Home Ground: City of Manchester Stadium
- 5 English Premier League Titles
- 5 FA Cup Trophies
- 1 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup Trophy
Manager: Pep Guardiola
What a season Manchester City had in the English Premier League last year! They absolutely demolished the competition on the road to their 5th English Premier League title and they did it in style, by scoring 106 goals and earning exactly 100 points.
Pep Guardiola and boys are entering the new season with high expectations again. The core of their team has remained intact and they have even added some players that should be able to contribute. With pressure on them to repeat in the English Premier League and finally leave a mark in the UEFA Champions League, Manchester City must avoid a championship hangover and get to work.
I have prepared an overview of main Manchester City storylines and a short preview for the upcoming English Premier League season.
Previous Season Summary
There is something to be said about the fashion in which Manchester City steamrolled through the English Premier League on their way to the title. In his second season with the Citizens, Pep Guardiola assembled a team that nobody had an answer for.
Manchester City came out firing since the first round of the English Premier League. The first win of the season 2-0 versus Brighton & Hove Albion sparked an unprecedented run that left the competition in the dust.
Manchester City went 23 games without a loss, with 21 win and 2 draws. The Citizens have not lost a game for more than five months. The incredible run finally did come to an end on January 14th, when Liverpool defeated them at Anfield by a score of 4-3.
Nothing changed though, in terms of Manchester City’s form. They kept on winning, losing only one more game until the end of the season, a 3-2 loss to archrivals Manchester United. Only two defeats in a whole season is the best mark in the English Premier League since the 2003/04 season when Arsenal went undefeated.
In many ways, this Manchester City was even more dominant than that Arsenal side. They have smashed a number of records on their way to the English Premier League title. They became the first team in Premier League history to hit a 100-point mark, which they achieved in the last game of the season.
At the same time, the Citizens scored 106 goals in 38 games a feat that has never been accomplished before. Another all-time mark was set with a +79 goal difference since Manchester City only allowed 27 goals in the process as well.
The only minor blemish on Manchester City’s season is the loss to Liverpool in the Quarter Finals of the UEFA Champions League. The Citizens once again missed out on European glory, a feat that they will have to find a way to accomplish in the near future.
Key Additions and Departures
Manchester City have been adding world-class talent to their roster for a number of season now. No wonder that this off-season the Citizens decided to focus on keeping the core of their roster intact and pursue only players that could truly make a difference for their team.
Manchester City has been targeting Leicester City’s Riyad Mahrez for several seasons now and finally, they have been able to grab him in a blockbuster deal. The Citizens have paid a GBP 67.8 million fee to Leicester City, so that they could acquire the services of Riyad Mahrez.
Mahrez should find it easy to adjust to Pep Guardiola’s system, which favors the flair and attacking mindset that Mahrez embodies.
Sometimes less is more. Manchester City has a world-class core of players that perfectly match their tactics and Guardiola is a smart manager that wants to keep locker room intact and chemistry on the field flourishing. So, it is no surprise that they were so conservative in the transfer market.
In terms of the departures, Manchester City have lost a number of younger players to smaller clubs but neither of them played an important role in the previous season. The most notable departure was that of the 22-year old goalkeeper Angus Gunn, who joined Southampton for a GBP 10 million fee.
Similar scenario awaited the 20-year-old right back Pablo Maffeon, who joined Stuttgart in German Bundesliga for a GBP 9 million fee, and 21-year-old left back Angelino who joined the Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven for a GBP 5 million fee.
The last, but not the least, were the departures of 25-year-old forward Olarenwaju Kayode to Shakhtar Donetsk for a fee of GBP 3 million and 35-year-old midfielder Yaya Toure, who left the club on a free transfer.
The Citizens’ roster was already stacked before the addition of Riyad Mahrez, but now they truly have quality starters and backups at every position on the team. Pep Guardiola’s system requires time, stability and chemistry to work, so it makes sense that keeping the squad together is one of the main priorities.
Manchester City’s dominant performance during the last English Premier League season came at a huge price, since the club’s management have spent a lot of money to put the team together. Still, once Pep Guardiola got them rolling, they were unstoppable and proved they deserve every penny.
The Citizens have a roster capable of achieving the greatest goals and they should be in the mix for it as the season starts.
Style of Play
Pep Guardiola is one of the best soccer managers in the world, whose dominant coaching performances in Barcelona, Bayern Munich and now Manchester City have pushed him into the spotlight as one of the game’s main innovators.
Guardiola has always favored possession soccer, where the aim is to overwhelm the opponent through an intricate build up from behind, through a series of short, quick, high-percentage passes between the players who form triangles all over the field.
The key point of Guardiola’s system is to get forward as quickly as possible, without sacrificing possession and letting the opposition create their own scoring chances on the counter-attack. That means avoiding long-ball and direct passing, rather opting in for a simple, quick passing game with a lot of forward movement.
In order for Manchester City’s system to work, the players need to have specific characteristics. Starting with the defense, both center backs have to be comfortable playing with the ball at their feet, as they will often be tasked with moving the ball forward and participating in counter-attacks.
The same applies to fullbacks as well, who need a versatile skill set to defend at a high level, while playing multiple roles in the Citizens formation. The key midfield player in the No. 6 midfielder, the so-called “Libero” of the midfield. This position at Manchester City is covered by Fernandinho, whose primary role is to play in front of the two center backs and provide defensive support for the two more advanced midfielders in front of him.
The two advanced midfielders are complementary in their skillset. One is a box-to-box dynamo that sets the tempo for the squad and can play as a deep-lying playmaker, ball winner or pure central midfielder. A perfect example of this at Manchester City is Kevin de Bruyne.
The second advanced midfielder is a more offensively minded player that loves running into space behind the forwards, dribbling, looking for the final pass or scoring. This role at Manchester City is covered by the highly-skilled David Silva.
The three forwards have to be able to win 1-on-1 matchups, play with pace and offer positional flexibility. Guardiola has implemented his system with both traditional strikers and “False-Nine” forwards in the past, still, the emphasis was on mobility and versatility of the forwards.
With forwards quickly running into space, switching sides and positions, the defenses find it extremely difficult to deal with so much offensive power that at the same time is not giving up possession.
Defensively, the things are kept quite simple. Since the emphasis on offense is on keeping possession, Manchester City try to minimize the number of scoring chances that the opponents can create. The key to doing this lies in the ability to prevent counter-attacks. Here Manchester City’s full-backs and the “Libero” come into play, as they are quick to cover and make up ground left by more offensive oriented players.
Guardiola’s system has been tested for a decade now and it has produced results everywhere the Spaniard has gone, as long as the right group of players is available. That seems to have happened at Manchester City, where the Citizens seems unstoppable in the English Premier League.
2018/19 English Premier League Season Expectations and Predictions
It would be crass to talk about the expectations for the upcoming season and not mention the English Premier League title as a must for Manchester City. They have the best roster in the English Premier League, a phenomenal coach and they have just come off a dominant title run.
Of course, it can hardly be expected for Manchester City to be as dominant as they were last season. After all, the Board has expressed the desire for Manchester City to finally make a breakthrough in the UEFA Champions League and they might but a bigger emphasis on that competition this year.
Still, Manchester City have more than enough depth at all positions to be able to compete on several fronts. The addition of Riyad Mahrez gives them another world-class player that is versatile enough to play different roles in the midfield or the attack.
Despite the season opener at Arsenal, Manchester City actually have a very favorable schedule for the first two months of the 2018/19 English Premier League Season. They won’t face any of the Big 6 teams but rather a bunch of clubs either fighting to avoid relegation or newly promoted ones.
As it stands, I find it difficult to see any other team being a bigger favorite for the English Premier League title than Manchester City. The combination of world-class roster and coach is hard to match and they have already proven that they can do it.
Of course, the season is long and many things can go wrong. Just a few years ago we saw Leicester City stun everyone and win the title. If Manchester City can stay healthy and focused throughout the season, it will be incredibly difficult for any team to dethrone them.