Prior to the announcement at the beginning of February of Pep Guardiola taking the Manchester City hotseat next season and Manuel Pellegrini stepping down, City were still firmly in contention for all four trophies.
However since then, they crashed out of the FA Cup and have only won two Premier League games since, against Aston Villa and Sunderland, knocking them out of the title race and with a top four position in real danger. While they won the League Cup on penalties, a daunting task awaits them in the Champions League against PSG.
Many have blamed the Guardiola announcement for City’s slide but in truth the writing has been on the wall all season. City have been terrible and the focus has been taken away from them by United’s problems. Now as top four becomes an issue, the spotlight is falling back on them for all the wrong reasons. The Manchester City project is in drastic need of an overhaul.
City have an aging squad full of players who lack the desire or passion for the club to really challenge for trophies apart from a select few. Defensively without Vincent Kompany, they are a shambles and the midfield seems to lack legs or creativity where Yaya Toure disgracefully is allowed to stroll around the middle of the park without a care in the world.
David Silva has not been the same player he was and Raheem Sterling has flattered to deceive. Has Samir Nasri disappeared off the face of the earth? While the injury to Kevin De Bruyne is a huge blow, only for Joe Hart and Sergio Aguero, City would be at best a mid table side.
Manchester City’s recruitment needs to be examined as well as Pellegrini’s lack of tactical nous in big game. Guardiola needs to fix a team of mercenaries. There is no doubt this will be Guardiola’s biggest challenge of his extraordinary managerial career.
He already had everything he needed with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola just had to shape them into his image. This time a rebuilding job is on the cards. The Spaniard will relish the challenge of the Premier League and is likely to be a success but firstly he must get his house in order.
Let’s take a look at the changes required.
Manchester City have a top goalkeeper in Joe Hart and there is nothing to suggest they should be looking for someone better. Perhaps only Manuel Neuer, David De Gea, Thibaut Courtois and Petr Cech can claim to be ahead of Hart. Willy Caballero was City’s hero in the League Cup final but is error strewn, Guardiola may look for a more reliable number two but this is not a priority.
Then we move to the back four and it gets interesting. Guardiola’s one potential weakness is his tendency to ignore the defence as he fully concentrates on retaining quick possession of the ball, rotation of movement and a willingness to quickly win the ball back. It is how Guardiola’s sides both defend and attack. It is not about the individual but a team effort.
However, even Guardiola will admit there are alarming weaknesses in this area for City. Sagna is clearly not good enough and Zabaleta deserves to be first choice right back as he is one of the best full backs around at getting the balance between defence and attack spot on.
In central defence the key is keeping Vincent Kompany fit. Martin Demichelis is likely to be shown the door not just because of his age but as a result of, well, he is a walking disaster. His performance in the derby is one of the worst you will ever see in Premier League history as Marcus Rashford took him to the cleaners.
Eliaquim Mangala has proven again and again that he is nowhere near worth the ridiculous price City paid for him, and he may struggle to stay.
Nicolas Otamendi has largely been a disappointment given the expectations but he is the sort of defender Guardiola seems to like so expect him to stay.
The left back area is constantly a toss up between Kolarov and Clichy. While Kolarov is solid and his free kick expertise are attractive, Clichy looks like more of a Guardiola type player.
This is the area that Guardiola will look at changing the most. Guardiola sold Yaya Toure at Barcelona and he is likely to do the same again.
A Guardiola team does not afford for any passengers and Toure is certainly the biggest free loader you will see.
Fernando is a very poor player who looks out of his depth but Fernandhinio could well have a place in Guardiola’s Manchester City as he is one of the most consistent performers. Guardiola likes ball playing, energetic, creative and versatile midfielders. This is something City lack and the new manager will look to fix that.
David Silva should have a place in the set up as will the impressive Kevin De Bruyne. Sterling is likely to remain a City player but unless he takes his game to the next level, he may well have to get used to sitting on the bench next season.
The problem with many of the Man City players is they are happy on huge wages thus they will be difficult to get rid of. Nasri could be a prime example of that.
What about the front men? Guardiola will look forward to working with Sergio Aguero and may well see him as his Messi.
Iheanacho has impressed whenever given the chance this season. Guardiola may well look to promote some of City’s younger players to the first team squad if they fit his style.
Wilfried Bony is miles away from being what Guardiola likes in a player and he has been a permanent fixture on the bench since his £30m move from Swansea to the Ethiad Stadium, expect him to be shipped out.
Who could Guardiola bring in then? First you have to take a look at his formation preferences. He is not a fan of two holding midfielders so the popular 4-2-3-1 formation may well be thrown out the window. Guardiola may try to implement his famous Barcelona 4-3-3 formation or the 4-1-4-1 formation he employs at Bayern.
What type of players will he look at? A ball playing centre back is likely to be one position from a defensive point of view in the shape of a Gerard Pique.
Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels or Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte could be on the agenda.
It is in midfield where we can expect the most arrivals. Guardiola bought Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona to Bayern Munich and he is clearly a player Guardiola likes so a move to City could be on the cards.
Manchester City have also been heavily linked with German duo Mario Gotze and Ilkay Gundogan. Real Madrid are expected to be selling some players this summer including Toni Kroos, Isco and James Rodriguez who might all peak City’s interest. A back up striker for Aguero could also be on the cards.
It should be an intriguing summer in Manchester, especially if Mourinho arrives at United to take on Guardiola.
Let the fun begin!
Possible Manchester City XI next season:
Kevin De Bruyne