Winning the Premier League in record-breaking fashion and playing free-flowing attacking football along the way, there are plenty of indications that Manchester City are heading for a second consecutive title this season under Pep Guardiola, particularly after their professional showing in their Community Shield win over Chelsea.
However, winning the league was not the main reason why the iconic Spaniard was appointed to manage the Citizens, and while their domestic success is undoubtedly welcomed by fans of the sky blue outfit, European success was always the reason why Guardiola replaced Manuel Pellegrini, who had also reigned victorious in England’s first division.
Champions League glory has escaped City throughout the history of the club, and while ambitions of such glories were unheard of before their infamous takeover a decade ago, they still haven’t achieved their long-standing desire.
Last season, it was Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool who dismantled them in the quarterfinals, and while the Anfield outfit have plenty of talent at their disposal, the fact that they were able to get past this City side so easily would have sounded alarm bells for Guardiola, especially after a bitterly disappointing exit to Monaco in the former Barcelona manager’s first season in England.
While it is difficult to pinpoint exactly where on the pitch they can improve their side, signing Riyad Mahrez only adds depth to their already stacked attacking quality, with perhaps the biggest improvement of the season being added in the form of Benjamin Mendy, a marauding young left-back who missed last season after a serious injury early in the campaign.
It was clear that Guardiola wanted Jorginho to join City but at the last moment the Italian midfielder decided that Chelsea would be his destination. The 47-year-old manager confirmed his interest in the midfielder, too.
The fact that he wanted a player in his prime and not a burgeoning young talent perhaps shows a desire to have a defensively strong player in midfield alongside Fernandinho in the biggest matches. City’s centre-backs are talented but hardly among the best in Europe, with John Stones and Aymeric Laporte in need of serious improvements if they are to form the best defence on the continent.
There are also concerns at left-back, particularly after Mohamed Salah caused great problems for Laporte, who was playing out of position in Mendy’s absence. The fact that both Oleksandr Zinchenko and Fabian Delph, Guardiola’s left-backs for the season, were on the bench that day, shows a lack of trust in the defenders behind Mendy.
Comfortably the best side in England, if City want European glory this season under Guardiola, they would have done themselves a great favour by securing more moves this summer. While this is still a possibility with a few days left, and the current team could challenge any side in Europe, the lack of a standout favourite in this year’s Champions League could have been one of the best opportunities in years for City to step up.
Despite being well-equipped to win another Premier League title, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City may struggle to improve upon last season’s success, and they have not helped themselves in the transfer market this summer.