The Citizens this season are more optimistic than ever and there is little to question their potential to do so this time. A squad boasting of a mix of talented youngsters and experienced stars, managed by one of the very best in the business, City has hardly put a foot wrong this season and neither do they look to be doing so in near future. Since at the moment they are looking like one of the teams to beat in Europe, it is interesting to find how the club has become one of the big boys in such a short span of time.
Having won their first major title in 1904, 4 years before Manchester united won their first, the history of the blue half of the Manchester looks to be older than the other half but marred by lack of consistency. From winning the first division in 1967-68 to dropping to third division in England in 1997-98, the inconsistency was always there but the much needed stability came in the form of Sheikh Mansour who bought the club in 2008. Backing up the club with funds to bring in quality players, managers and training facilities, he ensured the club aimed for nothing short of Premier League titles and European glory.
Although City won the PL twice since he took over, a champions league title still looked something beyond their reach owing to their failure to reach the latter stages of the competition. But for the city fans, the announcement of Pep in early 2016 as the successor of Pellegrini instantly raised the hopes of a UCL glory in near future having been regarded as one of best managers in Europe courtesy his trophy laden stints with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Many believed he will have a tough time proving his mettle in the world’s most physical league and will not find it easy winning titles here and his first season in charge proved to be exactly that. City failed to win a single trophy last season and people started believing that Pep’s success in his earlier stints could be attributed to the “relative easiness” of other leagues than to his tactical brilliance. Some of his big transfer moves also seemed to fail big time with the likes of Bravo and Stones managing to impress none.
This season, however, seems to be the year Pep will prove his doubters wrong, if he hasn’t already. Having spent over £200m on defense invited a lot of criticism but it looks to be finally paying dividends with City conceding just 10 goals in the opening 15 fixtures of their PL campaign. Though Bravo hasn’t got enough opportunities this season, Stones seems to be gaining confidence and so far has been excellent , which was far from being the case last season. His famous “tiki-taka” style also seems to have arrived at the Etihad, although this time accompanied with attacking football up front with city looking to be in full control of the ball possession while also scoring goals at will. While last season also saw City starting perfectly with winning the first few league games, they were far from being perfect with their shoddy defense conceding a lot of goals. This season, it seems a tough task to find the back of the city’s net, let alone defeating them.
The key to contend for the European glory lies heavily on how Pep uses his bench strength and rotates his players to keep an injury free squad. Another important thing would be the January transfer window when Pep will look to further strengthen his squad and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he adds another defender to his squad given City’s injury problems. Guardiola has been on the biggest stages and he is the perfect manager to lead City to that stage.