Pep Guardiola has already shown why James McAtee and Liam Delap won’t move to Southampton – Alex Brotherton

While it’s widely expected that Manchester City will not make any signings during the January transfer window, according to some reports it could be a busy month in terms of players going in the opposite direction.

Following the £46m sale of Ferran Torres to Barcelona, Sky Sports reported earlier this week that Southampton are interested in signing City youngsters James McAtee and Liam Delap.

While the chance of Pep Guardiola sanctioning the sale of either is slim to none, it is plausible that either or both could be allowed to leave on temporary basis in search of first-team football.

Much has been made over City’s apparent refusal to give youth a chance, a criticism that the rise of Phil Foden and the recent emergence of Cole Palmer have made a mockery of.

But still, deciding whether to stick or twist is a very real and understandable dilemma for young City talents. Following in Foden’s footsteps is no easy task – the fact that he is expected to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award for the second year running shows that.

There is a solid argument to be made that the best way for young players to develop is to play regularly, something that City and Guardiola cannot guarantee given the talent already in the squad.

But as Guardiola has already shown this season, if the duo do depart on loan, their destination is unlikely to be Southampton.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 21: James McAtee of Manchester City battles for possession with Seamus Coleman of Everton during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Everton at Etihad Stadium on November 21, 2021 in Manchester, England.
James McAtee looked instantly at home on his Premier League debut.

City carefully pick and choose which clubs to send academy products to. The belief is that game time alone will not necessarily make their promising talents any better, especially if it comes at clubs that play in a completely different way to City.

The loan of Tommy Doyle to Hamburg on deadline day was not a random roll of the dice by Pep and City, but a calculated decision reached after careful analysis.

As OneFootball’s Dominik Berger told City Is Ours, thanks to Hamburg’s manager the German second division side play a similar brand of football to City.

“[Tim] Walter’s philosophy is always very offensive – pass it on and run the other way, lots of movement.”

The same cannot be said of Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.

HAMBURG, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 23: Tommy Doyle of Hamburger SV poses during the team presentation at on September 23, 2021 in Hamburg, Germany.
Tommy Doyle is on a season-long loan with Hamburg.

While the Austrian coach is well respected by Guardiola and shares a reputation with his employers for nurturing young talents, his style of football is quite different to City’s.

His Saints team is built around the ideology of fast-moving, gegenpressing football, where the concepts of chaos and disruption trump those of control and methodical thinking.

In an interview with Sky Sports in 2018, the ‘Alpine Klopp’ described his philosophy as revolving around “pressing, hunting, be hungry. When you have the ball, find a quick decision, quick transition to the front. It’s about being emotional, being full of passion.

“Also, keep the tempo on a high level and don’t slow down the game. That’s what I think the people want to see.”

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That doesn’t sound very Guardiola or City, does it?

If Guardiola wants McAtee and Delap to develop their understanding of positional football, their ability to keep possession and their sense of pausa, then Southampton might be just about the worst place they could go.

The latest reports are linking Swansea City with McAtee, a move that would make much more sense. Their young manager Russell Martin is heavily influenced by Guardiola, and sets up his side to dominate possession and press strategically.

Some say that all young players need is minutes, but frankly that is nonsense. As Guardiola and City know, if a player has a long-term future at City then a loan move must help prepare them for it.

Do you think McAtee and Delap should go out on loan? Follow our City Is Ours writer Alex Brotherton on Twitter to get involved in the discussion and give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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