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 By Simon Curtis

Pep Guardiola focus turns to transfers as Man City react to fixture list reveal

The ESPN FC crew discuss Kyle Walker and Manchester City's transfer targets.
The ESPN FC crew discuss Kyle Walker and Manchester City's transfer targets.

As fans struggle through the tail end of the international fixtures and train their thoughts on this summer's holiday destinations, the following season's fixtures are already out.

Whether you are firmly of the opinion that all teams play each other twice and there is nothing remotely to get excited about or alternatively that the position, density and order of fixtures can have a significant bearing on who wins what, nobody can resist having a quick glance to see what the fixture computer has decided for their club.

There may be summer holidays to negotiate and a long tournament-free close season to survive, but dreams of queuing at Swansea and attempting the never-ending St James' Park steps are suddenly upon us again.

For Manchester City fans, already warming up nicely after the club's swift entry into the summer transfer market, a start on the south coast to play newly promoted Brighton and a second away trip to Bournemouth two weeks later represent long trips for the fans, but with the reward of a seaside resort in full swing when they get there. For some at least, summer holidays and resuming the football routines will dovetail perfectly for a week or two next August.

With Pep Guardiola looking to conclude his summer spending early, City will be hoping to be afforded the maximum preseason time to have the squad together before serious competition kicks off. With Stateside fixtures against Manchester United, Real Madrid and Tottenham, plus an Icelandic jaunt to face the unlikely foe of West Ham United in Reykjavik, plans are already in place for most of that preparation phase.

Bernardo Silva and Ederson Morais have been added to a squad which has already been shorn of various unwanted elements from last season. The cull continues at the Etihad with rumours swirling as to the next destinations of Nolito, Joe Hart and Samir Nasri. Guardiola's meticulous planning will ensure the squad is fighting fit and reading from the same hymn sheet come the opening fixture at Brighton on Aug. 12.

City, traditionally strong starters, will want to surpass last season's 10- game winning burst from the starting blocks. Impressive though that was, it was swiftly followed by a disastrously erratic period where the lead in the Premier League was frittered away and a new pattern for the season was unveiled.

In place of fluid counterattacking and goals galore, suddenly the attention fell on a ragged defence and shrinking goalkeeper. Developing issues that at first had seemed unlikely became painfully real, as City stumbled from one self-inflicted disaster to another. Admitting his central role in the gradual unravelling of City's season, the Catalan will be doubly motivated to avoid making the same mistakes a second time.

Kyle Walker during the Emirates FA Cup semi-final match between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Wembley Stadium on April 22, 2017 in London. (Photo by Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images)
Kyle Walker has been mentioned as a possible signing for Manchester City.

In hiring Ederson, he has already admitted defeat with Claudio Bravo, his pet project a year ago, which cost local favourite Hart his place in the squad. Silva is a different proposition and will be forced to fight for a place with any number of other stellar talents City have in their attacking armoury.

Where fans still wait for news is who will step out at the AMEX Stadium in the full-back berths. With Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Ryan Bertrand consistently in the gossip columns, it seems likely the next City moves in the market will be one or perhaps two of these players. Now England's drawn-out World Cup business has been settled until next September, negotiations are likely to open for the Spurs right-back Walker. His pace and experience down the right flank would be a big boost to a defence that was too often caught napping on that side last season.

Beyond that, there seems a strong possibility another central defender and a striker will appear if Guardiola can get the men he wants. With John Stones again showcasing a mixture of languid talent and alarming rawness in England's chaotic friendly defeat to France, it is unclear whether Guardiola can trust him or Vincent Kompany's newly mended hamstrings.

Further forward, Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez remains very much on the radar. An arrival of that calibre with the failed Nolito project curtailed at the same time would be a clear and frightening upgrade for City's direct opponents.

With the fixture list throwing up as many as eight games against top six rivals in close proximity to Champions League games, City's quest for European glory will need serious squad strength and depth to survive. What begins with a holiday jaunt to the South Coast will quickly become the usual hard slog for all concerned.

In light of this, Guardiola's resolve to strengthen well and strengthen quickly will have been redoubled.

Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.

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