After the release of the 2016/17 Premier League fixtures thoughts are shifting towards the new season starting on 13 August. Adrian Clarke looks at where each of 20 clubs might seek to improve. In the latest article, he focuses on Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.
Pep Guardiola teams rarely lack athleticism and energy, but the Spaniard will be tasked with adding both of those key factors in his debut season as Manchester City head coach.
On the ball, City boast a number of gifted attacking individuals, meaning they will rarely have a problem scoring goals.
But at times last season the team suffered from a lack of sharpness in their movement, which hindered their bid to land a third Premier League title.
When falling behind to the first goal this was especially evident.
Man City's thirtysomethings
City trailed to the opener in 13 matches in 2015/16 and lost nine of them. That provides clear proof of their struggles to break down opponents who had something to protect.
Inheriting an ageing squad, an injection of verve is needed most desperately in central midfield and the full-back positions, with many of City’s first-team regulars in their 30s.
While we do not yet know which formation Guardiola is looking to implement at the Etihad Stadium, his philosophy is based around high-energy pressing, fluid and fast movement, with the full-backs asked to contribute inside both halves, out wide and infield.
To perform that style properly, I believe a clutch of newcomers would be beneficial, especially considering that City averaged the third-oldest average starting XI of all Premier League sides last season.
Only Watford (28 years, 257 days) and West Bromwich Albion (29 years, 197 days) were older than City's 28 years and 253 days. Tottenham Hotspur were by far the youngest, averaging 24 years and 328 days.
Leaking 41 goals in 2015/16, including 21 in 19 home matches, Guardiola must also find a formula that makes his team less vulnerable to counter-attacks. Caught out by too many breakaways, there is work to do on their defensive shape and how they defend from front to back.
Man City's opening fixtures
|MW2||Stoke City (a)|
|MW3||West Ham (h)|
|MW4||Man Utd (a)|
|MW5||AFC Bournemouth (h)|
|MW6||Swansea City (a)|
Without the ball, I expect to see a very different Manchester City in 2016/17.
Fixtures-wise, Pep Guardiola won’t be too unhappy with the start he’s been handed.
A trip to Old Trafford for a reunion with Jose Mourinho on 10 September 10 catches the eye, but eight of his first 13 Premier League outings as head coach will be against sides who were not in the top half of the table last season.
Provided that the players adapt to his changes, by the start of December Manchester City should have plenty of points on the board.