Manchester City are enduring a second consecutive disenchanting season at the Etihad.
Their campaign was somewhat exemplified last weekend by their performance against rivals Manchester United, the Sky Blues beaten by 18-year-old Marcus Rashford's first-half strike.
The bizarre mid-season 'sacking' of Manuel Pellegrini has led to a string of disappointing results, the silver lining for fans being the incoming Pep Guardiola.
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But with problems arising all over the pitch, what does Guardiola need to change at City in order to succeed?
DISPOSE OF WEAK PLAYERS
Firstly, the Spaniard needs to shift the squad’s dead wood if the team is going to progress. The Citizens have a peculiar squad compiled of expensive players assembled by numerous managers over the past five seasons.
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Players such as Wilfried Bony and Bacary Sagna are good footballers in their own right, but they are not of an elite level. Additionally, Martin Demichelis’ embarrassing performance at the weekend should confirm his exit from the Etihad.
It's imperative that Guardiola looks to the future as he overhauls this City squad.
There has been a tendency for managers to capitalise on the huge resources available to them and buy ready-made superstars at a high price.
Not only is this an expensive way of developing a successful team, but it also means players are already ageing by the time they’re purchased.
The ever-impressive spine of City’s team is now looking aged - a problem many highlighted as a major issue last term. Vincent Kompany is 29, Pablo Zabaleta 31,Yaya Toure 32 and David Silva 30.
INVEST IN YOUTH
When Guardiola buys - and he will - he must buy young players with the view to nurture their potential. This allows City to solidify a foundation from which they can build a team capable of competing in Europe for seasons to come.
This foundation must start with the centre-back pairing; central defence has caused Pellegrini grief all season.
Kompany’s frequent injuries have often left Eliaquim Mangala to partner Nicolas Otamendi. Both players look comfortable partnering the Belgium but struggle without him, with neither player living up to their £30 million-plus price tags.
If Guardiola can forge some sort of relationship between the latter two, then City might just be onto a winner.
But the problem doesn’t entirely lie in the personnel at City. They boast arguably the most talented squad in the league, and as a result, Guardiola must look to transform the team’s mentality.
INSTALL FIGHTING MENTALITY
There is a hunger missing from this team; without Kompany leading the charge, City seem to lack a fighting identity. An injection of steel into this talented pool of players is what they’re ultimately missing.
In the past nine games against the current top six, the Sky Blues haven’t won a single game (L6, D3). This perfectly illustrates how much this team lacks bite and a fighting reserve in big games against big opposition.
With various papers speculating about the metaphoric war chest Guardiola has at his disposal this summer, it's important for him to build his purchases around the right players. Sergio Aguero is an obvious choice - the Argentine is beacon of talent spearheading City’s attack.
But also important will be City’s wide men, Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling. Both players are young but supremely talented and have bags of potential. If a side can be built around these three danger-men, City will be a huge threat next season.
Gossip surrounding Paul Pogba’s move to the blue side of Manchester strengthens rumours that Toure is to be replaced. The Ivorian's history with Guardiola isn't entirely positive and the aforementioned Frenchman would certainly provide City’s wide men with sufficient service for a number of seasons to come.
There’s a lot of work to be done, but if Guardiola is to succeed he must toughen City up and install a fighting mentality in the squad.
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