It barely seems like five minutes ago since we were bidding farewell to Manuel Pellegrini as City limped to a 1-1 draw at Swansea on the final day of the 2015/16 season.
A lot has happened since then, though. Pep Guardiola is in the house along with a host of new signings, pre-season has come and gone and the 2016/17 season is very nearly upon us!
If that weren’t exciting enough, our writers Dan Burke, Richard Burns, David Mooney, Ciaran Murray, Jill Peacock and Alex Timperley have put together the traditional Typical City Season Preview for you lucky, lucky sods.
Here, in part one of three, we’ll be talking all things Pep Guardiola and City’s summer transfer business. Be sure to check back tomorrow and Friday for parts two and three.
First things first, Pep Guardiola. How happy are you that he’s our manager and what are you most excited about him bringing to the club in his first season in charge?
BURKE: Put it this way, I’ve had him as the background picture on my phone for a while now and I’m not planning on changing it anytime soon!
I’m as excited and thrilled to have him at our club as anyone is and I still can’t quite believe my eyes when I see him wearing our training kit. I’ve read Pep Confidential, I watched that Sky documentary the other night and I can’t wait to see what impact his obsessive, meticulous attention to detail has on our team’s performances this season and in seasons to come. He’s the best in the world at what he does if you ask me and I wouldn’t swap him for anyone.
BURNS: I’m delighted he’s City’s manager. I’ve said it before and I’m happy to repeat it without fearing it coming back to bite me; I think Pep is the single best piece of recruitment we’ve ever pulled off. It’s like having lift-off on Phase Two of the post-2008 era. Quite apart from his renowned style of play and intense coaching, I am particularly excited to have a manager who is tactically innovative, brave and adaptable. I can’t imagine a Guardiola-lead City being 1-0 own early in a game and then feeling resigned to losing. He solves problems, which is going to be very refreshing indeed.
MOONEY: I’m delighted, to be honest. I have mixed feelings about the Manuel Pellegrini era because, as bad as it got at times (relatively, of course), there were some very high heights in there too. The Wembley victories were fun, the league title was an excellent campaign, yet it still feels like three years of ‘what might have been’. That’s what I’m excited about Guardiola changing – I am expecting him to get the group of players in his squad to reach their potential.
That’s not to say City will be the most successful team in England for his tenure, but that they will be the best they can be and that’s not something I feel they’ve truly been since 2011-12. Even in Pellegrini’s first season, there were some notable problems, it’s just that they proved not insurmountable.
MURRAY: I’m ecstatic that he’s our manager. I’ve always loved everything about him and now that he’s here I’m beside myself. As well as the obvious excitement about an improvement in style of football and (you’d like to hope) an improvement in results, I’m also excited not to have a corpse in charge. I never went full scale hatred when it came to Manuel but I’m looking forward to having a passionate, interesting, charming man at the helm. It feels like a new era under Guardiola and that really excites me, too. Can’t wait.
PEACOCK: I’m absolutely delighted that City have finally managed to get Pep in. It seems strange to think that one of the best managers in the world, arguably the best, has joined Little Citeh. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet, to be honest. Maybe it will as I’m taking my seat on Saturday, but right now it still feels like I’m in a dream world.
I think what frustrated me the most last season was the lack of effort that some players put in. They didn’t look bothered – nothing infuriated me more than the Champions League semi-final tie at the Bernabéu, and so I’m looking forward to seeing City looking hungry to win the ball back for once, presuming Pep’s successful in instilling the type of mentality that’s required for this in the players, of course.
I’m really excited that Pep is likely to give the youth more opportunities, especially Kelechi Iheanacho. I can’t remember the number of times I muttered a flavourful four letter word to myself last season when Pellegrini brought Bony on instead of an in-form Iheanacho, so I’m hoping Kelechi will get his chance under Guardiola.
TIMPERLEY: Yeah, it’s pretty good so far, isn’t it? I don’t particularly buy into the hero worship cult thing the club are promoting, but it feels like we’ve been waiting for this forever by now so I’m pretty pleased it is actually done and we can move on a bit without the shadow of Guardiola hanging over everything. Is he any good? Obviously he is. He’s already shaken the Pellegrini-fatigue out of everything and has actually got me enthused about the club for the first time in ages. I’ve not really got much idea what to expect on the pitch, but that’s okay. I’m looking forward to it all being fresh and something of a nice surprise. The worst thing about the dog days of the Pellegrini era was that I went to the Etihad every week knowing exactly what was going to happen, which was terrible.
What do you make of the transfer business we’ve done so far?
BURKE: At the time of writing, I’d say I’m satisfied with how the window’s gone so far but not completely overjoyed. Ilkay Gündogan will be a terrific signing when he’s fit and I think Nolito is a shrewd buy but I can’t profess to know a great deal about the youngsters who’ve been brought in and I doubt we’ll see those signings properly bear fruit for a couple of years yet anyway.
I’d have loved for us to sign Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus but I can’t see that happening now and though I’m pleased we eventually completed the signing of John Stones, I still think our defence is a concern. It hasn’t quite been the major overhaul we expected and only time will tell whether it’s been a good window or not.
BURNS: I’m happy with it as long as it’s not finished yet. Nolito is a solid signing and, in the current post-value market, represents a cheap deal. Gündogan will be the “pivote” – i.e. the player in the middle that Pep wants to build around the Javier Mascherano or Philip Lahm type player who dictates everything else. Sané obviously has bags of potential. I’m just glad John Stones is in before the start of the season – it is frustrating that acquiring the top target dragged on for so long but I guess that’s just how this business works. The expected exodus has, as usual, not happened but there’s still time for the likes of Eliaquim Mangala and Wilfried Bony to be moved on, along with Samir Nasri if reports are to be believed. I think that would represent a solid first window for Txiki to have given Pep.
MOONEY: Solid, if not spectacular so far. I’m a lot happier now the big John Stones-shaped hole has been filled in the centre of defence and the other business has been decent. Ilkay Gündogan, while injured, will address a need for a central midfielder, while Nolito and Sané should provide excitement on the flanks and a kick up the backside for the players there already. The others, particularly Marlos Moreno and Gabriel Jesus, look like ones for the future.
MURRAY: Erm, this is a weird one. As much as I showed my excitement in Question 1, I do have some concerns. I feel like we’ve addressed areas that don’t need addressing; I feel like we’ve ignored areas that do need addressing; I feel like we’ve dithered over fees and fine details which has created longish, protracted transfers; I feel like we’re in danger of letting some players go who could really have done a job for us; I feel that it looks like players who probably should have been moved on are going to end up staying and, once again, I feel like we are mismanaging our young players. Joe Hart looks to be in trouble, Nasri hasn’t impressed at all despite many of us feeling like he has a lot to offer and it doesn’t look like Mangala is even going to get a chance to prove himself. Pep Guardiola knows better than Ciaran Murray, obvs, and I suppose my sentimentalities count for nothing but it’s been an odd window and City feel imbalanced and under prepared. John Stones’ signature has made me happy, however. I really, really like him as a player and I think he’ll be perfect for City under our Josep. Other than that, one of our more concerning windows of recent times.
PEACOCK: I’m really excited to see Sané. Although Navas has pace, his end product is poor – Sané looks to have some form of end product, so I’m excited to see how he links up with Silva, De Bruyne and Aguero when he’s fit.
Even though every time I’ve watched Stones he’s had a poor game, I trust Pep’s reasons for wanting him and I’m a bit disappointed that his transfer dragged on for so long. With City having played just three pre-season games, and not having massive amounts of cover at centre-back, you’d have thought they would’ve wanted to get him in as soon as possible rather than less than a week before the start of the season. I remain unconvinced based on what I’ve seen so far, but I think he can flourish under Pep. I am looking forward to seeing someone at the heart of defence that doesn’t have a breakdown at the mere thought of passing a football around and that doesn’t spend half of his time on the floor, though.
Nolito’s gone a bit under the radar since the signings of Sané and Gabriel Jesus. He looked alright against Arsenal but didn’t set the world alight. To be honest, I expect him to be a repeat of Navas – excellent stats before joining City but just can’t replicate them for us. I hope I’m wrong, but that’s the feeling I get. However, one plus is that with Nolito playing on the left, it frees up Kevin De Bruyne to play in the middle, which is something I think we can all get behind.
TIMPERLEY: It’s been half good, half bad. The good is the players which have been brought in. Gündogan is great and I’m looking forward to seeing Nolito and Sané as well. On top of that I’ve never heard of Gabriel Jesus or Zinchenko so they’re a mystery. Lots of people who claim to know better say they are both good though. There was some supposed ambiguity over whether John Stones would turn up but, come on, City were always paying the money for him. All these veiled threats about walking away were laughable.
The bad half is that there are still some total donkeys who haven’t been moved on yet. I’m tempted to say that if Kolarov and Bony in particular are still at the club on the 1st September then something has gone quite wrong. There’s been the usual talk of academy players filling in the gaps but I wonder, and have for a while now, if most of them are good enough? It’s hard to see any of them except Angeliño (and possibly Maffeo and Adarabioyo?) getting to stay with the big boys team.
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