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Pep To Wield Axe To Under-Performing City Squad

Pep Guardiola is reportedly planning wholesale changes after Manchester City’s defeat in Monaco underlined how old and weak the City squad really is.

According to newspaper reports, Pep wanted seven big signings when he took over last year, but was told that would have to happen over two summer transfer windows and, armed with a £200 million transfer budget, he now expects to sign a host of new players in the coming months.

City have the fifth oldest squad in the Premier League and the pressure will be on chief executive Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain this summer to deliver the type of players who can handle Guardiola’s system.

Guardiola will offload as many as 17 unwanted players as possible before next season and defender Gael Clichy accepts there are bound to be changes.

‘There are going to be some new faces,’ said Clichy. ‘What’s going to happen in three months is up to the chairman, the boss and the club. People will talk but we can only concentrate on the next game.’

Clichy is one of seven players out of contract at the end of the season and like Yaya Toure, Pablo Zabaleta, Willy Caballero, Bacary Sagna and Jesus Navas, there is no guarantee that any of them will be offered new contracts.

Add in five players City have sent out on loan this season, Joe Hart, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri, Wilfried Bony and Jason Denayer, and it is easy to see how the number of players leavin the Etihad Stadium this sumer could reach double digits.

And that is before Pep makes decisions on fringe players like Fernando, Fabian Delph and Kelechi Iheanacho as well as the future of two of their senior stars — Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany.

Kompany has not played since the end of January, despite media reports saying he is fit again after a catalogue of injuries, but his continued absence points towards him leaving at the end of the season.

Aguero has struggled to adapt to Guardiola’s philosophy despite again being City’s leading scorer and he lost his place to Gabriel Jesus before City’s new signing suffered a metatarsal injury. Publicly, City insist Aguero is staying, and privately remain optimistic that he will, but the relationship between player and manager has appeared strained.

Guardiola blamed the Champions League defeat in Monaco on his failure to convince players to stick to an attacking game plan, and Clichy admitted the team let down the manager, surrendering a two-goal first-leg advantage before half-time.

‘We have to take responsibility because he never told us to play deep,’ he said.

‘His philosophy is to go forward, to win the ball high up the field and then pass the ball to a player who can be creative. We just didn’t do it.

‘His message at half-time was “if you have to go out of this competition at least go out playing the way you want to play”.’

Guardiola believes his team will learn from the experience but City now face a battle to finish in the top four to qualify for next season’s Champions League. They meet Liverpool at home on Sunday before playing away against Arsenal and Chelsea.

Clichy added: ‘We still have the FA Cup and we want to be as close as possible to Chelsea in the league. The message is to finish strong. We have to do it for ourselves, the manager and the fans.’