Pep Guardiola has virtually monopolized English football since taking over as the manager of Manchester City in 2016. As if winning a couple of UEFA Champions League titles for FC Barcelona in three years was not enough, Guardiola further raised the benchmark for managerial excellence by winning four titles in last five years in the most competitive football league in the world.
His continued success – his failure to win the Champions League for City notwithstanding- has made him somewhat immune to criticism at the Etihad. City is second in the league table after having played 21 matches this season. They might very well go on to topple table-toppers Arsenal to win their fifth league title under Guardiola.
However, it cannot be denied that City is no longer looking their usual invincible self at the moment, having lost two of their last three league matches. Even more than halfway into the season, Arsenal is still the favourites to win the league title. That is something followers of English football have not been used to seeing in the recent past.
Questionable transfer decisions
When one thinks that a couple of Arsenal players played at Manchester City until the end of the last season, one might naturally question Guardiola’s decision to sell them. Guardiola also decided to offload Raheem Sterling to Chelsea. In doing so, the club bought Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez to boost the attack.
While Haaland has been one of the players of the season thus far, Alvarez’s return of 9 goals from 27 matches do not quite do justice to his signing for the English champions. His reputation was enhanced in the World Cup winning campaign for Argentina. At the same time, he has not been able to replicate that kind of form for his club.
Moreover, Jack Grealish, whom City signed in 2021 by paying a whopping transfer fee of 100 million pounds, has only two goals and four assists from 26 matches in the current season. Not that his performance last season was any better. Even after playing close to 70 matches for the club, Grealish is still a fringe player for the Cityzens. As a result, the former Aston Villa captain has not been able to cement his place in the starting line-up.
It is City’s more experienced players like Kevin de Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez, Rodri, Ederson and Ilkay Gundogan that continue to drive the team. While Guardiola’s ability to improve players is beyond any doubt, he has failed to do the same with the likes of Alvarez and Grealish thus far.
When one adds Ferran Torres, who had to leave City a few seasons back to join Barcelona, one gets yet another young attacking player who failed to prosper under the 52-year-old Spanish manager.
The Joao Cancelo Saga at Manchester City:
Cancelo became the latest addition to the list of quality players leaving Manchester City, as his move to Bayern Munich on loan was quickly agreed upon after the Portuguese full-back had a fall-out with his manager.
With the departure of Zinchenko and now Cancelo, City seems short of good options at fullback. Nathan Ake has had to play as the left-back on quite a few occasions this season and Sergio Gomez has also appeared in some of the matches.
However, neither of them is as good as Cancelo as the left-back. Consequently, City might suffer as a result. Cancelo also has the ability to play as the right-back, deputizing for an injured Kyle Walker often during the 2021-22 season.
In fact, he has been one of City’s most consistent players during the last couple of seasons. It remains to be seen whether Manchester City will have to endure a trophy-less season. That is unthinkable by their lofty standard, due to their prodigious manager’s transfer decisions.