Manchester City fans are optimistic about their side’s chance in this season’s title race after securing the services of Pep Guardiola; who many regard as the best manager in club football. The Spaniard transformed Barcelona into one of the best teams in history and more success followed at Bayern Munich.
Although the Bundesliga lacks the quality of the Premier League and Bayern struggled in Europe, many believe that Guardiola can transform this City side into title winners again. City slumped to a fourth place finish under Manuel Pellegrini last season but did manage to lift the Capital One Cup.
Guardiola has bolstered his squad with the additions of Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, Nolito and Gabriel Jesus so we used Football Manager 16 to simulate how City’s season might pan out…
After spending heavily during the early months of the summer transfer window, Guardiola decided he was happy with his squad. The only players to arrive before the end of the transfer window was Gino Peruzzi from Boca Juniors to provide back-up at right back. Surprisingly, City also signed Ki Sung-Yeung from Swansea for around £10m to add competition in the centre of midfield.
There was no notable departures during the summer transfer window but many players left on loan for affiliate club, New York City FC.
However, the spending resumed in January as Guardiola decided to splash the cash on plenty of new arrivals. Firstly, Portuguese centre-back Paulo Oliveira joined from Sporting in a £10m deal and was joined at the Etihad by promising midfielder Riechedly Bazoer from Ajax. Deadline day arrived but the spending continued as 17-year-old attacking midfielder Kuki signed from Malaga for around £2m. In the penultimate hours of the transfer window, City added two big-name signings to their squad; completing a £45m deal for Juventus’ Alvaro Morata and a £21m deal with Barcelona for left-back Jordi Alba.
In order to fund such spending, departures were necessary. Eliaquim Mangala left the club headed for Bayern Munich with City receiving only £16m which left the club ruing the £30m spent to bring him from Porto. Out-of-favour Samir Nasri finally left the club destined for Barcelona for around £17m and Wilfried Bony also left for Premier League rivals Tottenham. In a surprising turn of events, £37m signing Leroy Sane joined Inter Milan on loan after failing to adjust to life in England.
Guardiola opted for a 4-1-4-1 formation upon arriving in Manchester despite experimenting with a number of formations during his time in Germany.
England number one, Joe Hart, retained his position as Manchester City number one despite question marks surrounding his future at the club; making 45 appearances in all competitions.
Pablo Zabaleta remained the first-choice right-back whilst Vincent Kompany was able to return to full fitness following an injury-hit season under Pellegrini. Nicolas Otamendi was preferred on the left side of defence with Gael Clichy at left-back as Jordi Alba struggled with injuries.
New signing Gundogan was used as a defensive midfielder, playing behind Yaya Toure and Raheem Sterling who Guardiola transformed into a central midfielder. Kevin De Bruyne was used on the right wing with David Silva on the left.
Sergio Aguero remained the focal point of City’s attack.
Many players stood out during Guardiola’s first season but it was Aguero who was the star of the show. The Argentina international bagged 27 goals in all competitions including 20 in the Premier League. The former Atletico striker put injury troubles behind him to enjoy a stellar season.
De Bruyne also enjoyed a terrific second season in England which saw him named PFA Player of the Year and earn a space in the PFA Team of the Year. The Belgium international scored 12 goals and notched 12 assists from midfield over the course of the season.
Guardiola also managed to create defensive stability at City following Kompany’s return to fitness. The club captain was crucial to his side’s success and was named in the PFA Team of the Year alongside Otamendi and Zabaleta.
It was a season to forget for a number of players who did not do enough to force their way into the former Barcelona manager’s plans. Jesus Navas made just one appearance all season and found himself transfer-listed. New signing Nolito also struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League which forced to the club to transfer list the Spaniard.
Fabian Delph and Fernando also struggled for first-team minutes which led to speculation regarding their future with the Citizens. Fans were also not impressed with Sane following his move from Schalke and his poor form led to a loan move to Inter where he will be hoping to return to his best.
Although it was Guardiola’s maiden campaign as Manchester City manager, many people expected City to challenge for the title. However, City slumped during the early months of the season and found themselves lingering in eight place for the majority of the season. Their form improved after January as City managed to secure a third place finish in the Premier League, finishing just six points behind eventual winners Manchester United.
Guardiola did deliver a trophy in his first season as City retained their status as Capital One Cup holders. In a repeat of the 2016 final, City managed to beat Liverpool in extra-time at Wembley to lift the trophy again.
However, City failed to perform in the FA Cup and suffered a humiliating fourth round defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion who reached the final before being beaten by Manchester United.
Troubles in Europe also continued for Guardiola as City could not progress past the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The Citizens were knocked out by arch-rivals Manchester United in the last eight and the competition was eventually won by Juventus.
Although City managed to lift a trophy in their first season under Guardiola, the pressure is on to improve next season. The 45-year-old clearly needed more time to impose his style of play at the club and will be hoping to challenge for the title yet again in 2017.
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