At first glance Manchester City’s squad looks relatively strong, but when you peel back the layers you realise that Pep Guardiola may have more rebuilding than he would have imagined when he first took the job.
The Citizens are now in a major battle just to secure a top four finish and Champions League place, never mind the Premier League title, after losing 1-0 to Manchester United in Sunday’s Manchester derby.
The defeat means that both fifth-place West Ham and United are now just a point behind Manuel Pellegrini’s team. Fourth-place is suddenly up for grabs and nerves seem to be jangling at the Etihad Stadium.
Injuries taking their toll
Manchester City have endured injuries to a number of key players this season, most notably captain Vincent Kompany. I heard a stat yesterday that City have kept nine clean sheets in the 12 top-flight games the Belgium international has played in, compared to just four in the 18 games he has missed.
His replacement failed to impress yesterday. For an experienced international centre-back Martin Demichelis does his best impression of a Sunday league player for much of his time on the pitch. Against United was one of those games were Demichelis looked like he couldn’t even tie his shoe laces, let alone keep United from scoring.
The loss of Kompany’s Belgian international teammate Kevin De Bruyne also had an effect on the season. Against United things got even worse as England number one Joe Hart sustained a muscle injury, as did winger Raheem Sterling.
City should have quality replacements for the amount of money that has been invested in the squad. Instead they have the likes of Demichelis and Willy Caballero, who despite his league cup heroics, is another mistake waiting to happen.
Bigger challenge than expected for Pep Guardiola
It seems the end of the season and the arrival of highly-rated boss Pep Guardiola cannot come too soon for those of the City persuasion. The Citizens are still in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but face another big spending club in French champions PSG.
The way the Citizens are performing at the moment they will struggle to get a result against Laurent Blanc’s impressive side that dispensed with Chelsea with relative ease.
The City job has been labelled as Pep’s biggest challenge in management yet and the way this season is going it may well be. The squad is looking like it needs major additions and a number of players need to be moved on.
When Guardiola went into Bayern Munich he changed the style of play first before he made many personnel changes. However his time at Barcelona showed that he was not scared to make tough decisions if he thought they were for the best of the club.
The Spaniard will be confident of succeeding at the Etihad Stadium and will no doubt be given whatever tools he needs to succeed by the City owners. The job is a challenge though.
Vital City secure a Champions League spot
It could have been a worse weekend for City, as fifth-place West Ham were winning 2-1 till late-on at reigning champions Chelsea, before a late Cesc Fabregas penalty kick earned the Blues a draw.
The win would have moved Slaven Bilic’s team above City in the table. The Citizens remain in the top four for now and they are still odds of 8/13 to finish in the top four.
However they cannot keep on putting in such tepid displays and expect to be in the Champions League positions at the end of the season. City have looked unconvincing all season, but since the announcement of Pellegrini’s departure the performances seem to have deteriorated.
It is vital that City finish in the Champions League, not for the monetary reasons that most other club need the competition, but for the whole development of the club.
The men from Manchester have made it to the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time this season and you would like to think that Guardiola’s presence would make that a regular occurrence at City.
The Spaniard cannot help the Citizens progress on the European stage if the club are not even in the competition, which is looking like a very real prospect up they do not up their game.
At this moment in time Guardiola is probably watching what is going on at City and wondering if he has made the right decision in accepting the job. The Bayern boss has lots of work to do at City this summer and all I have to say is good luck Pep!
Will Manchester City finish in the top four this season?