21 major titles as a manager. 17 major titles as a player. Needless to say, Pep Guardiola is no stranger to success. While he has set records, and broken more than a few, this season has been his biggest failure as a manager. No silverware, and the first time he has finished outside the Top 2 in the league, as a manager.
While many are out with their swords and have been quick to attribute his success to a boy named Lionel Messi, this project has been the most challenging one he has taken up till date. An aging Manchester City squad with most players past their prime, and injuries to De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Aguero, and Gundogan at crucial points in the season, Pep had his back to the wall. Even then, he still got his attack to score goals, but the biggest problem area was his defense. Leaking goals, Bravo completely out of sorts, and Man City’s only decent defender – Kompany, out injured. So what does Pep and Manchester City need to do, in order to bounce back next season and challenge for 4 pieces of silverware?
1. Defensive Overhaul
City have already released Caballero, Clichy, and Zabaleta. Pep also hasn’t wasted any time. He has already signed Ederson, who becomes the most expensive goalkeeper at £35 million. Word is his goal kicks are unmatched and he has also has an assist to his name. Will be interesting to see how he adapts to the Premier League. Pep’s philosophy hinges on having hard-working wing backs who can bombard down the flanks, push the opposing wingers back, and create space for their team’s attackers. It’s no surprise to see City linked with Kyle Walker, Mendy (Monaco), and Alex Sandro (Juventus) as they all can turn on the after burners. They certainly need 2 world class wing backs and I expect them to get them before the transfer window closes. They also need a good CB, as John Stones has proven to be more ‘pebbles’ than ‘stones’, and Otamendi can’t read a game if his life depended on it. Kompany is extremely injury prone, so I expect City to sign at least 1 CB this transfer window.
2. Midfield Tweaks
Bernardo Silva is already a Manchester City player, and may prove to be a brilliant transfer as the diminutive Portuguese playmaker is not only versatile in the middle of the park, but can pick a pass to his strikers from inside his own half. The sort of player Pep loves to have in his team! City now have a wealth of options in midfield – B. Silva, D. Silva, KdB, Sterling, Sane, Gundogan, Fernandinho, Fernando, and Yaya Toure. It is likely that Fabian Delph and Nolito will be sold this summer, while Jesus Navas has already been released by the club. With such an embarrassment of riches in this department, Manchester City may not pursue any more signings for their midfield.
3. Adding to the Goal Machines
Sergio Aguero is not leaving the club, and even though he had a poor season, he ended up scoring 20 goals and 3 assists in the Premier League alone. His total tally for the season in all competitions stood at 33 goals and 6 assists – far from poor, but those are the standards that he has set himself. He looked to have found his feet towards the end of the season and scored consistently. Scary to think of the numbers if he hits form next season.
Gabriel Jesus took the to the Premier League like a fish to water. Scoring 7 goals and 4 assists in just 8 appearances is a phenomenal record. Especially when you take into consideration that he is just 20 years old. He’s got a frightening turn of pace, good finishing, gets into all the right spaces and is a clinical finisher – all the traits of a good striker. However, even with these 2 options, City will need a third option if they are to challenge for 4 trophies. More so since Gabriel Jesus and Aguero both are injury prone.
Alexis Sanchez is the name being linked to the Cityzens, as Pep has worked with the Chilean before and Alexis wants to win trophies as he knows these are his peak years. It seems foolish that Arsenal will sell to their league rivals, especially after what happened with RVP, but if City do manage to land their man, they would definitely be among the favorites to lift the Premier League trophy next year, even before a single ball is kicked.