They may have been unable to sign Lionel Messi, or as of yet agree a fee with Napoli for Kalidou Kouilably, but Manchester City kick off their 2020/21 campaign away at Wolves on Monday evening; as they look to recapture the Premier League crown taken from them just a matter of weeks ago by Liverpool.
Ahead of the start of the new season, City Xtra contributors Harry Siddall, Brandon Evans, Hamish MacRae, Sam Puddephatt, Danny Lardner, Jack Walker and Brendan Earley provided us with their views of City’s summer spending and their own expectations on what could be both Pep Guardiola and Sergio Agüero’s final year at the club.
The transfer window may be open until October 5th, however Manchester City have already done several pieces of business. What have you made of City’s business in the transfer window this summer?
Brandon: Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake appear to be great signings on-paper, both newcomers have the potential to be key players for years to come, and importantly, the duos arrival provides much-needed depth to key areas. The mooted arrival of Kalidou Koulibaly or an alternative high-quality centre-half will also greatly assist with the necessary bolstering of the defence, and if that does come to fruition then City’s transfer business throughout the window will have been pretty much what was expected. A new left-back would have been nice though.
Danny: I’ve been impressed with the quick acquisitions of Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake – Torres, for me, looks like an incredible signing but we’ll have to wait and see how well he compares to Leroy Sane, who also left this summer. I rated Sané more than most, so if Torres starts to pick up where the German left off I’ll be very, very excited.
Sam: Underwhelming. Our main target in the window was to massively bolster our previously poor defence and given the drama with you know who – it seems like we almost forgot to do that.
Harry: I think my answer may be the same as most others – we need another central defender. Guardiola is seemingly giving John Stones another chance and it looks like Eric Garcia will not move on in this window, so we’ll have a lot of options. If we get Kalidou Koulibaly over the line it’ll be a massive boost to our chances of solving our defensive issues. The next area of priority is, of course, a striker; but I really can’t see City signing one in this window.
Hamish: City’s business has been pleasing to an extent; we got in cover on the wings in the form of Ferran Torres, a necessity due to the departure of Leroy Sané, as well as a left-sided backup to Aymeric Laporte in the shape of Bournemouth’s Nathan Aké (a slight overpay at £40m in my opinion). However, if we really want to see City kick on and challenge in all four competitions this season, I feel it is paramount to sign a world class partner for Laporte – Kalidou Koulibaly seems the best option, it’s just about wrangling him out of Napoli’s hands.
The Blues’ campaign begins against Wolves on Monday evening, what are your expectations for the upcoming campaign?
Brendon: My expectation is that we’ll have a go at all competitions. I think that’s something we’ve done well in over the past few years, and even if we don’t win all cups I think we’ll have a good try. As for the big one, which for me is still the Premier League, I really don’t know. If you asked me this post signing Koulibaly I’d be really optimistic, but I’m fearful that deal won’t get done and I don’t know if we get the league back without him.
Jack: It is particularly difficult to know what to expect for this season. As is stands, it is set to be Pep Guardiola’s last; so, of course the ambition will be to collect the only piece of silverware that has evaded him in Manchester, but to expect to win the Champions League still seems a little crazy to me. Last season was a shadow of the Pep Guardiola side from the ‘Centurions’ and ‘Fourmidables’ seasons, both in results and performances. I’d expect to see City return to the high intensity, mesmerising style of football we all know they are capable of, and I’m sure in doing so the results will follow.
Brandon: As we have strengthened in most of the key areas that needed to be improved upon, I expect City to improve considerably on last season’s efforts and mount a serious challenge for both the Premier League and the Champions League titles. I also expect City to emerge victorious in at least one domestic cup competition.
Harry: After the last couple of seasons, progression in the Champions League takes on the utmost importance. With this possibly being Guardiola’s last campaign in charge, this is a huge season in terms of how his tenure at the club will be remembered. I also assume we’ll be there or there abouts in the cup competitions – the Carabao is always a laugh to win. In terms of Premier League, lots of teams have strengthened and Liverpool aren’t going away, so it could be one of the most competitive title races in recent years. I’d like to say we’ll win it but I’m almost certain Liverpool will still be the same juggernaut of the past few years.
Ferran Torres and Nathan Ake have joined this summer, Zack Steffen has been recalled from a loan deal to replace Claudio Bravo and Phil Foden will be competing for a place in the England’s Euro squad, so what ONE player are you most looking forward to seeing this season and why?
Danny: While Kevin de Bruyne is always a genuine pleasure to watch, I am excited to see how Ferran Torres gets on. Some of Pep’s signings have taken a little while to set in – Riyad Mahrez, Ilkay Gundogan, and Bernardo Silva for example – so it may take a season to adjust, but overall I’m very excited to watch him.
Jack: Phil Foden. 100%. Yes, it’s the boring answer that most people have probably given, but that’s for good reason. He ended last season as probably City’s best performer, and his England debut over the summer will be a massive confidence boost as he looks to step in and fill the huge David Silva shaped void in City’s midfield. The rise of Phil Foden over the last few years has been particularly exciting for City fans; here’s to hoping this year is the year his ascension to superstardom is complete.
Harry: Weird one maybe – but Nathan Aké. Really don’t know what makes me think it but he could be a key fixture in the side; especially if we don’t land our second centre-back target. Every time I saw him for Bournemouth I was so impressed by just his defensive attributes alone – something this team has been missing for a long time.
Sam: The one player I have a watchful eye on is Ferran Torres. As I have already mentioned, Ferran has proven himself to be an upcoming exciting prospect for his country. Impressing in the full 90 minutes against Germany and coming off the bench to score against Ukraine – he clearly has Enrique’s eye. I am expecting him to progress into a future star under Guardiola, given all the talent around him and his desire to follow in El Mago’s footsteps. £20.7m for a young Spanish player with pace, vision, and an eye for goal? Bargain.
Brendon: I’d probably say Ferran Torres! I think that an out-and-out winger is something of a dying breed in todays game, with even Sterling and Mahrez being wingers that like to cut in, but Torres is a bit of a throwback. I think the width he provides could be really good for this, especially on the right hand side where Kyle Walker plays so narrow.
Hamish: The obvious answer is an unshackled Phil Foden, who should see a substantial upturn in his playing time compared to previous campaigns, but I’ll say Bernardo Silva; it’s fair to say that we didn’t see the best of the Portuguese last season, but hopefully now that his namesake David has departed we’ll see more of him in the central role in which he excelled in 18/19.
Guardiola’s side disappointingly only won 1 piece of silverware last time out, so what would you deem to be a successful season?
Harry: Similar to what I said before – Manchester City can be only judged by trophies won nowadays. With the schedule we’ll have, I wouldn’t mind sacrificing the cups to maintain a strong league campaign coupled with European success. I’d love for Pep to stick to his guns, and if Riyad Mahrez in incredible one week, keep him in the side; don’t rotate for rotation sake. Find our best eleven and play them in the biggest games.
Brandon: As it is the club’s foremost ambition each season to compete for and win every trophy available, I believe that the forthcoming campaign can only be deemed successful if the club wins either the Premier League or the Champions League. Liverpool will be looking to retain the title after walking the league last season and Klopp’s side will likely provide City’s closest competition for the domestic title. Chelsea and Manchester United will also look to close the gap given that both sides have strengthened their squads, however, it is my opinion that the two sides are a season away from mounting a serious title challenge.
In the Champions League, City are as capable as any top team of winning the competition given the strength in depth that we flaunt, and should we successfully plug the holes in the defence, then City could very feasibly emerge victorious in the competition for the first time.
Hamish: Reclaiming the Premier League crown from Liverpool, and with mounting challenges from rejuvenated Chelsea and Manchester United, would represent a very successful season just by itself. Obviously Europe remains the itch that many feel City need to scratch, but making sure we’re the best domestically before then thinking about conquering the continent would be a good place to start.
Danny: A league title and a spot in the Champions League final! It might sound like a high expectation, but Pep’s been at the club for four seasons now and he’s set the bar incredibly high. Second spot in the league feels like a minimum and we have to make serious progress in Europe at some point – we still haven’t gotten past the quarter-finals under Pep!
Brendon: This is a tough question in my opinion, because even though people will point to the investment we’ve made, we do have holes in the team and it’s not like other clubs won’t invest as well. I’d say that we have to at least put on a good title challenge. This last season was abysmal, and we gave the title away with no real fight. I think really a good season has to be winning the league, and that’s probably the standard we set ourselves under Guardiola.
You can follow Harry on Twitter here: @harrywinters16
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