MANCHESTER CITY YOUTH ACADEMY PLAYERS
Manchester City have quickly established one of the best academies in England, and they supplement it with high-cost recruits. Here are brief profiles on their emerging academy generation. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.
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Since the club’s takeover, Manchester City have quickly established one of the best youth academies in English football. They initially supplemented it by recruiting high-level teenage talent from elsewhere, in England and beyond, but have since started to produce exciting talents from the local area.
Their style at underage level is predicated on technical talent, as well as tactically versatile and athletically rounded profiles. Many of City’s recent graduates are ready-made for senior football.
Under Pep Guardiola, Manchester City have pushed through a number of academy players into senior football – but none of achieved anywhere near the success that Phil Foden has. Their decision to slowly integrate him into the first-team, keeping him at the club, has proven to be the perfect one.
City aren’t afraid to put young players out on loan in English and European football, and they also have their vast network of clubs to utilise as well.
Daniel Sturridge, Micah Richards, Stephen Ireland and Michael Johnson are all academy graduates that predate the club’s oil state takeover, all of whom had good careers but didn’t quite fulfill their potential.
Since the takeover, City have produced a numbers of high-level players, not least Phil Foden. They also recruited aggressively, bringing in the likes of Jadon Sancho from English rivals and Angeliño, Brahim Díaz and Jason Denayer from foreign markets.
Manchester City teams compete in the respective Under-18 and Under-23 leagues, as well as the UEFA Youth League, FA Youth Cup, and EFL Trophy.
City are reigning PL2 champions, having won it for the first time in the 2020/21 season, as well as the current Under-18 Premier League champions. They’ve yet to achieve much in European competition as well, with a semi-final in 2017/18 the further stage they’ve reached.
Signed from Millwall’s academy in 2019, Samuel Edozie’s recent involvements with Pep Guardiola’s senior squad has been somewhat of a surprise.
Having spent the last two seasons at underage level, Edozie was heavily involved in City’s pre-season, scoring in each of his friendly appearances, then started in the FA Community Shield. He’s continued to be involved with first-team training, but most of his minutes have been at U-19 and U-23 level this season.
STYLE OF PLAY
Usually playing on the left-side of City’s attack, Edozie is a direct and dynamic dribbler. He likes to square up and drive at defenders, whether cutting onto his stronger right foot or sliding down the outside toward the byline. He has the explosive first step and sleek change of pace to consistently beat opponents, especially at underage level.
He also has the raw technical skill to beat players. He likes to manipulate the ball in one-v-one situations with ball rolls and step-overs to freeze defenders, before quickly bursting past them. His ability to create separation is impressive, and it enables him to be a threat as an off-ball runner too. Once in the final third, Edozie has the ability to cut past defenders with out-to-in runs that get him into dangerous areas.
He is far from the finished product, though; his skillset is rough around the edges, and City will prioritise polishing aspects of his game. A loan to a well-run Championship club would make a lot of sense for all in the mid-term.
Born in Brussels and developed at RSC Anderlecht, Manchester City signed Roméo Lavia for a significant fee in the summer of 2020. Since then, he has been a fixture at the base of City’s midfield at under-18, under-19 and under-23 level, captaining those teams on multiple occasions. He made his first-team debut this season too, playing the full ninety minutes against Wycombe Wanderers in the League Cup.
STYLE OF PLAY
The soon-to-be 18-year-old is a very advanced player for his age. He fulfills an important role at the base of City’s midfield, controlling tempo, moving the ball, breaking up play, and providing structure.
Lavia’s physical profile suits the role that he plays; not too short or too tall at 1.81 metres, he has the mobility to cover ground, physicality to compete in duels, as well as the potential to fill out into a very solid athlete.
But what makes Lavia especially impressive is his reading of the game, which is of a high level relative to his experience. He fills the right areas in each phase of play. Lavia is always ready to contribute when needed.
His technical skillset is very solid too. He isn’t much of an expansive passer or dynamic dribbler, he’s just clean and consistent. He operates at a good tempo, rarely needing more than two touches to receive and release the ball – a key skill for holding midfielders at a Guardiola club. He’s an adept link passer, moving the ball around intelligently with speed and accuracy.
Don’t be surprised if City keep him around and nurture him from within, much like they did with Phil Foden. Lavia has a profile that Guardiola will appreciate.
Picked up from Brentford after their decision to close their youth academy, London-born Luke Mbete has been a highly-rated prospect at Manchester City for the best part of five years. He’s progressed through the levels to establish himself in the under-23s this season, and has been involved with the first-team over the past year too.
STYLE OF PLAY
Not particularly tall for a centre-back, Mbete’s primary asset in terms of his defensive skillset is his mobility. He can cover ground effectively and is a decent defender on the move, sweeping up deep or wide to intercept the ball or recover possession. He likes to step onto the front foot to engage with opponents as well, and his relatively compact frame allows him to be competitive in physical duels against strikers.
He does lack conviction in aerial duels, though, often resorting to disrupting opponents underneat the ball instead of winning the header outright. His body positioning can often be poor as well, especially when attackers drive at him. He crosses over himself, meaning he struggles to react to changes of direction and tempo.
Mbete is an adept ball-player from the back, and comes with the added bonus of being predominantly left-footed. He has a good range of passing from deep, capable of moving play down the wing, punching passes into midfield or switiching it out to the opposite side. His comfort in possession is probably his standout trait.
Born and raised in Salford, James McAtee is a local lad that’s going from strength to strength. He’s put up impressive numbers at underage level in each of the last three seasons, and has kicked on again in this season’s PL2. He made his first-team debut this season as well.
A first UEFA Youth League hat-trick is the latest milestone in an excellent season for City's James McAtee. 15 goals in 14 youth team games so far. Great left foot, strong technician, and versatile tactically. You'll hear plenty more about him in the coming months. pic.twitter.com/gBukB0550b— Scouted Football (@ScoutedFtbl) November 3, 2021
STYLE OF PLAY
McAtee plays between lines in attacking areas, popping into pockets of space to receive the ball, link play, and threaten opposition defences. Quite small and slight, McAtee is a balanced and nimble mover. He isn’t an immediately impressive athlete but he is somewhat deceiving, especially in his ability to change tempo and slide past defenders.
Where he does standout, though, is in his technical quality. He has a lot of control in possession of the ball, and he makes the most of it in smaller spaces. He executes tight turns to slip pressure and is adept at weaving through bodies with the ball at his feet. All of that enable him to link play effectively between lines.
He is especially good at sliding past players with the ball, and he makes it look effortless. McAtee has the combination of control and athleticism to beat players in one-v-one situations, often disruptive opposition structure in central spaces.
The 19-year-old has impressive game intelligence too, and he is versatile tactically. He has good positional and situational awareness which enables him to slip into dangerous areas in and around the box. From there, he has the technical talent to execute a killer pass or finish confidently, typically off his explosive left foot.
Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see what City have in store for McAtee. Too good for underage foootball, Brighton & Hove Albion have already had an £8 million bid rejected for him. Expect to hear a lot more about him.
Manchester City have produced a number of high-level players, even prior to their oil state takeover, but Phil Foden dwarfs everyone. He is the standout academy graduate in City’s history.
Cole Palmar and James McAtee are the best home-grown academy players at City currently. There’s also a plethora of high-level talents brought in fromt elsewhere, including Roméo Lavia (RSC Anderlecht) and Liam Delap (Derby County).