Following a brilliant start to their Premier League campaign, Manchester City have been labelled as the team to beat in England right now. Ten goals and zero conceded is an outstanding start, and a 3-0 win against Chelsea proves that they can perform against the bigger sides.
Even though they have performed at a high standard in the Premier League in recent years, their European performance has disappointed fans and owners alike. Their group draws in the Champions League have been quite tough, however City are expected to qualify – and did qualify – from those tough groups due to the incredible quality in their squad.
Both Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini have failed to guide the Citizens past the first knockout round, however. Two years in a row they have been matched up against FC Barcelona, which is a very tough matchup for any team.
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Similar to Arsenal, pundits have speculated about whether or not the Citizens could have made a deep run had they not been drawn against Barcelona.
Could this season be their year?
A Fully Built Team
Manager Manuel Pellegrini clearly loves playing with somebody like Sergio Aguero up front on his own, and he has been using this style since his arrival.
Last season, he had many players that he didn’t need for that style of play. The summer transfer window of 2015 was going to be a crucial one due to the necessity to buy new players for this style. Manchester City did exactly that.
Edin Dzeko, Negredo, James Milner and Stevan Jovetic all departed the club and were replaced by Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Nicolas Otamendi.
Otamendi is a defender, unlike any of the players who left Manchester this summer – but it was clear that last year, defensive stability is what they needed. Mangala and Kompany look like a solid pairing so far, but there is no telling what kind of obstacles this season may bring.
Sterling, who at first, looked like a huge overspend, is now looking like he fits into the City style of attack seamlessly. His finishing needs improvement, but as a long term option on the left side, he seems like the right purchase.
Now that Pellegrini has had two years to build his squad, he has the player that he wants in each position.
The Chilean is able to use one team consistently while only rotating three or four players in and out, which is different to last season, where he changed formations regularly because of the talent at his disposal.
Raheem Sterling arrived at the Etihad prior to Otamendi and De Bruyne, and has thus already had first-team involvement. The Belgian joined just days before deadline day, and there is no doubt that following the international break, he will appear on the team sheet.
Even before De Bruyne joined, a player as good as Samir Nasri was not going to be starting every game. This does not necessarily mean that Nasri will ride the bench – it means that the five attacking midfielders City have will all be rotated between games.
Within the match itself, their attacking midfield three can interchange positions to make it difficult for opposing defenses. Not only can they interchange roles in attack, they can now change the game with substitutions that will give them a different style of play.
Jesus Navas is the only natural right-winger they have, but new addition De Bruyne is a talented wide playmaker from the right side. If De Bruyne is subbed on for Navas, or vice versa, they can change the emphasis of attack and beat teams down the right in different ways.
Sterling and David Silva can both play through the middle of the pitch, but they play very different roles for their team. Sterling operates as almost a second striker, while Silva sits in the hole and sprays passes to the other players in support.
Competing For Multiple Trophies
Now that City have depth at multiple positions in attack and defence, they are able to play a great squad in the Champions League, and then field a different team that still has title-winning calibre in the Premier League.
Otamendi, for example, can make his debut in their first CL group stage match and work his way into the first-team from there. Should that game not go well, however, there will be no concerns over whether City will start leaking goals in the league, because Mangala can readily step in.
Even if Raheem Sterling has two poor games on the left flank, Samir Nasri can play his position instead, and Manchester City can use their wing players in a completely different way. It remains to be seen how long this stellar run in the BPL can go on for.
But regardless of that, if Manchester City can top their group and draw a beatable opponent in the round of 16, they could be the first English team in recent years to threaten the big dogs in the Champions League hunt.