First Place: 32 wins, 2 draws, 4 losses; 98 points
Top Goal Scorer: Sergio Aguero (21)
Player of the Year: Bernardo Silva
Projected Finish: Second Place
Pep Guardiola is largely considered to be the best manager in the world right now and it’s that exact reason Manchester City did all they could to bring the Spanish genius across from German giants Bayern Munich in 2016. To date Guardiola has brought six trophies to the club in his three years in charge; an FA Community Shield, two EFL Cups, an FA Cup and two English Premier League titles. Last year his side went down in history as the first team to win the domestic treble (EFL Cup, FA Cup and League title) and narrowly missed out on progressing into the Champion’s League Semi Final following a Quarter Final loss to Tottenham in one of the best Champion’s League games in history. There’s no doubt that Guardiola is the best man for the job taking Manchester City into the 2019/2020 season.
You wouldn’t be wrong in suggesting that this Manchester City side is the best they’ve ever had, possibly even one of the best club sides World Football has ever seen. Manchester City from 2017 to who knows when, will be included in conversations with the likes of the ‘Arsenal Invincibles’ of 2004, Milan from 88-94 and the 2009 Barcelona side managed, of course, by Pep Guardiola.
Since the 2017/18 season when Guardiola made his first lot of signings for the blue side of Manchester the squad has been refined to the point where you’d be lucky to find a single weakness in personnel and depth. Ederson has become a fixture at the back alongside the likes of Stones, Mangala, Otamendi and Laporte at centre back, the latter having a standout season in the year just gone cementing his place as the number one central defender. The departure of Vincent Kompany (Anderlecht – free) marks the end of an era and possibly leaves a hole in the leadership department but there’s no question that City have the players to step up and fill his position on the field.
Injuries have been the biggest downfall for this side in the past few years and no one player has suffered more so than Benjamin Mendy. The French fullback joined the club from Monaco in 2017 but has only managed 17 appearances, three off the bench, in two seasons. He is set to miss the start of the new season as well but with Zinchenko and new signing Angelino (PSV – €12 million) also fighting for the left-back position there’s cover until he is fit again. Also troubled by injuries last season is midfielder Kevin De Bruyne but he comes into the 2019/20 season fully fit with Guardiola recently saying the 28-year-old has “come back like he did two seasons ago,” referring to his incredible performance in the 2017/18 campaign. Alongside De Bruyne in the City midfield is Bernardo Silva, David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Fernandinho, Riyad Mahrez, youngster Phil Foden and new signing Rodri (Atletico Madrid – €70million) all battling for a spot in the starting line-up.
There will be similar competition in the front three positions as Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane all make claims for a starting position. Recent reports, however, suggest Bayern Munich are keen to get the signature of Leroy Sane before close of business meaning the decision could be made easier should the young German international decide to apply his trade elsewhere. That said, it is worth noticing that Mahrez, Bernardo Silva and David Silva have all occupied one of those front three positions at different times as well.
Despite the headache Guardiola and his staff have in trying to decide how to utilise this squad to it’s full potential, it’s a great problem to have. With the players they have at their disposal and the relatively young average age of 26, Manchester City will be among the elite of English and European football for years to come.
With the rise of TV money in the English game, even mid-table teams now boast transfer budgets big enough to tempt some of Europe’s biggest stars to the league. In the past, games against Watford, Wolves, Crystal Palace and the likes wouldn’t have bothered big clubs like City however we now see a situation where every game is going to be a hard-fought battle for 3-points and this makes the fixture list even more important going into a new season. The Premier League fixtures alone for Manchester City will see them play seven games in December including home fixtures against Manchester United and Leicester City as well as visits to Wolves and Arsenal.
Last season saw Manchester City play 61 games on the way to their Domestic Treble, 38 in the league and 23 in their cup competitions so we could possibly expect around 20 or so fixtures to be sprinkled within their EPL games for the year. Regardless, if Guardiola and his men expect to defend their League title this year, going off League trends in the last few seasons they’ll be needing to win upwards of 30 games. With some question marks over where their focus will be this season it could be a great opportunity for the likes of Liverpool or Tottenham to finally eclipse the Manchester side.
So far, we’ve been ignoring the possible Champion’s League ban that City are facing but the reality is, AC Milan just received a one-year ban from European competition for violating Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations and Manchester City are currently being investigated for the same issue. City were penalised for breaching FFP regulations in 2014 however this time around investigators are suggesting a one-year ban should they be found guilty. If that is the case then you would have to favour City as the favourites to take out the Premier League with Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea, their closest title rivals, all being involved in European competitions this year meaning an added 6-14 midweek games would divide their attention.
Assuming City don’t get penalised however, as is currently the case, it would be expected they put their eggs in the European basket this year having dominated domestically for the past two seasons. It may be the case they win the Champion League however the further they go in Europe the more likely it seems that another League rival will knock them off their perch this year.
Written by Daniel Thurley.