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Football News: Manchester City Season Review

Manchester City Season Review
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Manchester City Season Review

At the start of the season everything was rosey for the blue half of Manchester. They had Pep Guardiola as new manager, waltzed through the qualifying stage of the Champions League and won their first match in the group stages and had won 6 straight Premier League matches. The media had already awarded them the title in their match reports, so it was clearly just going to be a matter of enjoying the wins as they rolled over the opposition for the rest of the season for the City fans.

Okay, so there were a few issues defensively, by a few I actually only mean one, as there was only one issue. They could not defend at all. Not even slightly. Pep's comments about it not being his job to teach players to tackle were also concerning, but the media had said the title was theirs so it must be, right? Then they faced Celtic in a group stage match of the Champions League. A 3-3 draw was not the end of the world, but those defensive issues were not just there in the background now, they were there for all to see as the defending was little short of shambolic.


A defeat to an excellent Tottenham Hostpur side was not a disgrace, but that was followed up by a draw in the Prem and a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona that truly ended the aura of invincibility Guardiola had acquired in the past. This was to be the first real test of his ability to manage a team, though a test made much easier by having copious amounts of money to spend. This was when we would find out whether Guardiola really was the messiah some believed or whether he was just lucky enough to have the best teams and lots of money to spend in the past.

What we found out is that he is not the messiah, that much is certain. We also found out that he is not a bad coach who just got lucky either. The truth is somewhere inbetween. Guardiola is a good coach who got lucky enough to have the best teams by a mile, but not good enough to get a team that is not miles ahead of the rest to win the Premier League. It was a big blow to his reputation, as there was no one disputing at the start of the season that he had the best squad in the Prem, but by the end of it, when he had (just) managed that team to 3rd place, suddenly there were excuses and claims it was not that good.

Let me be clear here, Citeh did have the best squad in the Prem, what they did not have was a manager who worked with what he had and played to their strengths. Guardiola does things his way, a very expensive free-spending way of buying the best players he can for each position, then coaches them to play football the way he wants to play it. There is no other way for Pep, no half-measures, no shortcuts. Last season he had the best squad in the Prem, but they were not all his type of players, they were not all able to play the Pep Guardiola way and Guardiola was unable to alter his approach to suit that.


Was last season a failure for City? As Guardiola himself admitted, with a team that cost so many millions to assemble (even in this season's ludicrous transfer market that squad was an expensive one) not coming home with any kind of trophy is failure. So now the pressure really is on Pep to deliver, though his job has been made easier by having an open chequebook at his disposal once more.


Pep Guardiola

There were huge question marks surrounding Guardiola when he arrived at Man City, could he do it on a cold, rainy night in Stoke? Well we still do not actually know that as they played at Stoke in August, but we do know he is not the legend he was made out to be. Despite spending obscene amounts of money on the most expensively assembled squad in history, all he could do was take them from 4th the previous season to 3rd. Hardly a big reward for the years City have spent chasing him and setting up everything within the club to be exactly how he would want it!

His snarky responses to questions asked about the defending, while continuing to watch utterly hopeless defending from his team, just spoke of a manager under pressure but too arrogant to accept it is his fault things were not going well. After all, if it is not the manager's job to ensure the players are trained in defending, whose job is it? Overall last season can not be viewed as any kind of success, despite spells of good football, there were too many aberrations when the team fell apart.


While I can find no fault with his decision that Joe Hart was not good enough, I do have to question his choice of replacement, as Bravo was embarrassingly poor. Paying such a ridiculous fee for a defender who has shown no aptitude for defending at all, in John Stones, was madness for a team that struggles so badly with defending. Then there were the bizarre tactical choices, choices which made little sense at times. Next season will have to be better or even Guardiola could find himself facing the sack.

Marks out of 10: 4


Joe Hart

It is hard to argue with Guardiola's decision to send Hart out on loan for the season to Torino, despite the England keeper managing to keep a clean sheet in his one appearance for City last season, in a Champions League qualifier against Bucharest. However, despite Bravo's utter ineptitude replacing him, Hart did his very best to better it in Serie A, conceding 62 goals in his 36 matches there and drawing criticism from everyone from fans to the club's chairman.

Marks out of 10: -7.5


Claudio Bravo

After arriving from Barcelona to be the man to play it out from the back, there was a lot of responsibility resting on his shoulders. Just the bare stats would suggest he did not do that bad a job, conceding 34 goals in 30 appearances, but watching him made me feel, quite honestly, embarrassed for him. I am not sure if the team would have conceded any more goals if they had not played a keeper at all, as every shot seemed to go right through him. If he plays until he is 65, I doubt if he will ever have a season quite so bad again.

Marks out of 10: -10


Willy Caballero

Caballero probably expected to see out the final year of his contract watching games from the bench, but Bravo was that hopeless that Guardiola had to turn to the veteran. He never excelled but he certainly let no one down either.

Marks out of 10: 6


Nicolas Otamendi

The Argentine defender finally started to look like a quality player towards the end of the season, after struggling since his arrival at the Citizens. Still a long way off the player City thought they were buying, but the signs are there that he is beginning to settle in and find his feet in the Prem. Or it could just have been the return of the talismanic Vincent Kompany from injury and his ability to lift those around him?

Marks out of 10: 4.5


Vincent Kompany

One of the best defenders, nay players, in the world when fit, but he suffers so many injury problems it is ridiculous. When he plays, he lifts the whole team around him. They just need him to play more than 15 games a season now.

Marks out of 10: 5


John Stones

This player symbolised what a mess City's transfer policy is, always buying players to pass the ball around, without ever looking to actually get some defenders in to just defend. £50m on a defender who struggles to defend, when £50m was obscene amounts to spend on a player, tells you a lot about why Man City won nothing and why their team is always so unbalanced. Stones, good as he is on the ball, quick, strong and tall he may be, but his defending leaves a lot to be desired and his ability on the ball is not able to make up for it. Not his fault, but the lad struggled badly in his first season with so much expectation and responsibility heaped on his shoulders.

Marks out of 10: 1


Tosin Adarabioyo

A young centre back who got a couple of sub appearances and one start in the Champions League, in the home group stage game with Celtic.

Marks out of 10: 3.5


Aleksandar Kolarov

Usually a left back, but last season Kolarov was mostly playing at centre back, due to his ability on the ball, rather than his defensive qualities.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Gael Clichy

The left back was in and out of the side last season, as he struggled to win over Guardiola, who was disappointed by his work on the ball.

Marks out of 10: 1



A young Spanish left sided player who got one start in the EFL Cup and a sub appearance in the UEFA Champions League qualification matches before being sent out on loan to Mallorca for the second half of the season.

Marks out of 10: 2


Pablo Zabaleta

Once one of the best full backs in the world but the Argentine is a fading force now, after a succession of injuries, and he struggles last season to hold down a place in the side. Only 11 Premier League starts despite being fit all season shows how sparingly Zabaleta was used by Guardiola.

Marks out of 10: 3


Bacary Sagna

In and out of the team throughout the season, partly because of injuries and partly because Guardiola was not convinced by him.

Marks out of 10: 2.5


Pable Maffeo

The youngster was handed a couple of chances in the Champions League and a full 90 minutes in the EFL Cup, before a January loan move to Girona.

Marks out of 10: 1.5



The Brazilian has made himself almost indispensable to Guardiola, covering both fullback positions as well as his more normal midfield role. He has gone from being a box-to-box midfielder with an eye for a goal to a holding midfielder who protects a shakey backline. Fernandinho does have a tendency to pick up too many cards playing that role, though he is often left to be overrun and outnumbered by the opposition, so it is not all his own fault. However, 3 red cards in one season is a lot in the modern game.

Marks out of 10: 6



Not only do Fernando and Fernandinho have similar names, the two Brazilians both look alike too, but Pep has settled on the latter as his first choice holding midfielder, even though it is Fernando's natural position. It saw Fernando leave at the end of the season to sign for Galatasaray.

Marks out of 10: 3.5


Aleix Garcia

A couple of starts in league and cups added to a handful of sub appearances as he was on the fringes of the first team for the season.

Marks out of 10: 3


Ilkay Gundogan

After recovering from one knee injury at the start of the season, Gundogan had just started to establish himself in the centre of the City midfield when he suffered another knee injury and was ruled out for the rest of the season.

Marks out of 10: 2


Yaya Toure

Following a very public spat between his agent and Guardiola, Toure was frozen out of the team and he was forced into a public apology to win back his place in the team. Would he have been able to get back into the team without Gundogan's injury though? It is very doubtful, especially on the evidence of his performances, which were more of the recent lacklustre, slow and ponderous Toure, rather than the driving force Toure he had been for City at his best. At times he was nothing more than a liability and put in all the effort of a sulky child being asked to do the dishes rather than being allowed to watch his favourite cartoon. Thankfully, no one forgot his cake this year.

Marks out of 10: -4


Fabian Delph

Delph was an amazing signing for Man City. Not amazing as in wow, but amazing as in it amazed me they would show any interest in a player clearly nowhere near good enough for them. Even on those rare occasions he is not on the treatment table, he struggled to get in the squad, let alone team.

Marks out of 10: 0.5


Kevin De Bruyne

Everything on the pitch at City goes through two player, De Bruyne and David Silva. De Bruyne is given such freedom, and is such a willing runner, that it is often difficult to figure out exactly what position he is playing in a match. Usually he flits all over the pitch to get himself involved in every move, the one disappointment being his goal return, which was just 7 in all competitions. That is not really good enough for a player playing as high up the pitch as he is and taking so many shots, but he did partially make up for it with 23 assists.

Marks out of 10: 7


David Silva

Silva is the creative hub of the team, he has also become a grafter in recent years. Not just does he play some delicious balls, go on some lovely runs but he also gets stuck in and does the dirty stuff too. Silva tends to be the one to slide in the through ball that is cut back for a goal to be scored, which is why his assist total is not as high as De Bruyne's. His main weakness is a lack of goals, though he did outscore De Bruyne, by 1, last season.

Marks out of 10: 7.5


Brahim Diaz

A young midfielder who came off the bench in the EFL Cup against Swansea City.

Marks out of 10: 2


Raheem Sterling

Sterling is one of those players that are living proof that you can not rely on stats alone to tell you about someone. He managed to get 10 goals and 21 assists last season, excellent numbers for a wide man, yet, for all his lightning fast acceleration, good pace and trickery, his end product is generally woeful. Sterling is incredibly wasteful on the ball, when you watch him live. It just shows how many chances must have been created for him to pick up such excellent numbers over the course of the season.

Marks out of 10: 6.5


Samir Nasri

Made just one sub appearance in the Premier League before being sent out on loan to Sevilla.

Marks out of 10: 0


Leroy Sane

The pacey German forward was a big money signing from Schalke 04, as Guardiola looked to build a team to play the way he believes it should. Operating mainly from the left wing, Sane's pace caused teams major headaches, though his decision making and end product left a lot to be desired. A few minor niggles also held him back.

Marks out of 10: 6.5



The Spanish international arrived with a big reputation from Celta Vigo, looking like the perfect player for the Guardiola way. However it did not turn out that way and he struggled, gradually being faded out of the team.

Marks out of 10: 3


Jesus Navas

Navas has always disappointed, quick, hardworking and clearly has talent but his end product is consistently abysmal. He was gradually pushed out of the team, with his main usage later in the season being at fullback.

Marks out of 10: 2


Sergio Aguero

Despite having to prove to Guardiola that he can play in the Pep style of play, and a couple of suspensions, Aguero managed to get himself plenty of football last season. The arrival of Gabriel Jesus did look to put his place in danger, but the youngster's injury ensured he kept his place and managed to notch up 33 goals in 45 appearances, without ever looking to be near his dangerous best.

Marks out of 10: 7.5


Gabriel Jesus

Jesus only arrived in the January window but showed why Guardiola had been so desperate to sign him before suffering a broken foot which kept him out for 6 weeks. On his return, he again shone like a veteran striker, rather than the youngster he actually is. While Jesus only managed a mere 11 appearances, he made a big impression and scored 7 goals in those games.

Marks out of 10: 7.5


Kelechi Iheanacho

The youngster started off the season with fairly regular game time, mainly off the bench, but the arrival of Jesus in January saw him pushed out of the team. It was little surprise he was sold in the summer to Leicester City.

Marks out of 10: 4

Written by Tris Burke August 23 2017 17:38:31