For a season that ended with a trophy and an unprecedented appearance in the Champions League semi-final, it seems strange to think that I won’t look back fondly at all. That’s because for all the real highs – the games against Paris Saint Germain, the League Cup final win against Liverpool – there were some horribly painful lows. But worse than that, Manuel Pellegrini had sucked the life and fun out of City and consequently I haven’t been as excited for our opening game since maybe 2013.
The new season kicks off on Saturday with a host of new superstar players and managers in what promises to be the most exciting league season ever. I take a look at what to expect and what not to expect ahead of 2016/17.
Looking back, the priorities coming into this summer were clear for every City fan to see. We needed some midfielders, a center-back or two and a pair of full-backs. It’s now August and all we’ve seen are a host of forwards join, only one CB and an injured midfielder. What is Pep thinking?
Well, for once, it’s nice to see City capturing the next big talents in world football. One criticism levied at City is that for all the money splurged since the takeover, very little of it has been spent on bringing in the so-called Next Big Things in world football. Alexis Sanchez, Eden Hazard, Isco and Gotze; these fellas and other players of tomorrow have never saw City as the place to be. Until now.
We’ve signed Leroy Sane, Gabriel Jesus, Aleks Zinchenko and Marlos Moreno – all highly-rated players in their respective countries who will compete with each other for a place in the first XI in the future.
But what about the other positions? Ilkay Gundogan is going to be a phenomenal signing once he gets going and has come at snip but does Pep really believe that that is enough investment in a midfield that was played off the park by lower-league opposition last season? And what about at the back? John Stones is a lovely signing and I have no doubt that he will be Pep’s main man throughout the years but surely marginalising Eliaquim Mangala and Jason Denayer is a massive mistake? These players deserve a chance in a bare-thread defence.
Stones is supposed to be our Demichelis replacement. I’d be very worried if Pep thought he could rely on three senior center-backs which includes, let’s face it, a crock in Vincent Kompany. Three won’t even be enough for two center-back positions, let alone the back three he’s been experimenting with throughout pre-season.
Bar Richard Wright’s sad retirement, there’s not been any major departures this summer. However, who Pep kept could be quite telling. A lot of people expected Yaya Toure to be the first major casualty at City yet here he is, still a major part of our plans for next season. He is still our most gifted midfielder and has a lot to offer to City so keeping him was no surprise to me.
Keeping Aleksander Kolarov too was a surprise but certainly not a pleasant one. How he has managed to rack up the most minutes in pre-season when he should’ve been sent packing on his first day back I will never know. Not only does he look to be under Pep’s favour, but it appears he has been entrusted to be the leader at the back. Apparently, being able to pass the ball with pace and conviction means you can play center-back for a Pep Guardiola side. My only hope is that Pep has been using him as a last resort because we have no fit centre-backs and will send him off to Turkey before the window closes.
It has to be Kevin De Bruyne doesn’t it? I’m going to go out on a limb and honestly say that Pep hasn’t managed such a blessed central attacking player since Lionel Messi.
Kevin was sublime at times last season and has felt like one of those lift off signings that take you to the next level. He can do absolutely everything. I have a feeling that Pep will build this team around the Belgian.
One to Watch
As everyone knows, we have loads of youngsters from our academy who have been flirting with first team action. Tosin Adarabioyo, Angeliño and Pablo Maffeo featured regularly in pre-season and impressed. But one player who I think will catch Guardiola’s eye is Aleix Garcia. The 19-year old Spaniard took to the English game slowly, but his class and intelligence shone through and he produced a superb display against Chelsea in the FA Cup earlier this year.
But what sits in his favour the most is the lack of options in midfield for City. Garcia likes to play as the deepest midfielder, controlling the tempo of the game and dictating play. He is what they call a mediocentro in Spain. And City don’t have any of those players. If Pep, who has always had a mediocentro (Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso), wants one of his own at City, then he not need look far.
Opening day line-up prediction
Hart; Sagna, Stones, Mangala, Clichy; Fernandinho, Yaya Toure, Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Nolito
Prediction for the season – 1st
Even though I think it’s going to take a while for Pep to get his ideas through the squad but I think we’re well positioned to win the league. We’ve strengthened in many departments and our squad looks hungry again but most of all, we have the best manager in the league and I think that’ll be the difference in the end.