In my opinion so far in the 2016-2017 season, Manchester City have been very inconsistent. However it is clear that Pep Guardiola has had a big impact on the football played at the Etihad this season, as the side have learned to play it out from the back, with players looking a lot more stable on the ball. The mentality which Guardiola has brought has excited the fans as some of the football played so far has been fast flowing when going forward to attack, which has resulted in them passing teams off the pitch. Since Guardiola has arrived possession is something which has been improved at the football club, as the manager likes players who can keep hold of the ball, as he believes it is the best way to attack an opposition. Not only this however there has also been a lot more fight within the team as the aggression levels have clearly been raised, with players fighting to win the ball straight back whenever they lose it.
Going forward this season Manchester City have looked scary with new addition Leroy Sane playing a huge part on the wing along with Raheem Sterling who looks a completely different player to the one he was last season. Sterling’s game has come on leaps and bounds with him looking a lot more confident, taking players on and beating them. He has already created many more chances than he did last season as well as chipping in with the goals and racking up his assist tally so far. The pace of Manchester City on the counter attack has been too much for opposition teams this season with both of these wingers playing a huge part in this.
Whereas the back four and goalkeeper have been a big worry. Claudio Bravo who Guardiola worked with at Barcelona who was brought into the side has looked very shaky whenever he has played, struggling to adapt to the Premier League life, leaking in goals too easily. Bravo who signed for City at the start of the season has had a lot of stick of supporters as a large number of shots on target which he has seemed to face, he has conceded from. Leaving City fans very frustrated after loaning previous first team and England International goalkeeper Joe Hart to Torino.
However Wembley Hero Willy Caballero has since stepped up to the plate, taking over as first team goalkeeper with Claudio Bravo being dropped to the bench. Guardiola evidently spotted that something needed changing and since Caballero has come into the side, he has not put a foot wrong, making City’s defence a lot more stable, helping the club break a personal record of 6 consecutive away clean sheets.
City’s defence has been a major problem this season with Skipper Vincent Kompany continuing to get ongoing injuries, being a concern for Pep as he has been the leader since joining the club and the man to command the back four. John Stones has started to look better and better in the side, however he needs a player of Kompany’s intelligence and experience next to him, to help him further progress. Meanwhile Nicolas Otamendi has been very hit and miss as he has had his good games and poor ones, with the main problem for him being to stay on his feet, rather than go diving in too early.
The fullbacks at City have been a problem for a number of years now as City need some new faces in there and some young fresh blood in order to hit the lines and overlap. With Clichy, Kolarov, Sagna and Zabaleta all getting on in age and not having the legs to overlap as much anymore. Fullbacks is something which City and Pep should address in the summer as these players have been about for such a while with their ability to defend being nowhere near as good as it used to be. The likes of Spurs, United, Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal all have something which City don’t when it comes to fullbacks, as they have players of a good quality who can both overlap and track back, with good pace and energy levels which are needed. Therefore City fall behind on this as they do not have fullbacks like these. I believe that Pep should replace their fullbacks in the summer and bring in some younger fresh players with a bit of pace about them, in order to run down the lines being able to both attack and defend to improve the defence and help them compete at the top level.
City have been unlucky so far with injuries this season as they have had a number of them which has caused changes within the team line ups with Guardiola having to chop and change his side. New signings Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus have both been unfortunate after getting long term injuries ruling them out for the rest of the season after settling in so well. However Gabriel Jesus is hoping to make an earlier come back than expected with his injury and get some game time before the season ends. But the injury which he got was a long term one. In my opinion having both Ilkay Gundogan and Gabriel Jesus fit by the start of the new season will be like having two new signings to the club, giving City two more first team competitors for the squad.
Overall with the season so far Manchester City have been very inconsistent as they have played teams off the park at times and the crumbled, not turning up in other games, dropping many points, especially at home, drawing to teams they should be beating. Which in my opinion has been down to Guardiola’s getting team selections and team line ups wrong, setting up wrong. Changing the team about too much has cost City at times, especially with the back four being swapped about regularly, which has been very noticeable all season. Changing players and their positions has been an issue for City as in certain games the players have not turned up, looking like they wasn’t prepared for the games with heavy defeats coming against Spurs, Leicester and Everton all away in the league, being exposed at the back.
On the other hand the side have played some brilliant football so far, with the passing game really showing and the team starting to look better and better, working together more, knowing each others movements and making the runs as well as creating the space for each other. This is a clear sign of improvements within the team and signs of progression. With the summer transfer window coming up, If Pep can bring in a few new faces such as fullbacks the City could be a very hard team to stop next season and really start to challenge the elite in Europe.
City currently sit in a good position in the league with a place within the top four however are being challenged by teams such as Arsenal and local rivals United who are just behind them. Chelsea have seemed to have run away with the league this year as they sit comfortably at the top with a 7 point lead with favourable fixtures left and a very slim chance of anyone catching them. With a number of teams in the running for the top four, this could make the end of the season very interesting however with the squad City have, I think that they will have no problems getting a top four spot and qualifying for the Champions League. After City’s recent exit of the Champions League and after being so far behind Chelsea, I also think that Pep Guardiola should turn his attention to the FA Cup as it could be the last chance of some silverware this season.
With an FA Cup semi final at Wembley on the cards, Pep should go there with confidence after already playing Arsenal twice this season, beating them once and drawing the other. Therefore he should go all out for it, for the fans and in order to reach the FA Cup final and look to secure his first piece of silverware since joining the club.