristics. He has played as a full-back coming inside in the past with four at the back. He has done really well but this shape of three at the back and two in the middle, he cannot do it.”

When asked how Walker can get back into the team, Guardiola added:  “Be himself. Train good … The reason why is tactical. It’s not because we lost faith in Kyle.”

Serious concern about Kyle Walker future

However, talkSPORT pundit Tony Cascarino is worried about the Englishman’s future in Manchester. He has labelled Guardiola’s criticism of Walker ‘scathing’ and thinks it could result in a move away from City.

“It’s a small line on this, but it’s scathing,” Cascarino said.

“Guardiola revealed that the 32-year-old cannot follow tactical instructions that he’s required to take up. John Stones is doing it and he can’t do it – that is scathing.

“To say that, it sounds like quite a nice way of putting it, but he’s a senior pro. He’s had huge success at Man City and his manager is saying he’s not capable of following instructions. He’s talking to him like he’s a teenager!”

The former Chelsea player added: “I think that that line has confirmed that he’s not going to play any part [next season].

“I’d be amazed, because you’re talking about a senior pro who has achieved a lot, and in one line you’ve buried him.”

It would be harsh if Walker was sold by City this summer after all he has done for the club. But it is clear that his days at the Etihad are probably numbered.

The 32-year-old may end up leaving City when his contract expires in June 2024. He has been open about his desire to return to boyhood club Sheffield United, though it remains to be seen if they could afford his wage demands.

Meanwhile, Guardiola has also made a big hint City could beat Liverpool and Arsenal to a Prem signing.