Manchester City need more stability. Pep Guardiola’s side struggled mightily with the issue all season. Now that they have a little less than two months sign players before the new season gets into full swing, the Spaniard has to make City’s stability his number one priority.
Manchester City Need More Stability
The 2019/20 Season
Manchester City’s season will be remembered for its insane numbers. The two-time defending Premier League Champions had three, 20+ goal scorers across all competitions. Nine players scored at least five goals, and nine players had at least five assists.
Club legends like Sergio Aguero and David Silva played less than half of the available minutes in the season. Club superstars like Aymeric Laporte and Leroy Sane suffered and returned from devastating injuries. Imagine telling someone before the season that City would get all these stats with Sane only playing 24 minutes.
But, if you ask anyone around the club, albeit officials, coaches, players or supporters, they will all tell you the same thing – this season was an overall failure. Losing the Premier League by 18 points is one thing. But being knocked out in the FA Cup and Champions League and the way it went will sting.
How Manchester City Can Add Stability
So, the obvious question is what should City do next? What changes can the club make to close the gap on Liverpool? What has to be done to get better performances in the Champions League knockout stages? Has an obvious counter to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City emerged? Each question will go a long way to determining if next season is successful.
So let’s start with the first one: How do City close the gap on Liverpool. These two teams finished the season with the same number of draws(three), while Liverpool won six more games than City. The biggest difference came on the road, where City lost seven games, which was more than Liverpool, Manchester United, Southampton and Wolves.
Of those seven away losses, six of them were down to City not finishing their chances and getting beaten on the counter. It was also the reason why they lost to Arsenal in the FA Cup, and why Pep Guardiola decided to play a back three against Lyon.
City’s Achilles Heel
Halting the counter has been the worst by-product of City transitioning from Fernandinho to Rodrigo in midfield. The former has incredible anticipation and positional awareness. The latter doesn’t have the positioning or anticipation but is much better at orchestrating the attack.
That is what makes the biggest difference. City can score loads of goals with either at the base of the central midfield. Rodri links their play better to create a metric ton of chances. But, Fernandinho offers the support that their defence and Ederson need to survive to play their style in the Premier League. However, just putting Fernandinho in isn’t the answer – he was on the field in six out of the seven losses.
Finding Stability With Speed
So, if Manchester City are trying to improve their defensive support while keeping their increased offensive quality, how do they go about it? The two obvious places off the bat would be speed in the defence and control on the flanks.
In the Premier League, speed is still as valuable as ever. Especially in defending, because the attacks come at a pace not seen in other leagues. So, a team playing as high up as Manchester City need to have the speed to cover the field behind the defenders. That starts with additions like Nathan Ake, but it doesn’t end there.
Pep Guardiola’s side are heading into next season with five full-backs at the moment: Kyle Walker, Joao Cancelo, Benjamin Mendy, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Angelino. They’re all solid full-backs, but only Kyle Walker provides what they need from the position. The England international brings City a nice balance of pace and possession, excellent with the ball and is great in recovery.
However, they are not getting that from the other four players. Zinchenko, Mendy and Cancelo all struggle defensively, and only Cancelo offers enough control going forward to mitigate his defensive positioning mistakes. This is where Ake comes in.
The Dutch international is quick enough to play a role on the left-hand side. Barcelona fans will remember now-failed Sporting Director Eric Abidal’s position on the left side of the defence with Pep Guardiola in charge. The Frenchman rarely went forward, and, more often than not, formed a strong back three with Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol. This allowed Dani Alves space to push higher up the field without sacrificing control.
If Pep is going to employ a plan like that, bringing in Ake is the perfect way to do that. It could unlock someone like Cancelo, allowing him to get more playing time.
In the end, Pep Guardiola will probably do none of these things because he tends to think even further outside the box. Only time will tell if he gets it right or not.
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