Manchester City are playing some good football and this time with some fruitful value for it. They are top of the Premier League table and looks like the only challenge for them is their city rivals. But, it is too early to go into these things as we know the Premier League is one with turning points every week. Remember City won their first 6 games of last season but faltered. Let’s analyse as to why this season might be different for Pep Guardiola and his team.
Scoring 15 goals and conceding none is some achievement in a week’s time. Despite being numerically ahead vs Liverpool, they just tore apart the visitors’ defence in every way possible. A trip to Feyenoord was considered a banana skin but Guardiola’s men made light work of the Dutch champions by winning 4-0. Coming back to the Premier League on Saturday, Watford away was not an easy task. But, again some brilliant football allowed them to dominate the Hornets and win 6-0.
These are some daunting scorelines supporting the fact that the Citizens are better this year. One should say they are probably ‘ready’ to fight for trophies this season. The one-touch football and formation is helping players like de Bruyne, Silva and strikers to link well.
City’s best eleven with the formation is shown in the above image. The one thing which was making Guardiola irritate is the lack of pace his fullbacks offered. So, the first thing he did this summer was to offload his so-called ‘aged’ fullbacks and replace them with pacy, direct and attacking ones. The likes of Mendy, Walker and Danilo will offer pace and also the durability to play 40-50 games a season without wilting.
Fullbacks moving forward on every given occasion allows de Bruyne and Silva to dominate the midfield. The opposition is stretched tracking wide players and the two number 10s inside has space to work the ball. The two-striker policy is one uncommon thing which is working. The Jesus-Aguero partnership is starting to flourish now. They take turns to drop deep and attract one defender to create space for the other.
Predominantly, Jesus tries to come short to the midfield and link up play with Aguero.
The above image clearly depicts the effectiveness of the current formation in use. The high fullbacks allow Jesus to drop back and become available to the number 10s for a short pass. This will create space for Aguero to run in the gap vacated by one of the centre-backs tracking his partner. The defensive midfielder won’t be able to mark him as the two number 10s are already creating an overload in that area.
In fairness, this is a tough system to execute against a high pressing team. But, once the first line is played through, it becomes easy in midfield to dominate and switch the play whenever needed.
Apart from the fullback overhaul, another thing which has been significant this season is the strength in depth on the bench. Some good players like Sane, Sterling, B. Silva, etc. are sitting on the periphery. Truth be told, they are equally as good as the first eleven if not better.
Defence is the only worry for this team. With Kompany not guaranteed to play 40-50 games a season, responsibility rests on Otamendi and Stones. We all know the Argentine can be rash and erroneous at times, Stones is no perfect either. This is where City are short a bit, they need to make sure their brilliant attack doesn’t get overshadowed by poor defence. Clearly, this part hasn’t been tested thus far but huge examinations lie ahead.
Despite this being match-week 5 of the season, there are signs pointing towards a Manchester City revival this year. Obviously, Guardiola is under a little pressure to get at least one trophy this time. A Premier League title would be great to prove himself a truly world-class manager he already is. The squad management will be key as the season progresses.
November, December and January were the months last year where it fell apart. This time too, these will be the three months of non-stop football where Guardiola will be tested. A period in which City play Napoli (A), Arsenal, Manchester United (A), Tottenham and Liverpool (A) among the big guns. In all honesty, it is too early to predict anything but A Premier League title come next May wouldn’t surprise one and all.