3 Tactical Talking Points for Guardiola as the season nears the end
As the 17/18 football season continues to edge closer to the end, Pep Guardiola and Citizens have already bagged the Carabao Cup. The first of a possible collection, in an already epic season. The Premier League title is all but mathematically sealed, as is a place in quarter-finals of the UEFA Champion’s League.
Within the past two months City have seen the welcome arrival of French defender Aymeric Laporte. They also saw unwelcome injuries to standout players this season. Players such as Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, John Stones and recently, Raheem Sterling.
Guardiola has thus been forced to make tactical and positional changes to the City squad that embarked on an 18 match winning run. A run stretching from August to December. Here are 3 tactical talking points for the remainder of City’s season.
Will the return of Gabriel Jesus cause a striker dilemma?
The young Brazilian striker featured heavily featured in the first half of the season for City. Scoring 10 goals with 8 of them in the Premier League. Earlier on in the season notably, Guardiola opted to use both Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus in a 3-5-2 system. At the expense of Leroy Sane or Raheem Sterling. However, since Benjamin Mendy’s long-term injury, Guardiola has reverted back to the 4-3-3 in which Aguero and Jesus rotated.
Jesus’ injury a Christmas present for Aguero
Jesus’s injury in late December gifted Sergio Aguero a run in the team. The Argentine took complete advantage. His goal tally currently sits at 30 for the season. This is just three short of his best ever return whilst playing for City.
At the current rate, he is arguably having his best ever season for the Blues. For now, it appears Jesus will have to settle for limited opportunities until the end of the season. Guardiola would be foolhardy to alter a winning formula. His versatility as well as City’s drive to compete in both the Premier League and Champions League, should see him in receipt of valuable playing time.
What is City’s best central defensive pairing?
Last summer, City were, surprisingly, heavily linked with West Brom’s Jonny Evans. The plan having been to sign a central defender better fit to the system than Eliaquim Mangala.
Fast forward to the January transfer window. City ultimately decided to activate Aymeric Laporte’s release clause of a reported 57 million pounds. Subsequently, Mangala was loaned to Everton. Thus leaving City with Nicolas Otamendi, Vincent Kompany, John Stones, and Aymeric Laporte as central defence options.
Pressure off injury-prone Kompany
Interestingly since, Captain Vincent Kompany has suffered fewer injury setbacks. Setbacks have plagued him over three seasons. This lead to the captain adopting a starting role alongside Otamendi in City’s two biggest fixtures. The Champion’s League tie with Basel, and the Carabao Cup Final win over Arsenal.
In the interim, Laporte has featured variously in Premier League matches. John Stones has seen limited pitch time since returning from injury. The two were, however, paired in City’s 1-0 loss to Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup.
A performance which saw neither selected for the Cup Final at the weekend.
Will Guardiola continue to stick with what seems is his currently preferred Kompany-Otamendi partnership? Or will Stones and Laporte make amends, making a case for either of them to break into the defense?
What role will Guardiola assign Bernardo Silva?
This season Bernardo Silva has been subject of much debate among football fans. The Portuguese international signed from Monaco last summer following an impressive breakthrough season. One which will be remembered as a top Monaco side.
For much of the first half of the season, Bernardo was heavily limited to substitute appearances, netting just one goal against Stoke City in the Premier League.
On the wing, or in the middle?
Bernardo was often used as both winger (as he was at Monaco) and central midfielder in the “free 8” role. Throughout his substitute appearances, speculation continues as to which one Guardiola will assign as his primary position.
Injuries early this year to Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane respectively, left Guardiola no options in wide areas, thus allowing Bernardo Silva more matchplay.
Bernardo started and scored in City’s 4-0 Champions League victory over Basel. Repeating the feat in City’s recent Premier League win at the Emirates. Both games saw Silva utilising Raheem Sterling’s right-wing position.
As Sterling recovers from injury, who will Guardiola opt for on the right for the rest of City’s season? Can Bernardo retain his place on the right, or will he re-appear in central midfield?
City’s summer shopping may answer Bernardo’s ultimate club fate. The League leaders continue to be linked with various wingers ahead of the summer transfer window.