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Few Manchester City supporters can really believe the position the club is in at this moment, Pep Guardiola’s incredible coaching has seen the team all but clinch the Premier League title before mid-February and the team are now seriously involved in a battle to win the Champions League.
It could well turn out to be the case that the Blues win the domestic championship mathematically so early on that they can rest players and truly focus on their continental campaign, all whilst their rivals in the tournament fight for every single point in their own respective league matches.
The job Guardiola has done has been phenomenal, albeit aided by a bottomless transfer war-chest, but one that his employers can nevertheless afford.
His coaching has been sensational as it was at both Barcelona and Bayern Munich and following three disappointing years in Bavaria in which Europe’s major crown eluded him, Manchester may well be the city where he reacquainted with the trophy once more.
There are few teams in Europe at this moment as prepared as the Blues for a run to the Champions League final in Kiev. Furthermore it just so happens that the two teams who fall into that bracket are facing each other in the round of 16 and one is guaranteed to be eliminated.
English teams have been embarrassed in the Champions League in recent years, including Guardiola’s team last term; however the improvement at the Etihad Stadium from last season to this has been phenomenal.
That’s not to say City were poor last season, many of their famed patterns of play which make up the scintillating footballing lessons over served up were in evidence during the Spanish coach’s debut campaign, it’s just the personnel were lacking in both quality and energy. There was also a lack of complete understanding as to how Guardiola wants his teams to play, illustrated by the, at times, comical defending.
Whilst domestic success is almost guaranteed and the Champions League is now an attainable goal rather than a pipedream, City are showing no signs of slowing down with the club already reloading for next season.
After Roberto Mancini’s memorable title win in the dying seconds of the 2011/12 season, those behind the scenes at the club got complacent and the following summer transfer window was a disaster.
Upon the Italian’s request, much of the window was spent trying to sign Daniele de Rossi from Roma, despite the fact the Italian club set a deadline after which they would sell no more first team players.
When this deal inevitably failed to come to fruition, the club scrambled and signed Jack Rodwell, Scott Sinclair, Javi Garcia, Maicon, Matija Nastasic and Richard Wright all within the last two weeks of the transfer window.
Five of those six players were actually signed in the last two days of August. Needless to say none of the six are anywhere near the club at this point.
There will be no such repeat in the summer of 2018. Provided there are no Financial Fair Play repercussions after the unprecedented spend the previous year, the club will add to their squad.
Fred of Shakhtar Donetsk will likely arrive, the Blues pushed hard to add him in January to avoid the risk of his value exploding after the World Cup, yet still remain in the driving seat to sign him.
Guardiola has made no secret of his desire to add another forward despite Alexis Sanchez choosing to join Manchester United. However, the Blues are likely to make a significant move in the summer and will be incredibly interested if Paulo Dybala becomes available, a secondary option remains Antoine Griezmann.
There may only be two or three summer arrivals, but the team is in such a state of tranquillity, that maybe all that’s required.
Contrary to rumours, the Guardiola stay in the North West of England will not be a long one, it’s difficult to see him at the Etihad Stadium for more than four seasons, especially given his dual desires to both coach Brazil at a World Cup and not be managing too far into his fifties.
As such, Manchester City will hand him every single tool to be successful and why not? He’s proven that his methods do work in the Premier League and City have never been as strong as they are now.
The Champions League is the ultimate goal of the project and there is every chance they will reach it this season, however the fact the club are already moving to sign Fred shows they aren’t satisfied and will continue to progress irrespective of Guardiola’s success this term.
That is surely a worrying prospect for City’s domestic rivals.
Written by Chris Winterburn
Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn
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