Manchester City and 5 things they will need to do next season
Finally, after a long energy-sapping season, Manchester City has deservedly emerged as Premier League champions.
The Blue side from the city of Manchester looked down and out when Liverpool went 7 points clear at the top in January.
However, Pep Guardiola and his men responded like champions with 14 straight wins from their last 14 games cementing their legendary status.
Despite the cruel nature of their exit in the UEFA Champions League, it propelled the Cityzens to do better and they smashed everyone in their way after that.
The old guard especially Sergio Aguero, captain, Vincent Kompany, and Fernandinho were essential in the title win. David Silva had an understated season but was still a key part of the winning machine.
Aymeric Laporte, Raheem Sterling, and Bernardo Silva have been immense as well. However, the arch-perfectionist that is Guardiola will be sure to want to improve next season with the UCL in mind.
Here are 5 things he might need to pay attention to:
#5 Continue integrating younger players
Phil Foden is the only academy player currently at the club and he will need to be given more games next season.
The old guard can surely not continue to be relied on as much as they have this season. David Silva and Kompany were useful in batches for the club (although at very important times).
Silva, Aguero, and Fernandinho were the only 30-year-olds who featured in 20-plus league matches.
Already, Foden has been earmarked as the long-term replacement for the Spanish Silva. That promotion will need to be hurried up next season. The young Englishman has shown signs that he can be a long-term fit for the position.
Tosin Adarabioyo made 29 appearances in the Championship for West Bromwich Albion and earned good reviews. He may also be an option to replace one of the centre-backs who are being rumoured to be leaving (Kompany or Nicolas Otamendi).
#4 Clear the squad of loanees/bench warmers
Like most top coaches, Guardiola is not overly fond of having a big squad. In the 2018/2019 season, only 21 out of the registered 25 players played a part in the league campaign.
While injuries put paid to Claudio Bravo and Eliaquim Mangala’s seasons, substitute goalies, Arjent Muric and defender Phillip Sandler saw no action.
14 players spent last season on loan and decisions will have to be made about their future. The club has made sizable money on selling off youth assets in recent years; Angus Gunn to Southampton for £10m, Enes Unal to Villarreal for £12m and Kelechi Iheanacho to Leicester for £25m amongst others.
This is expected to continue with players like Patrick Roberts and Marlos Moreno unlikely to have a future at the Etihad Stadium.
The likes of Mangala, Bravo, Sandler and Fabian Delph will also need to be let go for more useful quality to be brought in.
#3 Phase out the old guard
Kompany, Silva, Aguero, and Fernandinho have been at the club since the early days of the revamp of the club following the arrival of Txiki Begiristain (sporting director) and Ferran Soriano (CEO) in 2012.
The first three have seen the club win 4 Premier League titles since they arrived at the club while the Brazilian schemer has participated in three.
Aguero has continued to deliver with another 21 goals this season bringing his tally to 164 in 239 games. Kompany was immense in the second half of the season. Until he got injured, Fernandinho was indispensable until he got injured while Silva also played a good part.
These guys ages range between 30-34 and as such, are in the twilight of their careers. Given the demands of playing for the club and Guardiola’s style, it is inconceivable that all 4 players will be relied on to play as many games again next season.
Therefore, there will be a need to give more game time to other players within the squad or new arrivals. Players like Bernardo, Aymeric Laporte, and Oleksander Zinchenko have stood up to be counted this season.
More players like this will need to be given more game time to show what they are capable of.
#2 Conduct transfer business early
City’s transfer business in the 2017/2018 season was exemplary. Ederson, Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo, and Danilo joined good and early.
This helped Guardiola get his team in shape quickly and it helped the side hit the ground running.
In the 2018/2019 season, only Riyadh Mahrez joined the squad and it was very early in the window.
It is expected that the team would make certain additions; a centre-back, a defensive midfielder, and a left-back.
Otamendi and Bravo have made noises about leaving for more game time. The Argentine centre-back is rumoured to be heading to Atletico Madrid to replace Diego Godin. Bravo has been a disappointment since he joined from FC Barcelona so his exit would not be a huge loss.
Zach Steffen (already signed from Columbus Crew) or Muric are expected to act as backup to Ederson. Given Mendy’s injury issues, it is expected that a left-back will be signed (rumours are swirling about Ben Chillwell from Leicester City).
A substitute for Fernandinho will be the biggest priority. Douglas Luiz has been okay at Girona but due to work permit issues, might not join up with the squad next season.
Rodri (Atletico Madrid) and Tanguy Ndombele (Olympique Lyonnais) are two of the big-money defensive midfielders that are linked.
Getting them in very early will be critical especially given that the season kicks off on August 10th.
#1 Continue being relentless
In the 2017/2018 season, City broke the record for consecutive wins (20) in the Premier League. In 2018/2019, they achieved the second-best total ever with 14 straight games.
No doubt about it, Guardiola has upped the game in the Premier League and every team hunting for the title will need to step up to that level.
Liverpool pushed the champions all the way and are expected to replenish the squad as well in the summer transfer window. The appetite for a first league title in 30 years has only increased at Anfield and with a settled squad, the Reds are expected to be the biggest challengers next season.
These long winning streaks will need to be commonplace for Manchester City next season if they are to stave off the Red threat from Merseyside.
It is unknown if the London clubs; Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur will be able to compete effectively while Manchester United may continue to be a basketcase.
As an arch-perfectionist, it is not in doubt that Guardiola will push his team to do even more. This is a push that the team will need in spades.