With the season coming to an end, Khel Now takes a look at all the ups and downs Manchester City faced in 2016-2017 in this edition of Season Review.
With June upon us, we bid goodbye to an enthralling 2016/17 season, one that saw a clash of managerial heavyweights in the Premier League. Let’s review one such manager, Pep Guardiola and his first season at his new club, Manchester City.
Manchester City were quickest out of the blocks in England, winning their first ten matches in all competitions, with the title race seemingly dead and buried by the end of September, according to some quarters. City’s charge entered rough roads post-October, though, with Guardiola often left frustrated by his side’s stumbling defence and stubborn opposition counterparts. Guardiola’s team evened out over the course of the season, but consistent defeats to stronger opposition proved their downfall. They bowed out in the League Cup to Manchester United, Arsenal in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and Monaco in the Round of 16 in the Champions League.
|Season 2016-17 Stats|
|English Premier League|
The Sky Blues kicked off their season in impeccable fashion, winning their first six fixtures on the trot. Defensive issues came to the fore, soon after, as City kept faltering in the bigger matches. City’s 4-2 loss at the hands of reigning champions Leicester City was their only defeat out of six to a team placed outside the top 7.
Sandwiched between a loss and a draw versus Tottenham Hotspurs was a run which yielded only 7 victories and 5 defeats to an ever inconsistent City side. Pep steadied the ship towards the latter half of the season, ending with 6 wins and 2 draws, with the Sky Blues’ exciting young attack settling down.
In the final analysis, the FA Cup was the closest City reached to achieving success, losing a close fought semi-final in extra time to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal. In the run-up to the Wembley showdown, City had brushed aside the likes of West Ham, Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and Middlesbrough, scoring 15 goals in the process. Sergio Aguero had given Man City the lead at Wembley, but Nacho Monreal and Alexis Sanchez handed the Gunners an excellent comeback victory.
Manchester City did not trouble the scorers too much in the English League Cup, exiting meekly in their second game of the competition to local rivals Manchester United. Guardiola’s men headed into the game bereft of confidence, having endured a 4 game winless run, including a 4-0 thrashing at the Camp Nou the week before. Both teams played relatively weakened sides on the night, but it was a second-half strike from Juan Mata that sealed the deal for United.
UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE
One of the fundamental aspirations of the club heads in the UAE in acquiring the services of Pep was concrete progress in the Champions League. Despite establishing themselves as a regular in the top 4 spots in England and even reaching the 2015/16 Champions League semi finals, Manchester City are not quite a feared force in Europe, a situation Guardiola must change if he is to succeed at the Etihad. In his first season in charge, Pep was only able to show glimpses of what the future may hold, as City exited on goal difference to an exciting AS Monaco side in the Round of 16. The highlight of City’s campaign shall remain their 3-1 win over Pep’s former side FC Barcelona at the Etihad.
|Top 3 Players|
|Kevin De Bruyne||Sergio Aguero||David Silva|
Kevin De Bruyne had in his first season at the club, established himself as a world-class creative midfielder. Over the course of the 2016/17 season, the Belgian only helped cement the notion, providing a league-high 18 assists. The 25-year-old was central to most of City’s attacks, with his intelligent running and excellent passing perfectly supplementing Guardiola’s style of play. His most impressive game was the 5-0 thrashing of Crystal Palace, where he scored a goal along with providing two assists for a rampant City side.
There were doubts at the beginning of the season, whether Sergio Aguero would be able to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s system, or rather, whether Pep would see Aguero fit enough to lead his revolution in the long run but the 28-year-old answered his critics with aplomb, returning with a fantastic 33 goals in his 45 appearances, complementing it with 6 assists too. The Argentinian had a relatively injury-free season, and he made the most of it, once again proving his importance to Man City with crucial goals throughout the season. Aguero’s best game of the season was his hat-trick in the Champions League group stage game at home to Borussia Monchengladbach in a 4-0 drubbing of the German side.
David Silva was expected to prosper under the reign of Pep, and so it proved as the experienced Spaniard, now into his seventh season in Manchester, won the club’s Player of the Season for the first time. Making 45 appearances in the 16/17 season, Silva found the net on 8 occasions, to go with his 11 assists. David Silva was expected to prosper under the reign of Pep, and so it proved as the experienced Spaniard, now into his seventh season in Manchester, won the club’s Player of the Season for the first time. Making 45 appearances in the 16/17 season, Silva found the net on 8 occasions, to go with his 11 assists. The 31-year-old was another one who was instrumental to Pep’s style of play, and the City attack always looked more potent with his presence. Silva epitomised his importance to the side in the 4-0 thrashing of West Ham in the Premier League, running the game and even grabbing a goal as City ended up comfortable winners on the night.
A special mention must go to the impact Gabriel Jesus has had on Manchester City’s performances since his January arrival from Palmeiras. Despite losing three months of football to injury, and making only 8 appearances, the 20-year-old Brazillian looked threatening with every touch, scoring 7 times and providing 4 assists.
|Flop of the Season|
The 34-year-old was brought in to replace long-term ‘keeper Joe Hart, whom Guardiola considered not fit for his style of passing from the back. So, while the Chilean completed over 10 more passes per game on average with added accuracy, Bravo did not do as well with the more fundamental aspects of his role. Of the 59 shots on target that Claudio faced, he let in 26, with a number of shots going through his legs or from close quarters. In his debut against Manchester United, Bravo fruitlessly flapped at a cross, only to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic smash in the rebound.
On the day, he was lucky to have not been punished more. In the season, fortunes did not change drastically either. He was sent off on his return to Camp Nou, conceded four avoidable goals at Goodison Park and generally remained a nervous wreck through his first season at City. Not the qualities Guardiola was looking for. So much so, that the club have already invested a near record amount in Benfica youngster Ederson to come in between the sticks next season.
|Top 3 Matches|
1. Manchester City 3-1 FC Barcelona
2. Manchester City 5-3 AS Monaco
3.Manchester City 5-0 Crystal Palace
|Manager’s Report Card|
Pep Guardiola arrived in Manchester with a bigger reputation than any of his predecessors. His trophies at Barcelona and Bayern speak for themselves. (21 trophies in 8 years of management). The Citizens, though, failed to add any silverware to their newly built trophy cabinet, only securing Champions League qualification on the final day of the season. Yet, officials in the blue side of Manchester will take it and run.
A season of infinite promise turned out to be a season of adjustment, as both the club and Pep got used to each other’s style. Guardiola’s style of play, one of quick passing, and ruthless offence requires a certain amount of time, technique and ability, some of which was lacking despite the vast talent pool available at City. Pep demands his teams to move from defence to attack through short but quick passes, playing it along the ground rather punts upfield. City struggled for consistency in defence, with injuries, suspensions and personnel all plaguing Guardiola’s quest for playing from the back. At Barcelona, Guardiola had at his disposal, Pique, Dani Alves and Puyol; at Bayern, he had Lahm, Boateng and Javi Martinez. Stones, Otamendi and Clichy cannot be said to be cut from the same cloth.
Guardiola’s adjustment to the pace of the Premier League and overall unpredictability from his squad meant a constant tinkering to the formation. A lack of quality defensive and central midfield options meant he could not quite replicate the 4-3-3 formation from his Barcelona days. In all, Guardiola experimented with several formations, eventually settling on a 4-1-4-1 closer to the end of the season.
|What They Need|
One of the biggest summers in the club’s history beckons, as City are expected to splash over £300m on new arrivals. Bernardo Silva and Ederson have already been snapped up for close to a £100m, and there remains plenty more work before the start of the season. Man City released Jesus Navas, Pablo Zabaleta, Clichy, Sagna and Willy Caballero days after the season finished, and will look to directly replace those players with world class additions. City are greatly expected to finish deals for Benjamin Mendy and Kyle Walker, with Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk also a serious target. Deals for Alexis Sanchez and Antoine Griezmann have also been doing the rounds.
Manchester City’s owners have given Guardiola full public backing, their limits of their pockets certainly will be tested through the next 3 months as the Spanish manager looks to have a world-class XI at his disposal akin to Barcelona and Bayern.
For me, this season was not about the trophies won but about progress. Even though we seemed to have a fantastic squad on paper, a lot of our players were nearing or beyond their 30s. Guardiola not only had to change the style of play to get the players in line with his philosophy but also had to do a major overhaul of the squad. A big reason why I was happy with a top 4 finish, even though a trophy in the cup competitions would have been a lovely bonus to the season.
Overall, I find Man City in very good hands, I feel we can compete with any team in the world, not only off the pitch but on it too. The victories against Barcelona and Monaco proved that. We just need some time to have the expertise to see through such huge ties. The next season we should be challenging for the title and further progress in the Champions League at the same time.