As the Premier League gears up for a return to normalcy, we equip you with an in-depth view of everything about Manchester City and their season so far.
For years they had to live under the shadows of their illustrious neighbours Manchester United. But over the past decade Manchester City have emerged as the more successful of the two teams, having won numerous trophies and titles.
Founded in 1880, the club wasn’t called Manchester City FC until 1894, having gone by the names of St. Mark’s (1880/87) and Ardwick Association Football Club (1887/94). They won their first ever major honour in 1904, in the form of the FA Cup, but had to wait till the 60’s for a period of sustained success, when they won the league title, FA Cup and League Cup between 1967 and 1970.
Manchester City had to go through a steep decline after the 1980’s, with the lowest point being their relegation to third-tier in English football in the 1997/98 season. Having earned promotion back to the Premier League in 2002, they have been a permanent fixture in the top-flight ever since.
But, it was in 2008 when their fortunes turned around. A massive £210 million takeover from the Abu Dhabi United Group ushered in a new era of success at the club, as the new owners splashed the cash on the ‘crème de la crème’ of players.
After an FA Cup triumph in 2010/11, Manchester City’s first Premier League title came in the 2011/12 campaign, in the most dramatic fashion. No Premier League fan can forget that late Sergio Aguero strike that sealed the deal for Roberto Mancini’s side. Since then, there has been absolutely no looking back for City as they have added three more league titles, taking their overall tally to six.
In addition, the Sky Blues have also seen sustained success in the domestic cup competitions in recent years, having won five League Cups since the takeover, along with two FA Cups. Triumph in Europe’s premier competition the UEFA Champions League, however, continues to elude them.
Needless to say, Manchester City have gone a notch up since Pep Guardiola took over the reins in 2016. After a debut season, which surprisingly ended trophyless, the Catalan manager has taken his team to great heights.
2018/19 saw arguably one of the most dominant teams in the Premier League era as the Citizens completed an unprecedented domestic quadruple – Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and the FA Community Shield – the first team to achieve the feat. This came after they had become the first and only team to accumulate 100 points in a single Premier League campaign in 2017/18.
After the dizzying heights of last season, though, the ongoing campaign has been a bit of a wake-up call for Guardiola & co. With that said, let’s take a look at Manchester City’s 2019/20 season so far and what lies ahead once the campaign resumes later this week.
Manchester City’s 2019/20 Season So Far…
Manchester City began the season by retaining the Community Shield, having edged out Liverpool in a penalty shootout. A 5-0 demolition of West Ham United on the opening day of the Premier League sounded out a warning to the rest of the teams that Guardiola’s team weren’t taking the foot off the pedal.
However, a 2-2 draw against Tottenham in the next game, followed by a shock 3-2 defeat against a newly-promoted Norwich City a few weeks later exposed the chinks in their armour. With Liverpool going on relentlessly from the word-go, Manchester City haven’t been able to catch up to their rivals. In fact, after the first week, they haven’t once been at the top of the table.
The 3-1 defeat to Liverpool on Matchday 12 meant that they were at a big disadvantage in the title race. And a 2-1 loss to arch-rivals Manchester United during the festive period pretty much put an end to their hopes of a third consecutive league triumph.
City’s league form prior to football getting suspended wasn’t much to cheer about either, as they had won just three of their last six matches, losing two and drawing one. Their last fixture saw them getting beaten 2-0 by Manchester United at Old Trafford.
Manchester City are currently 25 points behind leaders Liverpool. With nine matches left, there is still a mathematical possibility that they can win the title. However, it’ll take a huge blunder from the leaders for that to happen.
There was even a brief period when City looked set for a top four grapple with Leicester City eking ahead of them in the table. However, they have managed to put some distance between themselves and the likes of Chelsea and the rest of the chasing pack for the fourth spot. But, Leicester City are still breathing down their necks and Guardiola cannot afford any slip-ups, if they are to finish as runner-ups.
The Premier League campaign might not have gone according to plans, but Manchester City did manage to retain the Carabao Cup again, meaning they have now won the trophy four times in the last five seasons. They are still active in the FA Cup and are in a good position to qualify for the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League as well.
The Manager: Pep Guardiola
The man needs no introduction. One of the most successful and most revolutionary managers in modern football history, Pep Guardiola guarantees trophies wherever he goes. His all-conquering Barcelona team between 2008 and 2012 will go down as one of the greatest ever in the history of the game.
Having won everything in Spain, Guardiola then conquered Germany with Bayern Munich, building on their tradition of domestic dominance and taking it up a notch. The 49-year-old then rocked up at the Etihad Stadium in 2016 and after a season of bedding-in period, turned them into an utterly dominant outfit in England.
Till date, Guardiola has overseen 219 matches at Manchester City, winning 165 of them (D25 L31). Two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, three League Cups make for a very impressive reading. The European title, though, continues to elude him, with his last Champions League title coming in 2011 with Barcelona.
Tactics & Style of Play
For the majority of his career, Guardiola has set his teams up in a 4-3-3 formation, and it has been the same case at Manchester City. Although, he has occasionally dabbled with a 4-2-3-1 as well as a three-man backline against Sheffield United earlier this season.
It is no secret that a big part of Guardiola’s football ideology is to keep the ball for the most part and win it back as quickly as possible when the opponents are in possession. He has implemented the same at Manchester City, with his team known for intense pressing high up the pitch after turning possession over.
The PPDA metric – passes allowed per defensive action in the opposition half – gives an idea of how effective a team’s press has been. Lower the PPDA value, the better the team’s pressing. As in, they are able to disrupt the opponent’s possession with a defensive action with fewer passes played. Manchester City’s PPDA for the 2019/20 campaign stands at 8.18, which is the second best in the Premier League.
When in possession, City’s shape changes to a 2-3-5 of sorts, with the two wingers sticking out wide and stretching the defence, while two central midfielders take up advanced positions in the final third. The full-backs drift inwards, alongside the holding midfielder to offer passing options. This also aides in nipping any counters from opposition in the bud.
The Manchester City players rely on short, quick passing movements in the final third and try to create overload on one flank, leaving teammates on the opposite wing with plenty of space. Their goals usually result from cut-backs into the penalty box, with the winger from the opposite side making a late run.
Raheem Sterling has benefited greatly from this tactic. The system has also done wonders for Kevin De Bruyne’s game, as it allows the Belgian to get into dangerous positions between the lines and whip in dangerous crosses into the box.
Such a system does tend to leave Manchester City exposed against swift counters and long balls – something which Manchester United exploited brilliantly this season on more than one occasion. The centre-backs are usually left under immense pressure, as they have to be able to mobile enough to cover the spaces left behind, while also being strong in the air to stop any long balls.
In such situations, Manchester City tend to resort to tactical fouling within the opposition half, Fernandinho being a master at it, in order to allow the team to get back into position. Last season, 58.84% of City’s 328 fouls were committed inside the opposition half, the third highest in the Premier League. (h/t BBC)
According to Opta, highest tactical foul rates are Arsenal this season (8.2%), City this season (7.6%) and City 2017-18 (6.96%). Liverpool perhaps surprisingly at the opposite end of the scale with just 3.87% this season.
— Jack Pitt-Brooke (@JackPittBrooke) February 18, 2020
According to Opta, as of February 18, Manchester City posted a tactical fouling rate of 7.6% – only behind Arsenal, where, interestingly, Guardiola’s former No.2, Mikel Arteta, is now in charge. [Tactical fouling rate is calculated as a correlation between the the number of opposition turnovers each team faces every season and the number of those turnovers that end in a foul.] (h/t The Athletic)
In Ederson, Manchester City have a top quality goalkeeper whose distribution skills from the back are nearly unparalleled. While being an astute passer, the Brazilian is exudes great composure when pressed by opposition, making him the ideal fit in a Pep Guardiola team.
The way Guardiola sets him team up means a lot is asked of the centre-backs. They are needed to possess top class ball-playing abilities as City, more often than not, are facing teams with deep defensive blocks and need the defenders to be able to carry the ball forward and start attacks.
In Aymeric Laporte, they have one of the best in the business, but the Frenchman has spent the majority of the season out injured. This, coupled with the failure to replace club legend Vincent Kompany, who left last summer, has meant City’s centre-back department has been found lacking.
John Stones has seemingly lost his confidence and has struggled with injuries, while Nicolas Otamendi, for all his positive attributes, remains a liability. This has forced Guardiola to use Fernandinho at centre-back for most of the ongoing campaign.
Kompany’s departure has also taken out an imposing presence inside the box for City, rendering them vulnerable against corner kicks and free kicks. This season, the Sky Blues have conceded 4 goals from corner kicks, despite having an xGA (Expected Goals Against) of 1.43 from such situations.
Kyle Walker has taken his game to a whole new level since joining hands with Guardiola and remains the first-choice right-back. Joao Cancelo, who arrived from Juventus, has found it difficult to settle in England and could already be on his way out. On the opposite side, Benjamin Mendy’s struggles with injuries have continued, while Oleksandr Zinchenko, too, has had fitness issues.
Rodri has grown into a key cog in the centre of the park, since arriving from Atletico Madrid last summer. One of him or Ilkay Gundogan slot in as the deepest of the three midfielders for City, with Kevin De Bruyne and veteran David Silva on either side. With the latter set to move on, Bernardo Silva has been used in a central role more frequently this term. They also have Phil Foden, who is regarded as one of the finest young talents in the country.
Guardiola’s system works best with pacey and skillful wingers in the side. And in Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane, they have just that, although Sane could be on the move this summer.
All-time leading goalscorer Sergio Aguero continues to spearhead the Manchester City attack with the same vigour as he did in his very first season at the club. Gabriel Jesus has proven to be a more than handy backup and is primed to take over from the Argentine once he moves on.
City may boast one of the best squads in the Premier League, but they have been found wanting at both ends on occasions this season. They have an xG (Expected Goals) of 73.08, but have scored 68 goals – a differential of 5.08, indicating that their finishing has been a tad poor. Their xGA of 27.87 is the best in the league, but they have let in 31 – something Guardiola will not be pleased about.
Marquee Player: Kevin De Bruyne
The Belgian international has been in the form of his life in 2019/20. In 26 Premier League appearances this term, De Bruyne has produced an amazing return of 8 goals and 16 assists for Manchester City, standing out as their most important player.
The 28-year-old tops the charts for most assists in the league this season, while he has created the most number of chances as well (96). Five more assists would see the former Chelsea man break Thierry Henry’s long-standing record of 20 assists in a single Premier League season (2002/03).
Diving deeper into the numbers, De Bruyne has an xG (Expected Goals) of 5.25 and an xA (Expected Assists) of 14.70 – both lesser than the actual number of goals and assists he has posted, indicating how effective he has been in the final third of the pitch.
A master with the ball at his feet, De Bruyne also stands out with his contributions off the ball. The Belgian, this season, has covered the most ground amongst all Manchester City players (275.1 km).
His versatility is another major bonus. Over the course of the campaign, he has played as a No.8, a No.10 and even on the right flank, while he also featured as a false nine in the Champions League clash against Real Madrid. Without a doubt, one of the best midfielders in the game currently, the 28-year-old has been Manchester City’s driving force.
Apart from De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling has enjoyed a scintillating campaign, although his form has dipped a little, as a result of burnout, while Sergio Aguero has continued to deliver in front of goal. Riyad Mahrez, too, has stepped up admirably after a relatively quiet debut campaign for the Cityzens last time out.
One for the future: Adrian Bernabe
Phil Foden is one of the hottest young prospects to have come through the ranks at Manchester City, but he has been in and around the first-team for quite a while to be considered for this section. Instead, we have gone with fellow attacking midfielder Adrian Bernabe, who has been impressing heavily for the club’s reserve team.
Adrian Bernabe has been nominated for February's #PL2 Player of the Month award! 👏
— Man City Academy (@ManCityAcademy) March 6, 2020
The 19-year-old Spaniard joined Manchester City’s youth setup only a couple of years back, after coming through the ranks at Barcelona’s fabled La Masia academy. He made his first-team debut in September 2018, in a Carabao Cup game and has featured three more times for Guardiola’s side. He is, however, yet to score or assist a goal.
For the reserves, though, the youngster has shone bright this term, racking up 4 goals and 6 assists in 15 Premier League 2 matches. He has also impressed in the UEFA Youth League with the Under-19s, bagging 3 goals and an assist in six matches. He had won the Premier League 2 Player of the Month award for February, prior to football getting called off.
With David Silva set to leave this summer, Foden is expected to take his place in the first-team. This could pave the way for Bernabe to act as Fodern’s understudy going forward for the Cityzens. Apart from Bernabe, there are also the likes of defender Taylor Harwood-Bellis and midfielder Tommy Doyle, both of whom have been tipped for bright futures.
It has been an odd season for Manchester City. While they have retained the Carabao Cup and are well-positioned in the FA Cup as well as the Champions League, their failure to mount a successful defence of the Premier League title will have left Pep Guardiola disappointed. The 25-point gap to leaders Liverpool makes it only worse.
They may have all but lost the league title, but staying motivated for the rest of the season will be key for the Sky Blues as Leicester City lurk right behind in the table. They will have a tough restart with games against Arsenal, Burnley, Chelsea and Liverpool, but they will be facing bottom-half teams in the rest of the six games, handing them a favourable run-in.
A strong finish to the Premier League would mean they will have built up momentum going into the Champions League in August. Who knows, this might turn out to be their year to bask in European glory.