Last season Manchester City won the treble – consisting of the Premier League, Champions League, and FA Cup. As such, they are currently considered the best team in world football. However, questions are being raised as to whether Pep Guardiola’s side will be able to sustain their dominance into future seasons.
Multiple factors will test Manchester City’s ability to stay at the same level. One of these being the departures of important players from the club. So far this transfer window, İlkay Gündoğan has made a move to Barcelona, and Riyad Mahrez has joined Saudi League side Al Ahli.
The importance of Gündoğan
Pep Guardiola wanted Gündoğan to stay at the club, however, the German wanted to seek a challenge elsewhere, a huge blow for City. He has played a great part in the side’s success over the years. A memorable moment was against Aston Villa back in the 2021/22 season. On that occasion, they were 2-0 down, with the midfielder scoring two goals in five minutes to help them win 3-2. That match ultimately won City the league title at Liverpool’s expense.
Last season he was important in securing the historic treble, scoring two goals against Manchester United in the FA Cup final. He was their knight in shining armour in the Premier League title race against Arsenal.
Gündoğan was also given the responsibility to captain the side last season after Fernandinho departed. He did an amazing job at the role – his teammates had nothing but praise for him. His presence both on and off the field will be missed at Manchester City. Having lost a player like Gündoğan that would show up in key moments could be the difference to how they perform next season.
The underrated servant, Riyad Mahrez
Mahrez had a difficult start to his career at Manchester City. However, as time went on, he adapted to the playstyle and started to be a more consistent performer when he saw game time. Guardiola also wanted to see Mahrez stay at the club. This is largely due to the lack of game time he saw after putting in good performances when he had the opportunity. Guardiola labeled him as “grumpy.”
Something that he is renowned for is his first touch, often referred to as one of the best in the league. At Manchester City, Mahrez was a player who liked to play wide and drop deep into positions where he can receive passes from his teammates. He is a prolific striker of the ball and thrives in one-on-one situations. He also makes getting past his man look easy. Right now, Mahrez may not seem like a big loss to the side, but there will be situations in the future in which he would be the perfect fit.
Kyle Walker could be on his way to Bayern Munich, and Bernardo Silva’s future is uncertain, attracting the likes of PSG, Barcelona, and Saudi League sides. Both players leaving would have a significant impact in their own individual ways, and cannot be easily replaced.
Ruben Dias commented on the topic, saying that “it’s unfortunate because of how good we are together. It’s football, it is what it is. It’s not like any other profession when things may be stable over a long period of time. We need to adapt, let’s see what happens.” The Portuguese defender went on to say that both are “very important players, if they stay they’ll continue to be important. It’s not my place to say anything else, obviously, I think all of us players, fans, and staff would like them to stay.”
There is a lot of uncertainty concerning the England international’s future at the club, Pep Guardiola stated “he’s an incredibly important player for us. He has specific qualities, so difficult to find worldwide. His specific qualities are irreplaceable.”
He has many attributes that make him the perfect fit for Manchester City’s system, the main one being his pace. This is crucial to recovery and it allows him to keep up with attackers with ease. Something that has improved under Guardiola is his game awareness and concentration; he has been crafted into one of the best right-backs the league has ever seen. A performance that highlighted how good he really is was against Vinícius Júnior in the Champions League, where he kept the Brazilian quiet throughout the entirety of the game.
37.31 – Which players recorded the highest top speeds in the Premier League in 2022-23?
37.31 km/h – Kyle Walker
36.70 km/h – Brennan Johnson
36.63 km/h – Mykhailo Mudryk
36.61 km/h – Anthony Gordon
36.53 km/h – Darwin Núñez
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) May 30, 2023
One of Manchester City’s most important players is Bernardo Silva. There are many reasons for this. One of them is on and off the ball he possesses qualities that not many players have; another player that can not easily be replaced. His ability on the ball is extraordinary, contributing in every way possible to assist the side in goals, assists, chances, passes into space, and winning games. Alongside this, his work rate is immense. He is always pressuring the opponent when not in possession or driving the ball up the pitch into space.
Pep Guardiola on Bernardo Silva: "I’ve been lucky to coach some very good players for Barca and Bayern. He’s one of the best players I ever trained in my life, ever, he’s something special as a football player." https://t.co/NHKCmvJxkI
— Squawka (@Squawka) April 12, 2023
Guardiola has put Bernardo Silva up there as one of the best players he has ever coached in his life, a list with the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, and Lewandoski. It says all you need to know about the significance of him staying at the club to how the side will perform in the future.
Can these players be replaced?
Mateo Kovačić has been bought into the side to supposedly play a similar role as Gündoğan. Whether he will have the same impact as the Portuguese international is something we will have to see throughout his time at the club.
One of the most recent stories is when Manchester City legend Sergio Agüero left the club after 12 years, Pep Guardiola stated “we cannot replace him, we cannot,” and then they went on to purchase Erling Haaland, who was out of this world last season. The Norwegian striker had one of the best debut seasons of all time.
Even though Guardiola is trying his hardest to hold onto players, if they leave, he will have plans on who to bring in. As a world-class manager, he can pick out and craft players into what he needs to be able to perform at the level required. This has been showcased many times in the past.
We may see a drop-off in quality with the departures of important players to the side. AS such, it will be interesting to see how new players are integrated into the squad to adapt to the situation. Age is a factor that will come into play soon, with many of the players pushing 30 years of age. In a couple of seasons, we will see a completely different Manchester City side to what we see today.