Are Manchester City in decline? Not exactly but there is a sense that the club need to hit that F5 button and refresh and that could mean waving good bye to Pep Guardiola.
Two significant things happened in the summer that seem to have led to the Manchester City that we have now. One was influential midfielder David Silva leaving the club for Real Sociedad. Silva had been with City for 10 years and it seemed that him leaving was a natural step to take in his career. But the gap hasn’t been filled by Silva’s invaluable experience and in some games this season it has looked telling.
The other is that one senses City still have a hangover from their Champions League exit last season. Now had they exited the competition in a normal year this would have taken place back in April. This being the year of the pandemic the quarter finals were played of course only in August. And after knocking out Real Madrid in the previous round it seemed inevitable that City would overcome Lyon to reach the semi-finals. But while the game was very close Lyon did a number on City and Guardiola was outnumbered and out manoeuvred but a Ligue 1 side who failed to even qualify for Europe for this season.
That Lyon loss just seems to have got under the skin of Guardiola, it is just one game, but a defeat in that manner in the Champions League feels like a bug that just cannot be shaken.
Let’s make no mistake Guardiola was brought into City to win the Champions League and countless trophies. But City do not look like a side who are going to win this league in this. Pep’s 5th season. If they don’t then he has won 2 league titles from five. This is a fantastic return for most clubs, but the bar is so high with what Guardiola demands and the money spent on the club in that time period so much that actually a 40% winning return doesn’t seem that impressive in league titles.
To suggest that Guardiola has failed at City if he ends this season without silverware feels like a step too far. One must remember that under Guardiola Manchester City have won 8 trophies, however five of those have been split between the League cup and Community shield. His best season was in 2018/19 when he completed the magical domestic treble of winning the league title, FA Cup and League Cup. That season was also memorable for how City fended off a relentless challenge from Liverpool.
Under Guardiola City have recorded records and played some of the greatest football England has seen. He has created so much in such little time albeit with deep pockets but at the same time you still have to know the right players who are going to come into the side and get the job done.
Guardiola has loved to open the cheque book too and some of his signings have been real gems for the side like Benjamin Mendy, Ederson the goal keeper and Barnardo Silva have done good jobs. But can one say that Riyad Mahrez has shone consistently since his arrival from Leicester? Rodri is a good player but one would expect more of the club record signing.
There has been a tendency at City and it can work for a club with such a budget to, in theory, throw money at the problem but that doesn’t always work, and perhaps we are seeing that this season.
Who could have thought that a team managed by Guardiola would be in 13th place after 8 games. True one could say it is early in the season but over 25% of the season has been played. Also the way Liverpool have rose the bar means that they won’t be dropping many points this season. And unlike last season City have two more rivals that have emerged in Tottenham and Chelsea. When one can think that winning the title for City is beyond them, one could even stretch that idea and wonder if they will finish in a top 4 position?
Presently City do have a game in hand but that would only take the club up to 8th and they would be 5 points behind the leaders. Now that isn’t a big gap and of course there is time to catch up but the problem for City as aforementioned is the new threat of Tottenham and Chelsea together with Liverpool.
At the moment there shouldn’t be alarm bells just yet for City but if they can’t make in roads up the table and put pressure on the top 2 by the Christmas period this could end up being a long hard season for such a fluent and brilliant side.
So failure for Guardiola at City seems to be over-hyping what is happening at the club but whisper it when you consider the money spent, the value of the team estimated to be at £1 billion and the quality one normally associates with Guardiola, his time at City may just be looked at as the manager who under achieved with what he had.
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