Pep Guardiola, at such a young age, has already earned himself the status of one of the best managers in the world. His four year stint with Barcelona put him in the limelight and then he became one of the most successful managers of Bayern Munich.
It has been a year since he took charge of Manchester City, and he has proved right the notion that the league is the most competitive in the world, for both players and coaches.
City finished 3rd last season, sealing a place in the Champions League after tight competition arose for the places towards the business end of last season. At the same time, the Blues finished 15 points off the table toppers and 8 points behind second place.
City had to go into the transfer market looking to strengthen their squad. And they have done just that, with a spree of signings this summer. With the opening weekend approaching, let’s analyse what to expect from the Citizens this season.
Fully backed by the Abu Dhabi-based board, City have gone on to make a lot of quality signings in the defensive department. The additions of full backs Danilo, Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker prove to be good transfers on paper, replacing the outgoing trio of Alexander Kolarov, Bacary Sagna and Zabaleta.
Ederson was signed from Benfica to compete with Claudio Bravo, who performed inconsistently last season.
Midfielder Bernado Silva was signed from Monaco. Guardiola now has a lot of attacking talent at his disposal, with the likes of youngsters Sterling and Leroy Sane and the experienced David Silva.
City toured the USA this pre-season and played friendlies against Manchester United, Real Madrid, Tottenham and West Ham. The initial set-back, losing 2-0 against United was overcome with flair as City beat Madrid 4-1, Tottenham 3-0 and West Ham 3-0.
Phil Foden played most of these games and proved why the manager has so much faith in the 17-year old midfielder. His composure and temperament coupled with creativity makes him one of the highlights of City’s preseason.
Whether he features in the Premier League squad is still in doubt, with Guardiola having so many players at his disposal.
Gabriel Jesus was tried out as a striker, replacing as well as playing alongside Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero. He did look frightening firing shots at goal but his conversion rate is something he has to work on.
The return of Premier League winning captain Vincent Kompany is a welcome boost to the team. What lacked in the City backline last season was command, and he was one of the best defenders in his prime. He was solid in the back, as the team conceded a total of 3 goals in 4 games.
The men look solid at the back with Vincent Kompany leading the line. The return of Elaquim Mangala from Roma gives Pep options at the back, options enough to try out his favourite 3-at-the-back system. Full backs Danilo and Walker are expected to start as wing-backs and will give a lot of pace moving forward.
What City do not have yet are proper defensive midfielders. The sale of Fernando to Galatasaray means the only established player would be Fernandino, who will be called upon frequently for his defensive duties. Yaya Toure will play his traditional role- an attacking midfielder.
City’s attack is something which every team should fear. The likes of Kevin De Bryne, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Gabriel Jesus and David Silva strike fear into the opposition’s defence. A clinical finisher in Sergio Aguero could gun City to the very top, assuming he goes injury-free though out the season.
Consistency is something City should focus on. With 6 teams gunning for the title this season, the race is going to be super close. Dropping points early would definitely be a huge disadvantage, especially against smaller teams. With City only facing two amongst the top 7 until November, the initial phase seems rosy.
That being said, Guardiola has shown definite intent to go all out and grab his maiden Premier League title. This is a squad of immense quality, players good enough not just to win the English league, but also have a real shot at the last 4 of the Champions League this season.
Let the journey begin.