Connect in the back of the net

Pep Guardiola’s debut season in the Premier League hasn’t been the swashbuckling success many were expecting given his record in both Spain and Germany, however his work has also gone a little under the radar with the Spanish coach having constructed a frightening front-line that could carry the club for years to come.

Sergio Aguero, despite his still impressive goal record, has been marginalised with only an injury to Gabriel Jesus paving the way for the Argentine striker to return to the first-team.

With the Brazilian’s lay-off nearing an end it wouldn’t at all be a surprise if Guardiola was able to hand his first choice attacking trio some important minutes before the end of the season.

 

Fanfare

Leroy Sane arrived to much fanfare in the summer with the German having overcome a testing opening period in Manchester by really turning on the style since Christmas.

His direct style blended with sensational pace has seen him cause teams multiple problems with the former Schalke prodigy almost carrying the Blues past Monaco’s defences on his own at the Stade Louis II.

On the right hand side Raheem Sterling has undoubtedly improved under Guardiola’s tutelage with his ability to investigate space far more prevalent than during his time working under both Brendan Rodgers and Manuel Pellegrini.

In a system that utilises three forwards his production in terms of numbers still needs to be a little better but for now he is proving to be far more difficult an opponent for defences within the system set by the former Barcelona coach.

 

Criticism

One of the criticisms labelled at Pellegrini’s final Manchester City side was that they were too old and within weeks of arriving at the Etihad Stadium Guardiola set about rectifying this.

Sane, Jesus and Sterling will soon be joined by the stupendous Marlos Moreno who joined the club last summer but has since spent the season on loan in La Liga with Deportivo La Coruna.

While his injury-hit spell in the Spanish top-flight has actually been disappointing with the winger yet to score a goal, his talent fits perfectly with what Manchester City are trying to build.

Aguero’s contribution to Manchester City cannot be understated, he has been one of the club’s finest ever players.

David Silva and Yaya Toure also fit comfortably within this category but the truth remains that the time is coming to move on from the trio who once formed the spine of arguably the club’s most impressive ever Premier League team.

Silva still contributes fairly impressively but you have to expect that a fully fit Ilkay Gundogan and two midfield signings in the summer will knock him out of a regular starting spot.

Aguero and Toure on the other hand are both expected to leave with the Argentine’s case depending on whether clubs are looking to spend significant money on a low return investment in a financial sense given his age.

 

Blueprint for the future

The Blues on the other hand are well prepared for the future and it is planning that hasn’t truly been recognised by the rest of the league because of the difficulties City have faced this term.

John Stones can be an excellent centre-half and is only 22 years old whilst the attacking three have many years ahead of them.

This is the blueprint for Champions League success in the current era. Barcelona only recorded their first post-Guardiola continental triumph once the triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez had been constructed.

Real Madrid’s first choice three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale are a little less explosive but by no means any less effective as they have lifted the European Cup twice in the past three years.

Teams without such a front line have come close; Juventus and Atletico Madrid have both fallen at the final hurdle with the sheer amount of attacking quality and unpredictability proving to be the difference between themselves and their opponents.

 

Significant fun poked at the club, but not towards their attack

Significant fun was poked at Manchester City by rival supporters when they crashed of the Champions League to Monaco this season despite the fact the principality club lead Ligue 1 ahead of Paris Saint-Germain and themselves have the attacking talent to outgun most teams in the tournament.

However it was only defensive failings that let Manchester City down despite what Guardiola may say in public to try and shield his ailing defensive line from criticism.

With Sane, Sterling and Jesus in tow the club are more than prepared for a tilt at the Champions League in the next two seasons.

Finally the Brazilian may just be the most impressive of the lot.

After arriving in January from Palmeiras, he instantly settled into life at the club scoring three goals in three Premier League appearances before his injury.

Of course this hasn’t given time for the unavoidable dip to arrive but at 19 years old, it is clear he is a special talent and with the right nurturing could be one of the game’s truly elite forwards in a relatively short period of time.

 

Long-term benefits

A lot of the focus on Manchester City has been put on wealth and spending to bring the best players to the club yet at the moment with the lack of truly elite forward players in the game, it is pretty much impossible to go out and buy the best.

They simply won’t leave the big two clubs in Spain and City have been clever in positioning themselves to secure let’s say, the next top forwards and give them space to develop.

It is almost certainly going to be a policy which benefits the club for years to come and once Guardiola finds a remedy to his current defensive woes, which may well come in the form of a slight tactical shift, Manchester City may well be even more dangerous than they were at the very height of their success under Roberto Mancini.

 

Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @Chriswin4

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