2019/20 Countdown: Manchester City
Premier League – Champions; FA Cup – Winners; League Cup – Winners; UEFA Champions League – Quarter-finals; Top scorer (All competitions) – Sergio Aguero (32)
The question: Is Europe now the priority?
There was little question as to whether Manchester City would mount a title defence last season, though it was something they’d never quite managed before. They scored back-to-back titles, but it wasn’t straightforward. And perhaps that was their biggest positive from last season; that they showed resolve and doggedness, both in not letting their heads when they were seven points off the top and to also win 14 league games in a row and just about keep Liverpool at bay. The Premier League triumph was one of three titles, as City bagged a domestic treble, with FA and League Cup victories.
So, League title; check. Successive League titles; check. Domestic superiority; check. Is European triumph now the priority? City are still favourites for the league title, having amassed 198 points in the past two seasons, but they’ve never gone beyond the quarter-finals in the UEFA Champions League since Pep Guardiola joined the club.
They looked set for continental triumph last term but came unstuck in the last eight to Spurs, amid some top-notch drama. European exits don’t invalidate Guardiola’s success or brilliance with the side, and the manager has publicly stated that if he had a domestic treble in his sight again, he wouldn’t trade it for Champions League. But European triumph would be another mark for the Spanish manager, as well as the crowning glory for the City ‘project’. It would be the icing on a very delightful City cake.
Rodri has arrived from Atletico Madrid to reinforce the holding midfield role, which looks like a point of vulnerability whenever Fernandinho isn’t around. Left-back Angelino has been re-signed from PSV, two years after leaving, while Joao Cancelo has joined from Juventus.
Danilo, after two years at the club, has moved to Juve, trading places with Cancelo. Vincent Kompany (after his thunderbolt against Leicester last May) has left, rejoining Anderlecht in a player-manager role, while Fabian Delph has swapped Manchester for Merseyside, joining Everton, and Douglas Luiz has signed for Aston Villa. There are few loans, the likes of Patrick Roberts and Jack Harrison leaving on temporary bases again, while goalkeeper Arijanet Muric also makes a short-term move, to Nottingham Forest.
Arguably the best team in Europe, definitely the best side, City have come close to a quadruple, and finally bagging trophies isn’t beyond them. Guardiola’s side have only lost 16 games since the start of 2017.
Three defeats in four games midway through last season showed that the champions can be got at, and they have shown a tendency to cower a bit when attacked. Also, given Pep’s tendency to not last long at clubs, time may be running out for that European triumph under the Spaniard.
The Gaffer (Pep Guardiola)
The manic detail-oriented Spaniard is on the hunt for a third successive league title, as he did with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, while chasing a first Champions League triumph in eight years (with the He-has-never-won-it-without-Messi mob still on his back).
How will they do
Liverpool fans may disagree, but it’s hard to picture City finishing anywhere in the league other than top spot. Europe is where the real uncertainty looks to lie.
Kunle Ajao126 Posts
Kunle Ajao is a football writer and columnist for spotkick. Having made a toss of himself trying to actually play the game, he knew better and got a pen instead of boots. Spends a bit of his time with the game, and thinks he's a bit like Sid Lowe. He's not