Written by Hari Jaswal.
I considered writing an introduction glamorising Manchester the way Yani has with Monaco but in all honestly the former dwindles in comparison. I’m sure Manchester is a wonderful place but I can’t imagine anyone will be disrupted by the ‘chopping cacophony of helicopter blades’.
So instead I’ll focus on a similarity between the two clubs; their attacking talent. Ever since their takeover on September 1st 2008 Man City have boasted a formidable attack. Signing Robinho the very same day underlined the clubs intentions. But it didn’t stop there; the club would go on to sign ELEVEN strikers, including the likes of Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Edin Dzeko, Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero in the coming years. The fact that only one of these players remains at the club today says all you need to know about the limitless spending of the Manchester club. In fact, nine years later and over £1 Billion spent you’d expect Manchester City are capable of fielding an unstoppable team with next to no flaws, right? Wrong… Serbia international Aleksander Kolarov is playing at centre back and the ‘flop’ Jerome Boateng is winning title after title in Bavaria. Yeah, I don’t get it either. Season after season City have spent where possible to ‘improve’ the team, but still find themselves with glaring frailties. None more so than their defence, SEVENTEEN defenders have been signed since the takeover, yet all they could muster up against a relegation threatened Swansea side was a back four consisting of Fernandinho, John Stones, Aleksander Kolarov and Gael Clichy, over £100m worth of players and only two playing in their natural positions. Quite a daunting statistic compared to Chelsea, who, in the same period of time have signed 8.
Since the summer of 2008, City have won the Premier League twice, the FA Cup once, and the League Cup twice, underperforming in Europe year after year, until finally reaching the semi’s in 2016, arguably the biggest tie in the clubs history, where they amassed an impressive 2 shots on target over both legs. Chelsea, in the same period have been crowned champions of England twice, won the FA cup three times, League Cup once, and both the Champions League and Europa League once. Despite 2015/2016 being trophyless for the London club, they have pushed on this season, with Antonio Conte’s men steamrolling their way to yet another title leaving Guardiola and City in their wake. City can learn a lot from Chelsea and the way they conduct their business, you can have the greatest manager in the world, but with such an unbalanced squad you will get exposed, especially in the Premier League. European football is no different, and Monaco will endeavour to make it as difficult as possible. Not short of their own attacking quality, full of confidence knowing they have already seen off Tottenham Hotspur and currently sitting top of Ligue 1, this promises to be a highly entertaining game, with an abundance of attacking prowess on show.
Whilst Guardiola’s philosophies haven’t taken the Premier League by storm (yet), I believe his signings will. I have highlighted two of the new boys, and two players brought in by his predecessor that I think will be key in any potential success the Catalan brings to Manchester.
Man City player profiles:
Kevin De Bruyne: Age: 25 Position: Attacking Midfielder (Left, Right, Centre) 6 goals, 13 assists in 30 games (all competitions)
Arguably City’s best signing of the last five years, Kevin De Bruyne continues to impress and bamboozle defences, a stunning 21 goals and 27 assists in 71 games during his time at City says all you need to know about the talented Belgian. His performances even leading to his new boss claiming “ he is a special, outstanding player. He makes everything. Without the ball he is the first fighter, and with the ball he is clear – he sees absolutely everything. When we talk about Messi, maybe he can sit alone at the table, with no-one else allowed. But in the table beside, Kevin can sit there.” High compliments from a man who has managed some of the biggest names in world football. It would have been easy for De Bruyne to crumble under the pressure of being Man City’s record signing, but he has thrived on it, going from strength to strength and becoming an essential part of this Man City side, fresh from winning his second consecutive ‘Best Belgian Player in a Foreign League’ award, De Bruyne has already equalled his assists tally in the Premier League from last year, whilst averaging more interceptions per game (0.95) than Sterling, Sane and Silva. He has also completed more key passes (57), created more chances (66) and won more tackles (19) than any of City’s attacking options this season.
Raheem Sterling: Age: 22 Position: Right Wing, Left Wing 8 goals, 7 assists in 31 games (all competitions)
Sterling has registered 18 goals and 24 assists in 78 games for City, showing glimpses of his undeniable potential but not quite displaying the consistency that would see his mercurial talent being taken seriously by Europe’s elite. You get the feeling Sterling is a player that can really progress under Guardiola’s stewardship, with City scoring the most goals from counter attacks in the league (4) and Sterling being one of the Premier League’s pacier players. He looked like a player reborn at the start of the season, notching 2 goals and 2 assists in his first three league games, and having already bagged more assists this year and completing twenty more take ons than he managed last season, I think it’s time for Sterling to finally show what he’s made of.
Leroy Sane: Age: 21 Position: Attacking Midfield (Left, Centre, Right) 3 goals, 2 assists in 17 games (all competitions)
One of my favourite signings since Pep took charge of Man City, the young German possesses a deadly mixture of pace and dribbling ability, his confidence on the ball and powerful running sees him glide past defenders with ease. Making a £37 million move at such a young age indicates how highly the Manchester club regard him, and when you look at his stats from last year, I’m surprised City were the only side that seemed to be interested. The young German won more tackles, (44) made more interceptions, (29) completed more take ons (92) and scored more goals (8) last season than De Bruyne, Sterling and Silva. Despite a relatively slow start to life in England he has pushed on recently, and, in my opinion, it all started after he scored the equaliser against Arsenal in a game they would go on to win. Despite not directly contributing to as many as goals as some may expect, his all-around play keeps defenders pre-occupied, opening up space for City to exploit. Despite being dangerous in attack, he is not one to ignore his defensive duties, Sane has made the most ball recoveries per 90 minutes (6.4) and made more tackles per 90 minutes (2.2) than any of City’s forwards. His new boss labelled him as “a huge talent, and I can only congratulate Germany on having a talent like him.” Even Joachim Low has begun to take notice.
“He is a player with a special gift and finesse, speed paired with technique and strong running. He can make the jump with us very quickly.”
Gabriel Jesus: Age: 19 Position: Striker, Left Wing, Right Wing 3 goals, 2 assists in 4 games (all competitions)
Where do I start with this lad? The stats above suggest an impactful start, a tremendous return for a teenager in a new country. An unbelievable young talent, intelligent off the ball, smart with it, it’s hard to see flaws in the 19 year old Brazilians game. Gabriel Jesus scored or assisted a league goal every 136 mins for Palmeiras last term as they won the Brazilian top-flight title. His performances leading to arguably the greatest Brazilian striker of all time, Ronaldo, sharing his appreciation.
“I’m a fan of Gabriel as I look at him and see myself when I was younger. I see many similarities between us. He is young and is already very successful with a lot of responsibility. He has a footballing career ahead of him and is already delighting us with what he does.”
But the praise doesn’t stop there, Former Bayern Munich midfielder Ze Roberto believes Jesus is “the best player to come through the ranks in Brazil since 2006.” It seems everyone that comes across him believes he is destined for great things, and with the performances he’s displayed so far, it’s not hard to see why. He gives City that extra option, capable of creating as well as scoring, coming deep to collect the ball as the pacey wingers maraud forward ahead of him, Premier League defences will already be wondering just how you stop him. There will be bad days for him as he adjusts to rigours of Premier League football, but making the start he has makes it all the more easier.