This is the season Man City has played with fast wingers (Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane), aggressive pressing, scoring many goals and reversing full-backs. The decision to drag David Silva – a small player who has spent most of his career on the wing – into the middle of the midfield pairing with Kevin De Bruyne proved to be a breakthrough. In between them was a mischievous Fernandinho, a master of tactical fouls. So far, the Man City collective is still the only team in the history of the top English league to collect 100 points in a season. The perfect blend of speed, power, precision and smoothness is what Man City 2017/18 showcased.
Changes have taken place this season, some mandatory and others a choice of Guardiola. For example, Sane lost his place after January, with Sterling moving to the left and Bernardo Silva moving to the right, allowing for more freedom of movement. Meanwhile, Sergio Aguero has also transformed with versatility, engaging in more play-building, setting the stage for the role Guardiola may have envisioned for Harry Kane in the summer of 2021, before the deal fell. bellows. Man City is still dynamic, fast, constantly pressurized with relentless movements and greater control. The green man turned into a winning machine when they made a spectacular breakthrough to surpass Liverpool to win the Premier League in the final round with 1 point more. The other big change of Man City only really took place in the 2020/21 season.
This season marks the birth of Man City’s “virtual nine” era, despite it coming quite late. Indeed, it was not until after a 1-1 draw against West Brom in mid-December that City’s problems surfaced and Guardiola’s reshaping of the team became apparent. Green Man is even more focused on possession, less direct attack and wingers are increasingly being turned into tools by Pep to control the game rather than destroy opponents. Guardiola seems to have evolved the full-back role once again, using Joao Cancelo as a playmaker from the left. The “virtual nine” went from plan B to plan A, and stars like De Bruyne, Phil Foden or Riyad Mahrez have all performed brilliantly in this role. This is also the first time Man City reached the Champions League final under Pep, but unfortunately could not be crowned.
Missing Kane would have made the job of most managers difficult, but Pep simply responded by making a team without a striker even better. Man City increase possession, be patient with this approach. Cancelo’s influence continues to grow, as he is a central midfielder playing the role of left-back. City started taking more shots and conceding fewer goals, and became the most formidable club in the Premier League on set pieces, both in defense and in attack. Almost a quarter of their goals have come from set pieces. This is the season Man City has shown itself to be a master of the “pausa” technique – ready to make more passes, waiting for the right moment to attack.
Like the 2020/21 season, Man City’s change needs time to take shape, before bursting with even more spectacular results. With Erling Haaland and De Bruyne at the top, the Blues have been the most counter-attacking of Pep’s teams over the past seven years. There was no “virtual 9” to get more men in midfield, Guardiola was creative. He asked central defender John Stones to step up, pairing midfield with Rodri in the middle of the field to ensure Man City always had enough troops there. In turn, the full-backs reverse to give way to wide-acting central defenders who like to tackle and tackle. For the wingers – Grealish and Silva – the ball seemed to stick to their feet. Both are perfect control tools, and the great “triple” of the 2022/23 season has shown the full strength of the Green Man.