Whichever way you look at it, last season was a phenomenal one from City. Another phenomenal season. The tightness of the title race and the fact Liverpool pushed them all the way have taken a lot of the headlines. However, exactly what Pep’s team achieved should not go unnoticed. The thing now, and in Guardiola it looks like that is exactly what he plans on doing, is to build on that. Create a legacy which, from those rock-solid foundations will build a footballing dynasty that will last decades, not merely seasons. The best way of achieving that is not with wholesale changes, but with incremental improvements, season by season, transfer window by transfer window. Let us look at the last two seasons statistically and see what light they throw on just where improvements should be made this summer.
Looking at the Official Premier League stats gives an interesting take on what happened on the pitch these last two seasons.
|Season 2017/2018||Season 2018/2019||Improvement?|
|Goals per match||2.79||2.5||No|
|Shots on Target||265||260||No|
|Big Chances Created||95||101||Yes|
|Aerial Battles/Duels Won||2,460||2,344||No|
|Errors Leading to Goals||6||2||Yes|
Those stats do have an air of consistency, but the team does score poorer in 12 of those key aspects than in the previous season, and better in only 9. Of course, the two seasons differed slightly in that the team were pushed all the way this time, and also it could be argued that the overall quality of the opposing teams faced this season was poorer. Certainly, this was the case in the bottom third, and indeed the lower part of the top third. So there is definitely room for improvement.
Pep will be looking to strengthen and tweak the side – and the squad – this summer. Even before any transfer activity however, City are odds on to make it a hattrick of titles, so any free bets and deals would be ideal. Liverpool look as if they will again be City’s biggest test next season. They too will improve from additions in the transfer market, but also with the confidence they will take into the season, both from their Champions League victory and the knowledge they pushed City all the way.
To win a football match it is said you need to win all, or the majority of the individual battles on the pitch. Extrapolating that out to the season, if you have the better stats over the season than any of your rivals, then it stands to reason you should be at the top or very close to it. Comparing some of the above numbers to those of Liverpool last season, it was the defence where they had the edge on City. Or rather, the midfield and the defence. They were able to prevent the ball coming into dangerous areas better, and when it did arrive were able to deal with it better. They also had a slightly better cross accuracy. These may be small matters in terms of numbers, but these tiny margins are what win matches and ultimately titles.
Left back is a situation that needs strengthening. This would help both defensively and with cross accuracy, if Pep gets it right. A replacement for Kompany is also crucial, but even if they are able to recruit for his defensive qualities it is extremely unlikely they will be able to do so for his leadership on the pitch and in the dressing room. Leroy Sane had, for him, an underwhelming season, after being one of the team’s brightest sparks the season before. A swap for Jadon Sancho is a possibility, with City having first option to buy the young England star back.
Going for targeted players that will be brought in to fulfil a particular role is the way City need to approach this and future windows. Pep has done very little wrong so far, so there is no reason to suspect things will change in the foreseeable future. And that is bad news for every other team in the league.