Russell Cowper assesses a potentially era-defining season for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.
I am a Blue and find being objective about the true love of my life very difficult. I struggle to find fault with my club in the way I struggle to find fault with Michelle Pfeiffer in her catwoman outfit.
Looking backwards to look forwards is a good way to measure progression, engender goals and envisage the future. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” is a quote often attributed to George Santayana whose original form read “those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it” This is the MCFC catch all in its beautiful splendour. In footballing terms it could read “a club derided for having no history are condemned to repeat past failures”.
Last season started with one almighty bang and club records tumbled after a brilliant start to the season. Then through a mixture of naivety and arrogance allayed to a basic lack of understanding of the rigours and relentless nature of the Premier League the team went astray. An aging squad, a goalkeeper bereft of confidence and a dire record of goals scored in relation to chances created became a perfect storm. The wheels fell off the juggernaut and only a late season rally as the enormity of the inherited task unfolded was a Champions League rescued from a season of gross underachievement.
The major task that needed remedying was in the full back area. The old guard were removed and even club legend Zabaleta realised the time had come to move on. He goes with the love and best wishes of all blues. The replacements have been spectacular. Walker ironically a player I have little time for is without doubt a superb attacking right back; Danilo oozes class at both full back positions and Mendy is destined to replace the Zab Man in our hearts, with his power, pace and passion. Stones continues to improve and in my opinion will one day captain the club while Otamendi benefits enormously from having a leader alongside him. He can defend, he uses the ball well, but is prone to lapses in concentration. That leader will be Kompany, his injuries hopefully behind him and the undisputed leader on the pitch. He is a world class centre half who would probably enhance any side in the world. Ederson has made a good early impression and he could well challenge De Gea as the world’s best keeper in time. Bravo with confidence restored will be a more than adequate number two and the young keepers I have seen look graced with real talent. Defence was City’s achiles heel last season. Guardiola has addressed the situation and addressed it well.
Guardiola is reported to have said you cannot have enough midfielders and so it follows that this is an area of real strength for City. Yaya, Fernandinho and Gundogan offer central midfield options. Merlin the Mecurial or David Silva as he is known will be the visionary, Bernado looks a mini Merlin and the prospect of those two playing together is mouth-watering. The brilliance of De Bruyne can destroy teams single-handedly from any position he plays. Out wide is the searing pace of Sterling and the magical footwork and directness of Sane. Added to this is the possibility Nasri may remain, a player of such ability it astonishes me he is not seen as world class. Then the youngsters Foden and Diaz offer amazing potential and can be introduced slowly and gently to the rigours of the top flight.
Up front is the world class Aguero who at a minimum is equal to any striker that has played in the Premier League and then the future with the boy King that is the enormously gifted Brazillian international Jesus.
Pep can play any number of systems with the squad at his disposal and the strength of the squad means whoever is picked will not diminish the overall quality of the team. The improvements made indicate a first lesson learned. English football is relentless and you need a squad to compete on all fronts. And as the great coaching sage that is Sam Allardyce once said “systems, formations are only useful when you don’t have the ball”. I expect City to dominate possession against virtually everyone this season.
The one glaring weakness in PL terms is a distinct lack of height. City will be vulnerable to teams with a good set piece game. The other concern is that Pep’s gung ho all out attacking style can lead City to be open to the rapid counter. Both issues show that the most important player on the pitch this upcoming season will be Kompany. His tactical awareness and astute knowledge of the game will be vital if City are to progress.
The question for MCFC is will Guardiola have learnt the lessons of history or will he be doomed to repeat his mistakes?
CL semi finals
Cups One final
Have a great season Blues, stay safe and enjoy the ride