2016/17 Season Recap
Manchester City’s strong start last season was marred by a series of surprise results, goalkeeping nightmares and defensive instabilities, despite spending over £160m last summer and bringing Pep Guardiola to the Etihad, a man whose won 13 cub trophies.
He led them to a remarkable start – winning their first 10 games in all competitions and beating Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United at old Trafford in the process.
However, after all the high expectations, for the first time in his career Guardiola ended a whole season trophy-less, though they did managed to finish the season third.
Even though it guarantees Champions League football once again, they will surely hope to surpass the last-16 mark this season, and avoiding a midway exit in the EFL Cup, or even a late dismissal in the FA Cup.
City have been busy once again this summer, most noticeably the acquisition of the ‘super-kick’ ‘keeper Ederson and the remarkable-double-record-breaking signings for defenders Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy, the two pacy full-backs/wing-backs.
Kyle Walker, RB (Tottenham, £50 million)
Benjamin Mendy, LB (Monaco, £52 million)
Danilo, RB/LB (Real Madrid, £26.5 million)
Bernardo Silva, RW (Monaco, £43 million)
Douglas Luis (Vasco da Gama, £10 million)
Ederson Moraes, GK (Benfica, £35 million)
Pablo Zabaleta (West Ham, Free)
Bacary Sagna, RB (Unattached, Free)
Gael Clichy, LB (Başakşehir, Free)
Willy Caballero, GK (Chelsea, Free)
Jesus Navas, RW (Sevilla, Free)
Alexander Kolarov, LB (Lazio, £4.5 million)
Nolito, LW (Sevilla, £7.9 million)
Olivier Ntcham (Celtic, £4.5 million)
Enes Unal (Villareal, £12 million)
Aaron Mooy, CM (Huddersfield, £8 million)
Kelechi Iheanacho, ST (Leicester City, £25 million)
Joe Hart, GK (West Ham, Loan)
Most important player: Kevin De Bruyne
This is a player who is given far less credit than he deserves in terms of his work-rate, assists, energy, track back ability and dangerous pin-point crossing to mention but a few.
He is amongst the players who gelled well into the manager’s system, along with the likes of David Silva, Fernandinho, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, and lately Gabriel Jesus. He also finished the season strongly after that double assist against Watford, which ultimately made him the Premier League’s Assist King.
If he does carry his form into next season, he’ll surely pull a lot of strings and may be set to retain his Assist-Leader status, but this is contingent upon Jesus returning fresh and for Sergio Aguero to return to scoring ways and, of course, how often he plays.
One to watch: Brahim Diaz
This young star has ice in his veins and is already banging the back of the net on numerous occasions during pre-season, most noticeably against Real Madrid and Spurs.
Brahim Diaz, 17, one of the fresh Academy products, has had a fruitful time in the youth ranks last season before tempting manager Pep Guardiola to name him on the match-day squad for the first time against Swansea in the EFL Cup, which he marked with a goal after a cameo with ten minutes to go.
He was then offered a five-year-contract five days later. He is for sure expected to be involved this season.
Biggest weakness: Defence
Like last season, there is still a bit of uncertainty in defence, especially when Vincent Kompany is not there, as we’ve seen some improvements after his return at the end of last season.
This should also be the season for John Stones, who didn’t do what he was bought to do last season. His composure and ball-playing was supposed to stabilise the heart of the defence, but his inability to catch up with the high expectations after his heavy transfer fee cost both Manchester City and the player himself for that matter.
Be it a back three or a back four, I don’t see any balance currently in the squad.
Guardiola also prioritised restructuring his defence, but his emphasis was on fullbacks where he said he needed four signings in that department. They’ve already made three (Walker, Mendy and Danilo) which may be sufficient at the moment.
Their focus should be shifted to the central area. Good as it may look, good is not enough. They simply need to be at their best.
Unlike last season, City should be expected to line-up with as many formations as you may think especially now that Pep finally has very good squad depth going forward. The most predictable, however, is the 3-5-2 and the 4-2-3-1/4-3-3.
New signing Bernardo Silva may just lurk on the sidelines as a cover for either David Silva or Kevin de Bruyne, though he may find himself on the right wing.
First five games
City kick-start their campaign at the South-East away to new-comers Brighton & Hove Albion.
They’ll also face the Merseyside teams both at home, sandwiching their third tie away to Bournemouth and then away to Watford – a side with which they concluded their last campaign.
Last season can only be described as a resurgence period, a season of transition. There is no doubt that anything short of the title this season will be unsatisfying after all the heavy involvement in the transfer market.
Guardiola will be expected to replicate what happened last season during his first 10 games, only that this time he is expected to end the season with some silverware. Another trophy-less season will likely be deemed another failure and expectations, as such, are high in the Premier League, with an eye too on the Champions League semi-final at the very least.
“We need something more, a little something extra” – Pep Guardiola, after the West Ham friendly.
The major priority is going to be winning the Premier League for a start. City should also be expected to cut out a few more names from the squad and surely some new arrivals, just as the manager made it clear himself.
RealSport prediction: 1st
Personally, I believe they’ll top their previous achievement. This as a result of their goalkeeping reinforcement and their more electric sidelines as it appears. Gabriel Jesus is also going to be available from the start this term and it’ll be interesting to see how he functions with Aguero in a tandem.
The squad depth is good for rotation, so their involvement in other competitions shouldn’t be a problem. Guardiola, too, has a year under his belts with a majority of players and the standard of player is far higher than last year.
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