Man City's three-step plan to topple Liverpool FC and become Premier League champions again
Pep Guardiola has a number of Manchester City issues to resolve before next season’s title raceby Reece Chambers
Pep Guardiola’s time at Manchester City so far has been characterised by domestic dominance and frequent record-breaking moments in the Premier League.
Two consecutive league titles, including a record-breaking 100 points, and an incredible title race with Liverpool, has brought great success to the blue half of Manchester, but this season has proved to be a blip in that successful run
Liverpool have embarked on an unprecedented season themselves and left everyone else in their wake, racking up 82 points from 29 league games.
For City, though, difficulties with consistency and injuries has left them some 25 points behind Jurgen Klopp’s side. Such a rise from the Reds over the last two seasons has shown no signs of letting up which means that Guardiola faces a crucial period before the start of next season to go again in the Premier League.
His domestic dominance thus far with City, and previously with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, highlights that they will expect to challenge again next season although a number of key decisions will need to be made to get there.
Bouncing back next season will be at the top of Guardiola’s priority list, but how can they make up the 25-point gap that currently separates them from runaway league leaders Liverpool?
The most obvious solution to City’s issues this season is to look towards the transfer market for the answer.
Guardiola’s success in the transfer market since arriving in Manchester can be debated given the varying quality shown by his purchases. Joao Cancelo may leave in the next transfer window after a disappointing debut season at the Etihad Stadium, whereas Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva have been crucial additions in attacking areas.
In defence, though, City have struggled to resolve that issue and this summer it will be of paramount importance. Liverpool did so with the signing of Virgil van Dijk and, while finding a player to emulate his influence, finding a long-term solution to partner Aymeric Laporte will be at the top of the agenda.
To sustain success at the top, having a reliable defence is a crucial part of the jigsaw and it appears that Liverpool’s back four have everything required to maintain their high quality. As a result, Guardiola may need to prioritise defensive additions in the next window to get closer to Klopp’s side.
In addition to defensive concerns, a key decision may need to be made with regard to Sergio Aguero’s uncertain future. The 31-year-old has been a crucial part of Guardiola’s side since the Spaniard arrived.
Making sure he is in a position to continue his impressive goal-scoring record at the club must be something the City hierarchy will want to prioritise. Aguero helped the club to their first Premier League title in a dramatic fashion and replicating something similar next season could depend on his whereabouts.
There is no doubting Guardiola has brought one of the most attractive styles ever seen in the Premier League, but ensuring a future of success may require a degree of pragmatism.
Wolverhampton Wanderers completed the league double over City before the turn of the year with a 3-2 win at Molineux and such a victory proved why Guardiola may need to change. A counter-attacking masterclass from Adama Traoré in the reverse fixture also showed why varying the tactical approach could be worthwhile when things don’t go to plan.
Further defeats to Liverpool and Manchester United came in similarly disappointing circumstances earlier this season which may point towards a slight adjustment going forward.
The attacking threat of City’s side is undeniable, but this season has seen a major imbalance between defence and attack. Indeed, those issues could be partially resolved in the transfer market, but addressing the vulnerabilities in defence from a tactical perspective could be equally effective.
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A slice of luck
Uncontrollable factors have been partially to blame for City’s drop off in quality this season. The long-term injuries suffered by Laporte and Sané has limited the number of first team regulars available to Guardiola in key positions and he may need a slice of luck next season to get closer to Liverpool.
There is a genuine feeling among supporters that they have suffered more than other sides in terms of uncontrollable factors and having more crucial players fit next season would be a major boost.
Beyond injuries, Guardiola’s side may need to enjoy a bit of luck in respect to Liverpool’s performances. The Reds have been more or less untouchable for the majority of this season and maintaining that sort of quality will be a hard task to match.
For Guardiola, getting a better rub of the green won’t be something he can control himself, but it would certainly be a helping hand in what is likely to be another challenging title race.