Welcome back for part two of the Typical City 2016/17 Season Preview!
If you missed part one you can read it here.
Today we’ll be focusing on our hopes and ambitions for this season’s Premier League, Champions League and the domestic cup competitions. Enjoy!
City’s Premier League campaign was a huge disappointment last season. Do you think a title challenge should be the priority this time around and where do you see us finishing in the league?
BURKE: The league title is always the top priority in my opinion, but particularly so this year. Pep prioritised the Bundesliga above all else in his first season at Bayern Munich and I think he’ll probably do the same this time around. City need to re-establish themselves as the best team in England after two thoroughly disappointing Premier League campaigns and only then can they think about becoming a dominant force in Europe.
Pep knows a thing or two about winning league titles and I’m quietly confident he can deliver the goods in his first season in England, but it’s obviously going to be far from easy and I think we may have to endure a bit of a transitional phase while he’s still getting his ideas across to his new charges.
BURNS: It has to be the priority. The league is your biggest test and where you finish is the best reflection of your quality. With the talent that City have, with the best coach in the world at the helm, they can’t possibly aim for lower than top spot. Of course, the new boss over the road and Mr Conte at Chelsea will have other ideas, as will a few others, but that doesn’t mean we should settle for less than we know we’re capable of. With that said, I predict that City will win the league, though I expect a bumpy ride as the players learn Pep’s ways.
MOONEY: It absolutely has to be. It’s the bread and butter for the club and it’s something they’ve fallen short of two years running, so without a doubt Guardiola needs to be in with a shout of winning the title on the final day. Previous campaigns of being mathematically out of it by May, despite what’s been spent on the squad, hasn’t been acceptable really.
Where City will finish is another matter. If they can sort out the problems they’re seeming to have playing out from the back and if Guardiola can drill his ways into them quickly, then there’s no reason why they can’t win the league. However, Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham will all be a big threat so there can’t be much room for error. I’ll say they’ll win it, but it’s going to be very, very close.
MURRAY: Yeah what an awful season last season was. God it was a chore. A title challenge would be number 1 priority for me this season and every season, to be honest. Most of my friends feel the same way. Nevertheless, our owners see the Champions League as priority and that’s just how it’s going to be. In terms of where we’ll finish, I’m more worried about United than I’ve been in 3 years, I feel Chelsea will be super strong under Conte, I think Liverpool should be feared and I haven’t mentioned the other usual suspects (or Leicester!). I’ve never had the confidence to back City for the title – or many matches to be honest – so I’ll say 2nd and hope I’ve reverse psychologised myself.
PEACOCK: I don’t think I’ve ever been more disillusioned with City than I was last season, which makes me sound ungrateful when you consider that we finished 4th (well, limped over the line) and almost made the final of the Champions League, but everything apart from De Bruyne and Fernandinho was off last season, so I’m hoping it’s all-change this time around.
The league is the most important competition for me, but although I don’t really enjoy the Champions League, I know that it’s the biggest stage in club football and that to be accepted as one of the best clubs around, City have to do well in it and win it.
There’s pressure on Pep to repeat what he did at Barcelona by winning the league and Champions League in his first season, but I don’t think City’s squad is anywhere near strong enough for that challenge just yet. I think the owners will expect City to win the league and reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League this season.
As we’ve seen in pre-season, City’s style under Pep hasn’t really been thoroughly developed yet, and so I think a title challenge this season is the way to go as the squad are more experienced in challenging for the league, with a real focus on the Champions League next season after Pep’s settled and has refined City’s style of play.
TIMPERLEY: Yes, I would think City should be winning the title this season and that the Premier League should be the priority. I think this season’s team will be fitter, faster, more enthusiastic and desperate to win under Guardiola. We certainly won’t be limping over the line into fourth again.
City were one goal away from their first ever Champions League final last season and the players will hopefully have learned a lot from the experience. Given that Pep’s Bayern Munich went out in the semi-finals three years on the trot, do you think he’s the man to take us one step further this season (assuming we qualify)?
BURKE: First of all, I found it laughable that people were calling a guy who’s won the Champions League twice in eight years of management a “fraud” when Bayern Munich were knocked out last season. Sir Alex Ferguson only won it twice in his entire career so it’s obviously a bloody hard competition to win!
I think reaching the final of the Champions League and winning it will be Pep’s ultimate target during his tenure at the club but I think this season will probably be a bridge too far. Last season’s European campaign was a great adventure while it lasted but as a club, it’s obvious that we don’t yet have the mentality of European champions. We could very well have fluked it last season but when we win the Champions League (and it is a case of “when”) I want us to do it as the undisputed best team on the planet. Pep took over a struggling (by their standards) Barcelona team and transformed them into possibly the greatest team we’ve ever seen and if he makes City half as good as they were, I’ll be a very happy man.
BURNS: Possibly. He’s never gone out before the semis which is very encouraging. I certainly see there being a final appearance within the three years of Guardiola’s contract, but whether they can push beyond the semi this year is hard to say. I hope so though, the final is in Cardiff in 2017 and I imagine half of Manchester would descend on the Welsh capital! That would be incredible.
MOONEY: If I’m honest, I’m not really sure. The Champions League is as much about luck as it is judgement. While there are things that can be done to make progressing into the next round more likely and while City perhaps didn’t do that against Real Madrid, there is an element of fortune in who the team draws and what happens on the day. It’s always the way with cup football; City could be brilliant under Guardiola, but go out to a deflected last-minute away goal and that be that.
I think Guardiola’s certainly got the tools to get City further and it wouldn’t surprise me if he managed it because he’s clearly an excellent coach. Will it happen? Toss a coin for yes or no, I’m afraid.
MURRAY: Odd to talk about this when we’re not there yet but, presuming we qualify, I think he’s definitely the man to take us one step further. However, the question is: what is one step further? The obvious answer is literally to the next stage which is the final. I’d argue, though, that one step further would be for us to *look* like an elite, confident Champions League side. I’d like us to comfortably win the group; to step up against the kind of second tier elite we meet along the way, then show some balls when we come up against the big hitters. There were some great moments in the CL last year during an otherwise dire season; it’ll be quite nice to see how we fare under an elite manager’s tuition and whether those few great moments from last season can become the norm.
PEACOCK: I don’t think we will make the final this season, regardless of the fact that Guardiola’s our manager, but he’s one of the best managers around, winning the competition twice with Barcelona. Last season, Bayern lost on away goals to Atlético Madrid, and although a loss is a loss, Bayern got closer to reaching the final than City did.
I think it’s important to remember that losses aren’t always a manager’s fault – maybe three semi-final losses in a row also says something about Bayern’s squads during those seasons as well as what it does about Guardiola.
All I know is that Pep is the best manager I’m likely to ever see at City, and with his winning record and mentality, I don’t think there’s anyone better to try to lead City into a Champions League final.
TIMPERLEY: No idea. The Champions League is very dependent on the luck of the draw and we don’t even know if we will be in the main competition yet. If we get through and get a bit of luck then I don’t see why not. On the other hand I’m not going to throw my inflatable banana out of the pram if we don’t win the Champions League this season. Let’s be honest, Guardiola won’t have this team playing fully how he likes it until at least the 2017/18 season.
Winning the Capital One Cup was arguably the highlight of last season. How important are the domestic cups to you this season and would you like to see more young players given an opportunity in the early rounds at least?
BURKE: This is a bit of an unpopular opinion amongst City fans but I couldn’t really care less about the domestic cups anymore. Don’t get me wrong, winning the League Cup last season and in 2014 was great, as was winning the FA Cup in 2011, but I think we’ve reached the stage now as a club where winning a cup is only really remarkable if it’s part of a league and cup double at the end of the season. I’d still like to see us do well in the cups this time around but the Premier League and the Champions league would be my priorities, and in that order.
I think Pep has to be looking to blood some youngsters and give some of his fringe players game time in the early rounds of the cups at least. We’ll never know how good these kids are until we see them playing in the first team and though Pellegrini wasn’t as ignorant towards the academy talent as some would have you believe, he could have done better in that area.
BURNS: I actually thought Pellegrini managed the young players well in the cups; it was where Iheanacho got his best chances and there were substitute appearances for the likes of Patrick Roberts and the Garcias once League Cup games were wrapped up. That gave the players valuable playing time in relatively pressure-free situations. I would be happy for Pep to do the same, though I expect the likes of Tosin Adarabioyo and the Garcias to get starts in the early rounds. I think the domestic cups are very important. It’s fair to say City are looking to create a dynasty now and regular Wembley appearances and additions of silverware create an aura of success. I hope we continue to treat them seriously.
MOONEY: I wouldn’t like to shun any competition given the 35 years the fans went without a sniff of a trophy, but the Capital One Cup is clearly fourth priority. They were two great victories against Sunderland and Liverpool and they were certainly enjoyable days out, but at the end of the season notching up the Capital One Cup only seems somewhat underwhelming.
I think the youngsters should get a go in the League Cup, but less so the FA Cup – when Premier League games are suspended for the competition in the early rounds, there can’t really be many complaints of a fixture pile-up and over-rotation has caused City problems in the competition in the past – get the game won, then get the stars off if Guardiola really wants to rest them.
MURRAY: I’d bloody love to see us have a decent run in the FA Cup. Pellegrini just never seemed that arsed about it for one reason or another. Pep’s record with cups in Spain and Germany is exceptional so I hope he makes it a priority during his time in England. That being said, I’d also like to see some young players given a chance in cup competitions. Not in a throw-them-all-together-in-at-the-deep-end style way à la Chelsea last season; I’d like to see a mix of bona fide first teamers, those first teamers in the squad who don’t always get a game and promising young players who are fighting to impress. To be fair, I thought Pellegrini managed his team selections very well in the League Cup last season; it’s just a pity his hand was forced when it came to the FA Cup and he pretty much gave it up without a fight.
PEACOCK: Domestic cups will always be important, and I expect City to do fairly well in them this season – there’s no reason why we can’t. However, with us doing poorly in the league last season and putting on a less-than-inspiring display in the Champions League semi-final, the domestic cups aren’t as high up on my priority list as the more prestigious competitions, which I think we have to focus on this season. However, with teething problems being inevitable in the transitional period from Pellegrini to Pep, the domestic cups might be our best shot at silverware.
With Pep playing youth throughout pre-season, I’m excited to see who he’ll play in the cups. I certainly think Aleix García can come in and do a job, giving the often over-worked Fernandinho some much-needed rest. Similarly, Angeliño would be a good candidate to get some minutes, especially with Kolarov apparently being surplus to requirements. I’d really like Pep to give some game time to Tosin Adarabioyo at some point during the season. While it’s a bit much to expect for him to play in the league, I’ve liked the way he’s confidently passed the ball when I’ve seen him play, and although he has made a few mistakes, he can only iron them out by playing under pressure more often, so I’d like to see Pep take a chance on him in the early rounds.
TIMPERLEY: I always want to win all the trophies and don’t understand the view that this or that cup competition should be sacrificed on behalf of others. Obviously this isn’t an ideal viewpoint when you’re looking at squad management, but I’m not looking at squad management. I want to see City lift the FA Cup again. I want to win the League Cup again. I want to win the Premier League most of all, preferably via some banter reason like the last two times. The Champions League would be nice but I’m less bothered by it overall.
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