It was his first taste of the English Premier League and as a manager in England.
He didn’t have the squad necessary to play the brand of football he demanded and is known for. The squad was any way incapable of competing against the top dogs in the Premier League and in the Champions League, because the ageing full-backs were defensively unsound, the gulf in class between the first-choice personnel and second-string players was huge and far too many injuries and suspensions occurred as well. The players probably needed time too, to adapt to the new style of football.
The final result was, a mediocre season.
Well, call them excuses or rational responses to the criticism of Pep Guardiola for failing to win a single trophy in his first season as Manchester City manager, 2016/17 was another dissatisfactory campaign for the Blues.
Despite the huge investment, Man City’s defence has collectively failed to render solidity over the last three seasons. The likes of Nicolas Otamendi, Aleksandar Kolarov, Gael Clichy, etc. had been failing at what is their forte, defending, but now, with Guardiola’s arrival, this troika and the others who were picked in the starting XI on a given day had to also contribute to the team’s build-up play and be comfortable with both feet.
Playing out from the back didn’t really cost City last season, though they did concede some sloppy goals. City’s opponents have done their homework for a few seasons now and conspicuously attacked the meek left-hand-side. And Manchester City have simply not had an answer to this age-old problem.
While the defence remained a weakness, the Blues were quite slick going forward and did create the third-most number of chances (482) in the Premier League last season. Their frustrating problem, though, was the lack of ruthlessness in the final third and the failure to convert the chances that were being created with great regularity.
They say the past is the past and a fresh start is what is most desirable. In Manchester City’s case, this philosophy is no different and Guardiola and his men will look to make the 2017/18 season a memorable one.
Manchester City starting XI (11) in 2017/18
The City faithful have every reason to be excited about the new season. Pep Guardiola has secured almost every one of his transfer targets and nobody can deny that Manchester City have the strongest squad in England and one of the stronger squads in Europe.
Have a look: Manchester City’s ins and outs
Having released three (Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy) of the full-backs and sold the other (Aleksandar Kolarov) since the end of last season, the focus had to be firmly on recruiting a new set of right and left-backs. Kyle Walker was a major target, as was Benjamin Mendy and Ryan Bertrand. Dani Alves abruptly emerged as one of Manchester City’s right-back targets and he requested Juventus to terminate his contract too, in a bid to move to the Etihad Stadium and reunite with his former Barcelona manager. But Paris Saint-Germain hijacked Alves’s move to City and signed up the Brazilian on a lucrative two-year deal.
Since being snubbed, however, Guardiola and City have ensured that they haven’t been left high and dry. Walker, Danilo and Mendy have been signed in a space of 10 days and the 2013/14 English champions will have a fresh right-back and left-back in their starting XI next season. This must come as a major relief for the manager and the supporters.
Bernardo Silva is another one of Manchester City’s signings from AS Monaco and with him, City will hope to be incisive going forward.
Here’s the strongest possible starting XI:
Ederson Moraes was City’s second signing of this summer transfer window and the Brazilian goalkeeper is Man City’s No. 1, though his performance in the International Champions Cup match last Friday was anything like one.
Vincent Kompany showed in the pre-season match against Manchester United last Friday, that the barrage of injuries hasn’t affected his game adversely. He was rock-solid in the Houston Manchester derby and Manchester City will hope that their club captain remains fit for much if not the entire 2017/18 season. He will be the heartbeat of the City backline fitness permitting.
John Stones, the ball-playing centre-back, is likely to be Guardiola’s first-choice and Kompany’s central defensive partner next season.
In the full-back positions, no prizes for guessing as to who will feature. Walker and Mendy are fleet-footed, create chances from the flanks—evidenced by their creating 39 and 25 chances in the league last season and registering five assists apiece as well—and have the physicality to thrive in the Premier League.
In central midfield, Ilkay Gundogan might not be fit in time for the opening Premier League fixture against Brighton and Hove Albion. But as soon as the German deep-lying playmaker is match-fit, he will no doubt be an automatic starter, occupying one of the three central midfield positions in Guardiola’s 4-3-3 formation.
Kevin de Bruyne will definitely occupy one of the two advanced midfield positions. The question, however, is who among the Silvas will partner him? Regardless of who plays, David and Bernardo are similar players and no doubt will make Manchester City tick with their passing and movement.
Guardiola is posed with a problem in terms of choosing the front three. When Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero are fit and presumably have to be accommodated together in the starting XI, only Raheem Sterling or Leroy Sane can feature. And the German winger, being a better finisher who otherwise has pretty much the same skill-set as the Englishman, might just get the nod ahead of Sterling, while Jesus operates from the left flank and Aguero leads the attack.
Presuming Guardiola deploys his players in the 4-3-3 formation more often than not, this is the strongest Manchester City starting XI he can field.
Despite boasting the strongest squad, Guardiola will hope that his first-choice personnel do not get injured and be out for long lengths of time. Suspensions and injuries were a reason in Manchester City’s dissatisfactory 2016/17 campaign and if they want to be successful next season, they need their key players to stay fit and be available for selection.
Update: Pep Guardiola has deployed his troops in a 3-5-2 formation for much of this pre-season, possibly with a view to fit both Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero in his starting XI. And, while Manchester City have been lethal going forward, they have looked suspect at the back, with Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Vincent Kompany lacking the pace to provide cover on their right and left-hand sides, with the wingbacks camped far too high up the pitch.
I don’t think Guardiola will be this adventurous in major fixtures and if he wants to play both Aguero and Jesus, then one of this duo will have to be deployed on the flanks. But the cause for concern might be the defensive nous required to play in a three-man defence. City were caught out far too often in the wide areas in their own defensive third, against the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United and Real Madrid.
Weigh in with what you believe is the strongest Man City starting XI and the ideal formation.