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City Have Done The Impossible…

Last season, Manchester City were breathtakingly dominant on the way to their third Premier League title, blowing away most teams and succumbing to very few. It can, however, be said that the Citizens didn’t get much of a challenge from the division’s other top sides. Although they aren’t the only unbeaten team in England in 2018/19 up until this point, I get the feeling that City side will not be stopped. 
 
The gap between first and second place at the end of the season might not be as astronomical a figure as it was last time out, but you’d have to be out of your mind or, as I call it, a Liverpool fan, to not have City as your outright favourites to win the title. Yes, the scintillating football isn’t being spoken about as it was at the start of last season, but if you watch this team closely, you will notice that they’ve improved even further. As if all the records they broke in the previous campaign weren’t good enough, the tactically-obsessed perfectionist that is Pep Guardiola is getting his team to work even harder…
 
If you look at the table, if you watch highlights, it might appear to you that City are playing the exact same way as they did last season, but that isn’t Guardiola. Guardiola isn’t the type to rest his feet, grab a drink and ponder his success. He’s the type to continuously and relentlessly strive for complete flawlessness. He did that at FC Barcelona, he did that at Bayern Munich. 
 
The Spaniard has made a few tweaks to his system at City that has breathed new life into the team, but how does one better a record-breaking season? By paying attention to detail. For starters, look at the role Benjamin Mendy has played since his return to fitness. Like Kyle Walker does at right back, Mendy provides width when City are in possession, which is 80% of a game. The Frenchman, under strict instructions, hugs the touchline in his opponent’s half, taking on the role of the winger. This then allows the left-sided attacker to go inside and give the team extra numbers in midfield, which of course is where the Citizens win their matches. Guardiola could have achieved this last season, of course, if it weren’t for Mendy’s unfortunately long injury lay-off. 
 
Another major upgrade has been Aymeric Laporte. While he was signed in last season’s window, the uncapped Frenchman is now a first-team regular in the team and is even being talked about as one of the best centre-backs in England. A natural ball-playing defender, Laporte is relaxed on the ball and tough in the tackle. Because of his composure and ability in possession, City can afford to play a high-line, again to give them more numbers in midfield. 
 
In the middle of the park, Guardiola’s team is still as authoritative as ever, but I’ve noticed that it is now taking quicker for them to get in and around the opposition box. It’s a more direct and more ruthless approach. With the ball at the feet of Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson, Laporte or Stones receives it, takes one or two touches before skipping Fernandinho, playing it directly to the more advanced midfielders, such David Silva, Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez or Leroy Sane. Always wanting to carry on forward, one of those players accepts the ball already on the half-turn, with the aim of creating a goalscoring chance in mind. With the inside forwards, two roaming centre-mids and striker, City now have five players near their opponent’s goal – of course, they’re going to have chance after chance. And just wait for Kevin De Bruyne to be fully fit again… 
 
Perhaps even more impressive than the slight tactical modifications has been the desire shown by the players, especially shown by the more senior members of the team. Only top managers have this kind of impact on a team. David Silva is a great example. Under Guardiola, the mercurial master of space has taken his game to new heights and is probably playing the best football of his career. Sergio Aguero is another player Guardiola kept on his toes from day one and the team has so far reaped those rewards. A ruthless goalscorer, a clever dribbler, the Argentine ticked every box, but his manager wanted more.
 
Guardiola has always been an advocate of the first line of attack being the first line of defence and he’s got that with Aguero. 
Maybe the most spectacular player improvement at City is Sterling. He was excellent last season, but he’s even better this season. His confidence and swagger on the ball, his unrelenting running at defenders, his end product, it’s all been incredible to watch. I personally didn’t think Sterling was technically gifted enough to become a world-class forward, but like Guardiola has done with so many players in his managerial career, he’s made the 23-year-old believe in himself. They say perfection doesn’t exist, and the never satisfied Guardiola might feel that way too, but to a non-genius like myself, this City team is pretty darn close. I wouldn’t be surprised if they go unbeaten in the league this season…  
 
Cheers, 
Kurt 
 

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