A team that has won 3 domestic league titles within a span of 4 seasons and have won a total of 8 trophies within 5 seasons would definitely be your pick for being the next European champions. Unfortunately, that team has failed to do so every season and are the butt of all UEFA Champions League jokes all over social media. That team is none other than Manchester City. Ever since Guardiola took charge of the helm in 2016, City has been favourite for the crown jewel of European glory every season and have yet managed to fall short every time. But could this season be the season of City’s redemption? Let’s take a look.
City have been rampant in the Champions League since Guardiola rebuilt the team according to his philosophy. Over the years they have defeated mammoths like FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG, Liverpool, and Bayern Munich among others. City have cemented their place on the table of Europe’s elites but are still unable to hold the UCL trophy in their hands.
In the past seasons, City have gradually progressed through the knockouts. They have qualified for the knockouts every season since the beginning of Guardiola’s reign but have gone out to opponents in a disastrous fashion. Their losses against teams like AS Monaco, Lyon and Spurs are a punch in the gut for every City fan. In the majority of these knockout matches, City have lost the match due to Guardiola’s constant tinkering with the tactics. Playing a back 5 against Lyon in the quarter-finals in 19-20 and playing without a CDM against Chelsea in the UCL final last season are just some examples of the constantly running brain of Guardiola.
He has the tendency to overthink crucial matches in an attempt to catch his opponents by surprise. But this strategy has failed and backfired almost every time and has led to City’s failure at the European stage. Last season, the Spaniard played his best 11 in every knockout match and managed to defeat Borussia Monchengladbach, BVB and PSG on their way to the final. But in classic Guardiola fashion, the team started without a CDM, which by the way was their first match last season where they played without a CDM and this cost the team their first-ever UCL title.
The City team is a team of immense depth with the brilliant coaching staff. There is virtually no weak point in the team that can be exploited by the opponent team. But this season, City have been faced with a crisis that they’ve never experienced before. The team is without a recognised striker in their senior team.
Who would’ve thought that a team with the immense financial backing and a team that used to have 4 strikers, namely Aguero, Balotelli, Dzeko and Negredo, at their disposal 7 seasons back would be strikerless? Not me.
The team is currently without a proper number 9 ever since Aguero left for Barcelona at the end of last season. Jesus was bought into the team as a striker but he has turned into a winger this season where he has thrived. A lack of a proper striker had forced Guardiola to shift the team to a false 9 system last season and that system is still being used. Even though City are on top of the PL table and qualified by winning their UCL group, the absence of a striker could cost them in the knockout stages as they are just two matches and there are no second chances.
There have been a lot of matches this season where City have created a lot of chances but have won the match with a slender margin. A lead of 1-0 against the European heavyweights can turn into a match lost in no time. In their latest match against Wolves, City had 24 attempts of which 10 were on target. But in the end, they won the match 1-0, courtesy of a penalty. Out of 24 matches played this season, City has underperformed their xG in 11 matches. This kind of display can cost City heavily in their search for European glory.
Money. That’s it.
Just kidding. Man City have a well-rounded squad and a lot of players have turned up for the team as goalscorers this season in the absence of a striker. They are well versed with the false 9 system as they’ve been playing the same system since last season. They are so accustomed to playing without a striker that it is even fair to say they play better without a striker now than they do with one. Manchester City has had 17 different goalscorers this season in all competitions this season. This goes on to show that even without a striker they have the capability to score.
(Credit: BBC.com) Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo and Rodri have been the focal point of the City’s team this season. All of them are in phenomenal form and have carried the team through tough matches and nabbed wins against heavyweights like UCL champions Chelsea, Manchester United and PSG. Learning from past mistakes is the way to go for City and Guardiola and considering City’s progressive chart in the UCL knockout stages over the years under Guardiola, it is only logical for them to finally get their hands on European glory and break free from all the oil money jokes.