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Looking at why Man City are pushing for Marc Cucurella

Posted on June 20, 2022

Marc Cucurella may not have been the first name Manchester City fans would have thought of when it became clear the champions were going to make a move for a left-back this summer. Joao Cancelo performed superbly in the position last season, yet with the Champions League City's priority once more in 2022/23, Pep Guardiola is looking to land a specialist in the role.

And so City, having already secured the services of Erling Haaland, are looking to raid their Premier League counterparts in a bid to improve in the off-season. It's sound logic by City, who'll be seeking to bolster the squad with players well versed in the demands of England's top tier to increase their chances of further silverware next term.

With that in mind, top quality options for City are relatively thin on the ground. Realistically, City aren't going to sign Andrew Robertson or Ben Chilwell, for example, this summer, and they need a player who can carry out Guardiola's demands to a high standard. That, then, leaves just Cucurella, though the Spaniard isn't necessarily a poor fit by any stretch.

Having joined Brighton from La Liga side Getafe last summer, Cucurella immediately established himself as a fan favourite at the Amex. The Spaniard was renowned for his attacking output for a Getafe side that scored just 28 times in 2020/21, Cucurella's last for the Azulones. In that season, the Spanish outfit had the third lowest possession average (44.4%) and the worst pass success rate (66.5%), but did rank higher for key passes per game (6.9) in part due to Cucurella.

The left-back created at least 14 more goalscoring opportunities (39) than any other Getafe player and Brighton's capture of Cucurella was seen as quite the coup. That he is now attracting interest from a team as prestigious as City won't come as a shock to La Liga aficionados, nor will it Brighton supporters.

Cucurella did only return one goal and one assist in the Premier League last season, though the former did come against United and the latter Chelsea, so that'll go down well with the City faithful. That being said, the assists return column should have been higher, and that isn't down to Cucurella, but rather Brighton's profligate attack.

The Seagulls scored the same number of goals as 17th-placed Leeds (42) and in a City attack that has been boosted by the addition of Haaland, Cucurella should quickly wrack up those assists. That's because only Trent Alexander-Arnold (51) and Reece James (42) made more key passes from open play than Cucurella (40) of defenders in the Premier League last season.

Alexander-Arnold of course finished with more assists (12) than any other defender in England's top tier last term, while only the Liverpool right-back and teammate Andrew Robertson (10) registered more assists than James (9) of defenders. You'd expected to see Cucurella put up a similar return if City do ultimately secure his services. That he also finished the campaign ninth for successful final third passes (531) highlights how effective he is at picking the right pass in attack. For context, City's Cancelo (847) topped this metric, so Cucurella should, in theory, fit in nicely at the Etihad.

While his impact in the final third has drawn praise, the defensive side to his game was also a key reason as Brighton finished ninth. What's more, Potter's side finished the campaign with the sixth best defensive record (44 goals conceded) in the Premier League, while 12.5 shots conceded per game was also the sixth fewest.

Cucurella may not be the most imposing of defenders, yet he isn't afraid to put himself about for the good of the team. Indeed, he made more tackles (93) than any Brighton player, that in itself the fourth most in England's top tier last term, while only Tyrick Mitchell (156) won possession in the defensive third more times than Cucurella (124) of Premier League full-backs last season.

What was potentially another selling point for City and Guardiola is Cucurella's defensive versatility. Looked upon primarily as a left-back, Potter also started him as the left sided centre-back in a three-man backline on nine occasions last season, and he didn't disappoint here, earning a WhoScored rating of 7.22 in the process. It means that Guardiola can opt to use a similar shape next season without City's overall quality dropping, safe in the knowledge that Cucurella is well versed in the role as judged by his performances for Brighton in a back three.

Having already lost Yves Bissouma to Tottenham this summer, Brighton will be reluctant to cash in on another key man, though Cucurella is still contracted to the Seagulls until 2026, whereas the former has just 12 months left to run on his deal, which forced their hand. It means that Brighton can command a hefty fee for Cucurella, which City seem willing to pay.

The key quality to Cucurella's game, however, is his chance creation. City scored more goals (99) than any other team in Europe's top five leagues last season, a return that should increase with the signing of Haaland. With Cucurella whipping in balls off the left, the Norwegian goal machine should thrive, and while City fans may have hoped for a superstar arrival, the Spain international could just end up being the perfect left-back capture.