Prior to the blockbuster 2019/20 Premier League Season, we here at TribalFootball look at the contenders pre-season campaign, analysing the key positives and negatives taken from the lead up to the season.
Premier League Asia Trophy –
Wednesday, 17 July: vs West Ham United 4-1 (D.Silva 33′, Nmecha 36′, Sterling 59′,72′) W
Saturday, 20 July: vs Wolves 0-0 [3-2 on Penalties] L
Hong Kong Friendly –
Wednesday, 24 July: vs Kitchee SC 6-1 (D.Silva 13′, Sane 40′, 55′, Sterling 43′, Touaizi 80′, Pozo 88′) W
Japan Friendly –
Saturday, 27 July: vs Yokohama F. Marinos 3-1 (De Bruyne 18′, Sterling 40′, Nmecha 90+2′) W
FA Community Shield –
Sunday, 4 August: vs Liverpool 1-1 [5-4 on Penalties] (Sterling 12′) W
Rodri (DM) from Atletico Madrid – €70 Million
Angelino (LB) from PSV Eindhoven – €12 Million
Joao Cancelo (RB) from Juventus – €65 Million
1. Rodri Riding Smoothly
The club-record signing has landed on his feet at the base on City’s midfield. The young Spaniard has started 4 out of 5 pre-season matches, seemingly making the defensive midfield spot his own. His strong performance in the Community Shield win over Liverpool provides City fans with a lot to be excited about.
Teammate Kevin De Bruyne spoke of Rodri’s impressive pre-season commenting, “He did really well. He’s a perfect fit for us…I think he’s the perfect DM for the way we want to play. Our DM is a really difficult position. You need certain players for it and there’s not a lot of people who can do both sides of it. I think the way he’s performed in pre-season and in training has been phenomenal. To be the new guy and still be on this level is a good sign.”
2. Sterling Record Upfront
Much has been made of City’s frontline with the club’s two centre-forwards not involved in the pre-season planning after recovering from an arduous Copa America campaign. However any fears of a lack of potency have been put to bed by Raheem Sterling.
The City number 7 has moved into the number 9 role where he has been scoring goals for fun. In the centre-forward role, Sterling has scored 5 goals in 5 matches including a goal in the FA Community Shield.
Although it doesn’t appear to be a permanent move for the winger, it certainly gives city fans confidence heading into the season while Aguero and Jesus recover.
3. Youth Impress
City came under criticism about their attitude towards their pre-season venture to China, however the youth-saturated squad certainly saw a light shone onto some of City’s young-guns.
Following an impressive loan spell with Preston North End, Lukas Nmecha came back into the city set-up and found pre-season opportunities with Aguero and Jesus not in action. The German target-man scored two goals and looked at the level both physically and technically, despite his young age. Nmecha has joined Wolfsburg on loan for this season and City fans will hope he gets a lot of opportunities in the Bundesliga.
Furthermore, the 18-year-old Spaniard Adrian Barnabe was a clear standout in pre-season. He established himself with an exquisite assist against West-Ham, a game where he was clearly the best player on the pitch during his 45 minutes. Barnabe continued to impress throughout the pre-season and registered a further assist.
Tommy Doyle also impressed and fellow youth players Nabil Touaizi and Jose Angel Pozo managed to get on the scoresheet.
1. Copa America Hangover
Although Sterlings heroics in filling the void left up front have been previously discussed, there is still reason for concern about City’s returning stars. The club’s only two centre-forward’s Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus didn’t feature in the club’s pre-season campaign after participating in this summers Copa America.
The players have just returned to the first-team set-up and were featured in the FA Community Shield. Both were on the bench and Jesus came on for the injured Sane.
The formidable duo combined last season for a colossal 53 goals and were a crucial component to the scintillating side that claimed the trophy. While Sterling has filled in superbly, City fans should be slightly wary of the potential for a slow start up front, and the club will be eager to race out of the blocks.
2. Players still on the ‘Mendy’
The injury list of any club is a sour point to any fan base, however for Benjamin Mendy, his continued stint on the sidelines due to injury is becoming quite a source of frustration. Since joining the club two seasons ago, Mendy has only made 17 Premier League appearances.
After sustaining another knee injury in May, Mendy didn’t participate in City’s pre-season and will look to return potentially around September. Players like Oleksander Zivchenko have covered him strongly and the signing of Joao Cancelo may fill that void, however City would hope that Mendy can actually prove he was worth his hefty price tag.
Furthermore, City fans would be concerned about the fitness of Leroy Sane. The German winger, who has been linked with a move away from the club, looks set to stay at the Etihad for the 19/20 season. However, he might be in doubt for the start of the season as he was subbed off against Liverpool after sustaining a knee injury.
Luckily the plethora of talent at City should be able to cover his absence if he does miss the opening to the season.
3. Defensive Deficiency
The defense of Manchester City has often been the Achilles heel of what has been a formidable Premier League side. The departure of club-legend Vincent Kompany has surely left a gaping hole, both on and off the pitch. Despite his many injuries, a presence like that will always be sorely missed.
Guardiola is clearly ruthless in his aspirations for defensive stability with £32 million signing Eliaquim Mangala set to walk away from the club (on a free) with his services no longer required. Mangala had no involvement in the pre-season campaign.
In this pre-season, City have looked potent up front but have still leaked 4 goals, two of them coming against relatively weak opponents.
Of course City have the talented names of Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi on their books, however they remain the only three experienced centre-backs at the club. This backline could be a point of bother for City heading into the 19/20 EPL season where they will be defending their title.