Pep Guardiola City

Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Kalvin Phillips have joined the club and Cucurella is on his way to the Etihad. However, if Bernardo Silva joins Gabriel Jesus, Fernandinho and Raheem Sterling on their way out, the next season could be tricky for the Premier League champions with a much changed Manchester City predicted XI.

Ever seen that kid in movies and shows who belongs to a family so rich that they have a premium Ikea collection in the bathroom of their holiday mansion?

Manchester City is that kid in the world of football.

Don’t get me wrong, Pep Guardiola is a genius and questioning him for spending money is like asking Christopher Nolan to not spend money in making Tenet or Inception.

After being crowned champions of the Premier League for the 4th time in 5 seasons, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City are at it again. Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez and Kalvin Phillips have officially signed for the club and Brighton’s Marc Cucurella is potentially on his way to the Etihad as well.

Coming back to Manchester City, the blue side of Manchester is buzzing with hope and rightly so. After years of metaphorical poverty in the world of footballing success, City fans are eating their cake and having it too.

Superstars in, trusted lieutenants out

In signing Haaland, City have not only acquired one of the best young footballers in the world, but they have also added to their artillery of weapons a player who fills up arguably the only hole in their XI – the no.9 position.

But before you jump to conclusions about how Pep Guardiola’s men are building a monster team and how they will dominate the league next season, let me tell you why that may not be as straightforward as you think.

This might be a squad for the coming years but the next season could tricky. Let’s find out why.

While City may be bringing in several exciting new faces this summer, they’re also on the verge of bidding farewell to some rather prominent ones; faces that have been at the heart of their success over the last few years.

Fernandinho, Vincent Kompany’s successor, has left the club while Gabriel Jesus has gone ahead and joined rivals Arsenal (rejoice you Gooners, we called you City’s rivals).

In addition to the two Brazilians, long term City servant and English international Raheem Sterling is on his way out as well. And if reports are to be believed, Bernardo Silva is trying to forge a move to the club of his dreams – Barcelona – City gaffer Guardiola’s old stomping ground.

Should these exits happen, the Premier League title race in the 2022/2023 season will not be a foregone conclusion. This arrival and exodus of multiple players presents a fresh challenge for Guardiola.

Although the former Barcelona boss has experienced losing key figures at the club such as Vincent Kompany, David Silva, and Kun Aguero, their departures were spread across 3 seasons.

For this first time in his tenure at City, Guardiola might have to deal with the possibility of losing multiple key figures at the club. Such a magnanimous change will bring with it its own challenges, both within the dressing room and with Guardiola’s tactical setup.

A Mass Exodus

Farewell Fernandinho

After 9 seasons at the Etihad, City’s captain Fernandinho announced his departure at the end of last season. The Brazilian enjoyed tremendous success at City, winning 5 Premier League titles, 6 League Cups, and 1 FA Cup.

Although he hadn’t been a first-choice starter in defensive midfield since the arrival of Rordi, Fernandinho remained an integral part of City’s squad given his experience, leadership qualities, and versatility. The Brazilian has put in countless shifts at center back in the absence of players like Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte.

City fans won’t be too worried though, with the club close to luring a younger, fresher defensive midfielder in the form of Kalvin Phillips to the Etihad.

Jesus leaves to join Gabriel

Another Brazilian. Another exit. Gabriel Jesus has signed for Arsenal, leaving the Etihad after 5 years of service. While City fans are basking in the glory of the Haaland signing, they mustn’t forget that they have lost a player who adds an unquantifiable level of value to the side.

With his unparalleled pressing ability and work rate, Jesus was a key figure in Guardiola’s system. The Brazilian not only operated as a number 9, but also on the right wing, a position he grew into over a period of time.

Jesus was particularly vital in big games where he would do a tremendous amount of work off the ball and would even take up positions that weren’t always natural to him on the pitch.

Et tu! Bernardo?

“As long as I am the coach of Manchester City, he is never going anywhere” – Pep Guardiola on Bernardo Silva in May 2018.

Fast forward to June 2022. Pep Guardiola might still be the coach of Manchester City, but Bernardo Silva likely won’t be at the Etihad come the end of this summer. The Portuguese maestro has expressed a desire to leave the club, with his sights set on Barcelona.

Manchester City Predicted XI
Bernardo Silva’s heat map during PL 2022/23 season via www.manchestercityanalysis.com

Should he leave, which is becoming increasingly likely with each passing day, City will lose a vital cog in their machine.

Bernardo has been an extremely versatile player for the Blues, operating in midfield, on the wing, and even as a false 9 at time.

He is a clever footballer who took little to no time to adapt to Guardiola’s demanding style of play. Bernardo is not only a wizard on the ball, but he is also one of the hardest workers off the ball, covering more distance than any other City player.  

The 27-year-old is one of Pep’s most trusted soldiers, and his appearances for City show us nothing less. Across his 5 seasons at the club, he has featured 250 times, an impressive 50 games per season. In fact, since his arrival, no player has featured more times for City.

The Portuguese magician is without a doubt City’s most versatile player, and Pep has always had nothing but praise for him. In fact, Pep went on record to say that he is much more than just a midfielder. Speaking in a press conference, he said, “He can play six positions – holding midfielder, attacking midfielder, (left) winger, striker, false nine, the other winger – and can play everywhere. He is so smart, so intuitive, so intelligent.”

Regardless of whom City bring in this summer, it’s unlikely that they will find someone like Bernardo, because quite frankly speaking, there aren’t many midfielders in world football with his profile.

Raheem the Dream

Potentially joining Bernardo Silva on his way out is the leading goal scorer at the club, Raheem Sterling. Over his 7 seasons at the Etihad, the Englishman has scored 131 goals and registered 95 assists across 339 games.

He has been one of the most consistent performers at the club, and while his performances and statistics often go under the radar, his importance mustn’t be understated.

Sure, City might have acquired star strikers in Haaland and Julian Alvarez, but neither player can offer the same level of versatility as Sterling. The Englishmen has the ability to operate across the front 3, and regardless of where he features, he always puts in a shift.

In losing Sterling, City will have limited options on the wing, a concern for Guardiola given the fact that his system relies so heavily on them. Although it may not seem like a massive loss right now, Sterling’s versatility, availability, and most importantly, his output, will definitely be missed should he depart this summer.

New signings, new challenges

Erling Haaland is one of the best young players in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to walk into the best league in the world and hit the ground running.

The Premier League has attracted some of the biggest names in world football over the years, and many of them have taken their time to adjust to its demanding nature. The challenges will be no different for Haaland. And if the Premier League isn’t a hard enough nut to cruck, try fitting into Pep Guardiola’s system from day one. It just doesn’t happen.

So, City fans, while you may be excited about the arrival of this Norwegian superstar and his Argentinian partner Julian Alvarez, keep in mind that they may take their time to find their feet. After all, Pep Guardiola demands a great deal from his strikers, and the same will be the case for the new recruits.

A couple of seasons ago, Ferran Torres joined the club with their being a tremendous amount of hope about him being a superstar for the long term at City. After just a year and half, in which he found it difficult to get gametime and adjust to Guardiola’s system, he was loaned out to Barcelona, who have now completed his purchase from City.

The same could be the case with Julian Alvarez. He is an exciting prospect, just like Ferran Torres was, but if handled poorly, we may not see him shine in the blue jersey.

Tactical Tweaks?

As things stand, City’s summer could end up looking like this:

Ins – Erling Haaland, Julian Alvarez, Kalvin Phillips, Marc Cucurella.

Outs – Fernandinho, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva.

For now, let us assume that this is how things will pan out.

Evidently, the players that are coming in fit very different profiles to the ones that are heading out. This raises questions about whether City will be able to adopt the same style of play they have over the past few seasons under Guradiola.

In losing Bernardo, Sterling, and Jesus, they are losing 3 versatile players who put in invaluable shifts off the ball. These are 3 players who have been the heartbeat of City’s success under Guardiola.

They have always been available, performed consistently, and adapted to whatever role Guardiola assigned for them. More importantly, they functioned perfectly together, like a well-oiled machine, and losing the 3 of them together is like losing an entire piece of City’s puzzle.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to observe how Pep sets this side up. The players coming in solidify the spine of the team by adding depth in defensive midfield and at the very top of the pitch.

In Haaland, City have found a lethal no.9 who will score a truckload of goals every season, and in Phillips, they will have an athletic defensive midfielder who can add legs to the side along with being a progressive carrier too.

Having been trained by Marcelo Bielsa, a man Pep Guardiola admires, Phillips will certainly understand the demands of a Guardiola side, and more importantly, is well equipped to cater to them.

Although City do look slightly weaker on the wings, this creates room for Jack Grealish to make the left wing position his own. City’s most expensive player ever, Grealish, didn’t quite have the impact that was expected of him in his first season at the Etihad, but the hope is that he will find his groove in the next campaign.

Phillips’s potential arrival suggests that City could adopt a 4-2-3-1 formation, given that both him and Rodri are traditional defensive midfielders. With the arrival of Julian Alvarez, there’s also questions about whether City could adopt a 2-striker formation, with Haaland and Alvarez partnering up top.

And of course, we mustn’t forget the Premier League’s player of the season, Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgian is by far City’s best player, and everything will flow through him next season, as it always has. Regardless of how Pep sets this side up, you can be sure than Kevin De Bruyne will be at the very center of it. 

Manchester City’s Predicted XIs for PL 2022/23

City could line up in a number of different ways. They may adopt a 4-3-3, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-1-3-2, or even a 4-4-2 diamond formation. Depending on how Phillips and Rodri function together, we could see either one or both of them feature in the preferred starting lineup.

Manchester City Predicted XI
City’s possible line-up 1
Manchester City Predicted XI
City’s possible line-up 2
Manchester City Predicted XI
City’s possible line-up 3
Manchester City Predicted XI
City’s possible line-up 4

These lineups do look threatening on paper, but it will be interesting to see how the new players merge into the system. As individual players, each of them brings nothing but quality, but in a Pep Guardiola side more so than any other, it is all about fitting into the system.

Regardless of how things shape up this season though, one thing is for sure – City have an excellent side for the future, with Haaland, Foden, Grealish, Alvarez, Phillips, Rodri, and Ruben Dias all aged 26 or lower. In particular, having 2 generational players in Foden and Haaland is definitely exciting, and if not this season, these two superstars will most certainly guide City to glory in the future.

The signings of Haaland, Alvarez and Phillips (add to that Cucurella) would make many think that Manchester City’s title in 2022/23 is a foregone conclusion but it might not be the case.

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