Pep Guardiola got Manchester City playing the way he prefers last season. The Sky Blues were the best team in the land. The biggest opposition Manchester United trailed the Sky Blues all season and finished the campaign a distant second.
City also started brilliantly on the continent. After a relatively easy group stage in which City topped their Champions League group, they came unstuck against Liverpool in the quarter final. It was a familiar experience. City has always come up short on the continent as far as the UCL is concerned.
City are yet to dominate Europe the way the club has dominated England in recent times. Three Premier League titles in seven seasons is no mean feat. Manchester United may have dominated in the last two decades, but City have emerged from their shadow in the last few seasons.
Signing Guardiola gave an indication of where we are heading to in the future. The Catalan’s past should leave no one in doubt. From then on, the Reds have been playing catch up. They should have known our time will come.
With scintillating performances in the last campaign, City laid down the marker on what to expect in the years to come. Every team in the land (except for Wigan and Liverpool) bowed to the superior firepower of the PL and League Cup champions.
Winning the double was nothing short of what City deserved for the performance the team put forth. Losing only two matches in the league all season was the closest you could get to invincibility. The only concern is whether the team can replicate last season’s heroics and go one better by bringing home the Champions League trophy this season.
Making such a mark on the continent is long overdue for the Sky Blues. As far as trophies go, the Citizens still have a long way to go, remember. Our recent success should not blind us to the fact that almost all the other top six clubs are more successful than City when it comes to total trophies won. In fact, even sides like Everton, Aston Villa and Sunderland could boast of a superior trophy haul.
However, this era presents Man City with one of the best opportunities the club has ever had to close the gap. That’s why winning in Europe has become so important. The new campaign comes with so much promise. While other clubs are strengthening their weak areas to mount a better challenge this time around, City’s players also have a chance to become stronger as a team.
Players like Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy, and Danilo joined the team last term and had limited appearances. These players along with new signing Riyad Mahrez will be looking to make their mark in the team this season.
That can only be to the benefit of the club. A stronger bench will also be very important. This makes it easy for capable replacements be brought in when injuries occur. Players could also be required to come in when others are serving suspensions or need rest. Fatigue could well have been responsible for the team’s capitulation against Liverpool in the Champions League last term.
It should also be noted that some players in the squad are susceptible to injury. Players like Ilkay Gundogan and Fabian Delph have a long history of struggles with injuries. Benjamin Mendy’s first season in English football was hampered by injury who knows how he will fare this time around?
Even our captain has severely struggled with injuries in recent times. His World Cup showing where he seemed to roll back the years was rather a surprise. Recall that he was even injured in the period leading to the tournament, so it’s difficult to count on him being fit through the season.
Up front, both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus also have their injury concerns once in a while. This, it appears will be City’s biggest challenge this season. Squad depth is the solution. Youngsters Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz should come in handy in the odd game. Oleksandr Zinchenko too.
Real Madrid won the Champions League with young players like Marco Asensio, Borja Mayoral and Vallejo coming in to do the odd job when first team regulars needed rest. City may need to do same.
Improvements can also be expected from Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane who were all in sublime form last season. John Stones also showed what he is capable of at the World Cup.
All of these put together, we can genuinely expect a better outing in Europe this term. But that’s not the only challenge. Retaining the league title will prove as much a difficult task as making progress on the continent.
You only need to look at history to see that. United were the last side to manage such a feat about a decade ago. Since then no Premier League side has been able to successfully defend the league title. With Guardiola in charge however, anything can happen. The best is likely yet to come.