Do you remember that fixture back early in the campaign when Bournemouth hosted then title-favourites City? Do you remember the sweat glistening off the players from both sides as they played some sparkling football at the Vitality Stadium?
Do you remember Raheem Sterling’s late winner to ensure City’s undefeated run to start the campaign?
Cardiac Kids they were called.
#SharkTeam was the hashtag they were given on Twitter and named appropriately by their sidelined RB Benjamin Mendy.
Didn’t you feel, even on that day, that this ensemble of dynamic attackers and stout defenders would take the continent by storm?
Even a red card couldn’t hold this team back on that late August afternoon. What would PSG, or anyone else for that matter, be able to do against the Sky Blues in the UCL?
A week later, City returned home to the Etihad and blasted a 10-man Liverpool 5-nil in what would be a landmark in their eventual title-winning season.
The FA Cup? Boom. Down go City to non-PL side Wigan Athletic. Down a man. On the road. Sound familiar?
The Champions League fared no better for City as they were knocked out on aggregate 5–1 by the same LFC squad they thwarted by 5 back in September.
What happened to City? What happened to Pep? Why didn’t this #SharkTeam sweep all four major trophies and finish the season undefeated?
The short? A lack of depth. Now for the long…
Pep’s 433 system calls for an abundance of attacking wingers. Gaby Jesus, Bernardo Silva, Leroy Sane, and Sterling share the responsibilities with any 4 capable of playing on either side of the CF. Just one problem.
There’s only one natural CF in the active squad. Sure, Kün Aguero is a top-bins talent at the position but seeing as how he’s advancing in years, you’d want a reliable backup.
But it’s not scoring goals that hurts this club. It’s the midfield where the lack of depth is most glaring.
Left-footed wizard David Silva missed a bit of time through the winter portion of the campaign due to personal reasons. The bulk of the play-making responsibility then fell to Ginger Ultrawizard Kevin De Bruyne, (a clear candidate for PFA Player of the Year award).
KDB has had a remarkable season as both an attacker and provider, spearheading the Man City attack while also providing the engine necessary for a pressing team. However he was forced to carry the club on his back through the busy holiday season and thereafter in the elder Silva’s absence.
It’s a long season and they don’t exactly tackle nicely in England. De Bruyne has been the target of some vicious assaults by opponents and the damage has taken its toll on the Belgian International. You can’t run your best player in to the ground week after week in all competitions.
Next up? Lack of prospects through the pipeline.
While I’ll openly admit to not knowing of the young talent in City’s academy, the only two “young guns” who I know of in the champion’s senior side are English wunderkid Phil Foden and Ukraine’s Oleksander Zinchenko, (aka Baby KDB). Both players will have bright careers in European Football as they continue to develop but where are the others? Surely Pep can’t be hiding them in the U-23 side?
(They really look exactly the same)
Congrats to Manchester City on winning both the Premier League title and the League Cup this season. This season will still be considered a failure when we look back on their 17/18 campaign.
Besides, did you see that cringe-worthy ad campaign acknowledging their success in the league? Sheesh.
Comments, questions, concerns? Find me on Twitter @stanwhyte87.