As the dust settles at the Stade Louis II and the media take aim at another Manchester City failure. We must take a step back to see the wider picture, it’s not all doom and gloom.
As expected, the media cries of ‘Fraudiola‘ and general disappointment in City’s inability to hold on to their two-goal lead have dominated the headlines. Whilst most will class this season a disappointment considering the club’s blistering start, I am looking forward to next season and how Pep’s Citizens will come good.
Despite conceding three, the ever-criticised John Stones put in a good performance and showed glimpses of, what I hope to be, a strong presence in the City backline for years to come.
Having every performance (and mistake) scrutinised down to the smallest detail is by far the perfect circumstance to develop yourself as a player, especially with the unfortunate price tag attributed to him. However, Stones has settled at the club and is shown signs of progression under Guardiola’s tutelage.
We just need to find at least two new full-backs and centre-backs to shore the defence up around him.
The success of recent weeks has been largely down to the form of young wingers Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane.
Firstly, Sterling has shown just what he can do this season, terrorising defences and showing a marked improvement in his end product, something which many had identified as a weakness. Sterling has not only ignored the relentless media witch-hunt, but has kept his head down off the pitch, focusing purely on his game, to much success.
Having taken a couple of months to adjust to life in the Premier League, we have seen Sane light up the Etihad with some utterly superb skills recently. The young German, who has only recently turned 21, has shown just how capable he is, looking set to become a vital player for City in the next few years.
Blistering pace, quick feet and an endless bag of tricks has left defenders trailing in his wake. With two young, fast, Pep-style players learning and developing at a rapid rate of knots, there is certainly an exciting future ahead. The attacking force that has developed this season is frightening, and it will only get stronger with the return of Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan.
It is worth remembering, this is a squad full of ageing, tired, and frankly passed it players. Pep’s high pressing, high energy style football is demanding and it’s fair to say that the City squad is not yet at a level that suits his football, nor does it possess the capability to do what he demands.
With an extremely weak back four, we have tried and tested every single defensive line possible, to varying degrees of success. However, when it has clicked, it has looked superb. Give Guardiola the summer to get in the defensive players he wants and watch the team kick on next season.
It is difficult to implement such radical changes with a lacking squad, and that’s exactly what Guardiola has realised.
An inconsistent season has left the club with just an FA Cup victory to aim for. Although not one of the big two trophies the club are after, a trophy in his first season in England will not be a complete failure by any stretch of the imagination.
City fans must realise that this is a long-term project. Pep is just beginning. Having learnt the rigour and intensity of English football, Guardiola has begun to build an exciting, young side to challenge Antonio Conte’s Chelsea next season.
Whatever happens, there is certainly a bright blue future ahead at City and Pep is only just getting started…