Pep Guardiola got his first taste of the Premier League during his debut season at Manchester City. This season, expectations are set to rise and success is required. Is he up to the task or will the Premier League prove too much of a task for the Spanish mastermind.
Pep Guardiola, formerly of FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich, has a reputable and boastful track record for success. It’s second nature to him but the Premier League has tested him to his maximum capacity.
He looked mentally drained, his body language portrayed a deflated figure and the Premier League seriously took its toll of one of football’s most gifted managers. He survived but the new season is set to throw a whole host of new challenges at the 46-year-old.
In January, Pep Guardiola suffered his biggest ever domestic defeat in his managerial career to Everton. Who could’ve envisaged a team managed by the genius Guardiola being stuffed 4-0 by the toffees? They’d hit rock bottom and dropped into 5th place, as he began to contemplate his managerial future.
Fortunately, there was a light at the end of the tunnel for Guardiola, who was on the verge of quitting football. Manchester City rescued his managerial career by suffering just one defeat in the Premier League since defeat to Everton. It had uplifted both the club’s and Guardiola’s spirits but also set higher standards for the upcoming campaign.
Manchester City head into the 2017/18 campaign backed as the bookies’ favourite to clinch the Premier League title at the end of the season. Their remarkable improvement in the latter stages of last season and their recent transfer activity justifies the promising vibes seeping from the club.
After winning the Premier League in two of the last five seasons, they turned their attention to Champions League success. However, Manuel Pellegrini was unable to deliver in Europe, which led to the appointment of Guardiola.
They exited the UEFA Champions League in the Round of 16, following a defeat to eventual semi-finalists AS Monaco over two-legs. It was bitterly disappointing considering they were victorious in the first leg but Manchester City’s performance in Europe will be analysed intensely in Guardiola’s second season.
The Cheque Book is Out Again
Manchester City have spent more than any other Premier League club during this summer’s transfer window. However, whereas Chelsea and Liverpool are still on the lookout for new recruitments, it seems the citizens have done their transfer business early in the window.
This is an intelligent move by Pep Guardiola, who’ll have had the entire pre-season to integrate his new players into the team. The signings of Bernardo Silva from AS Monaco and Ederson from Benfica triggered a mass spending spree at the Etihad Stadium this summer.
Bernardo Silva, who joined from French Ligue 1 champions AS Monaco for £43.5 million, will provide competition for the likes of Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling. This will be vital for squad depth in the UEFA Champions League, League Cup and FA Cup.
He’s only 22-years-old and recorded 10 goals and 10 assists in all competitions last season. Silva has also represented his native Portugal on 16 occasions, including six caps in 2017. Manchester City boast the services of three very talented wingers, which will create an interesting battle between them for a regular spot in the starting line-up.
The signing of Ederson has also cast doubt over the future of Chilean international goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. He received a large amount of criticism during his debut season in the Premier League but has remained at the Etihad Stadium despite the arrival of Ederson.
Who will Pep Guardiola select as Manchester City’s No. 1 goalkeeper this season? Ederson is only 23-years-old, which could suggest he’s been recruited for future seasons. However, his price tag made him the most expensive goalkeeper in football history, which could mean Bravo’s days are numbered.
Manchester City were evidently short of quality in both full-back positions last season, which justifies Guardiola’s decision to invest heavily in both positions. Kyle Walker joined from Tottenham Hotspur for £45 million and was swiftly followed by Benjamin Mendy and Danilo.
Kyle Walker joined Tottenham Hotspur from Sheffield United in 2009 and spent eight seasons at White Hart Lane. Despite various injury problems, Walker maintained a regular spot in the team and was a valuable member of Pochettino’s golden generation.
He’ll be missed in North London but happily welcomed to the blue side of Manchester. He’s frighteningly quick and has good balance in his defensive and offensive play. Danilo, who signed from Real Madrid, will also provide great back-up and it likely to challenge Walker for a starting place.
Benjamin Mendy is the latest player to arrive at the Etihad Stadium and also the most expensive signing of the summer. He joined Manchester City from AS Monaco for £49.3 million but is arguably one of the best left-backs in world football.
The 23-year-old made eight assists in all competitions last season and will add both a defensive and attacking threat to Manchester City’s set-up. He’s very similar to former Manchester United left-back Patrice Evra, who was strong defensively but provided a huge threat with his overlapping runs on the left flank.
Various players have also departed from the Etihad Stadium this season, as Guardiola looks to go out with the old and in with the new. Willy Caballero, Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Jesus Navas were all released at the end of last season. Joe Hart has been loaned out to West Ham United, whereas Bruno Zuculini, Aleksander Kolarov, Fernando and Kelechi Iheanacho have all moved onto other clubs over the summer.
What to expect from Manchester City in the new season?
Can they be triumphant under Guardiola? His track record suggests he’ll provide trophies during his reign at the Etihad Stadium but this is arguably the toughest challenge in his managerial career.
He’s assembled an incredibly strong squad, which includes talented players, promising youth graduates and good squad depth. This will enable them to combat the congested fixture schedule, whilst forming a dangerous title pursuit.
The fitness of Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero could prove decisive between success and failure this season. Kompany is the best defender in the Premier League, as is Sergio Aguero the best striker in the Premier League but their injury problems continuously damage their reputation.
If Aguero could remain fit during an entire Premier League season, he’d easily bag 30 goals nearly every year. It’s unfortunate that his injury problems have held him back from achieving further success.
Kevin De Bruyne has slotted into a deeper midfield role and it’s suited him very well under Guardiola. He views more of the field and can sprinkle his magic around the pitch to portray the role formerly played by Xavi at Barcelona and Xabi Alonso at Bayern Munich.
Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva will be able to latch onto the creative balls launched by Kevin De Bruyne. They also possess a central attacking threat through Spanish international David Silva. Gabriel Jesus will also be looking to enhance his reputation further, after a fantastic breakthrough season following his arrival in January.
I can see many challengers in the Premier League title race but Manchester City look the most serious threat. Pep Guardiola lives and breathes success and despite a rocky start, I’m sure he’ll succeed in the second time of asking.