Having amassed as much as 198 points in consecutive Premier League seasons, the scope for improvement in squad depth was not high for Pep Guardiola heading into the new season. But, nevertheless, Manchester City have strengthened their glittering side with some marquee signings.
Rodri, Joao Cancelo and Angelino were signed from Atletico Madrid, Juventus and PSV Eindhoven respectively, while Danilo and Fabian Delph were among the big names departing the Etihad Stadium.
Ahead of their opening match against West Ham on Saturday, we take a look at the new, improved City squad that will be bidding to clinch a third successive league title.
GOALKEEPERS – B+
In Ederson, the Sky Blues have a well-rounded keeper who is great with his feet and solid with his hands. He has proved to be an astute purchase, having integrated the team’s style of play effectively over the past two title-winning seasons.
Back-up keeper Claudio Bravo, 36, has established himself as a specialist in domestic cup games, especially when penalty shoot-outs are on the menu. However, the Chilean has rarely been preferred in league matches, after a series of blunders in his maiden season.
While Bravo can be relied upon to take City through in a crucial FA Cup tie, a long-term injury for Ederson could shake things up in the league. Derby County custodian Scott Carson was roped in on loan on deadline day but there is not much clarity as to what Guardiola has in mind for the new-signing.
DEFENCE – B
It would not be a stretch to suggest that City have the second-best defence in the league, with Liverpool stepping highest on the podium.
The Aymeric Laporte-John Stones centre-back pairing has been solid, bar the rare loss of concentration that is generally dealt with by the reliable Ederson. The pair have developed a great sense of chemistry that can only develop over time.
However, the lack of depth in central defence could come back to bite the Premier League champions during the business end of the campaign.
Nicolas Otamendi and Eliaquim Mangala could have formed a solid partnership back in 2015/16 but both players have experienced a steady decline ever since. The Sky Blues should have scanned the market for a better third/fourth choice centre-back during the summer but opted against it.
The full-back positions are well-decorated with big names and talented players. In new signing Joao Cancelo, the Portuguese will ensure Kyle Walker has to work for his place before eventually replacing him.
Oleksandr Zinchenko was City’s break-out player from last term and has displayed enough skill to act as a back-up for the constantly injured Benjamin Mendy.
MIDFIELD – A+
The best midfield in Europe surely deserves top marks.
City have Rodri, Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva as their first choice midfield three. A dream trio. The former enjoyed a stunning season at Atletico Madrid and is tipped to shine in Guardiola’s system. The latter two were among the best players in City’s title-winning season and are showing no signs of slowing down.
Their back-up midfield of Fernandinho, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan are capable of starting for most teams around Europe. This depth will allow them to compete for the Champions League and sustain their domestic dominance at the same time.
Their seventh midfielder Phil Foden, 20, is one of the best prospects in the world and is likely to climb higher in the hierarchy over time.
City are set to dominate the Premier League again and there is little scope for improvement in this flawless midfield.
ATTACK – B+
There’s a thin line between midfield and attack in Guardiola’s system. This was evident last season when Bernardo was deployed as a right-winger regularly. Foden was also called in to take guard in the left-wing in some games when he came off the bench.
Regardless, the wings are well-equipped with fire-power that accompanies the likes of Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane. The latter is set to miss the first half of the season due to a torn ACL but Sterling’s versatility should ensure City don’t miss the German that much. The option to step midfielders higher up the pitch is also present, as is the option to deploy second choice striker Gabriel Jesus on the left.
Sergio Aguero will spearhead the attack again in search of yet another goal-laden campaign. The versatility of the players in midfield and attack should more than make up for any injury-related complications that could arise during the season.
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