Money no ob­ject for City, but Guardi­ola must de­liver

New Straits Times - - Sport -

BRIGHTON: For­ti­fied by Manch­ester City’s £200 mil­lion (RM1.1 bil­lion) over­haul, Pep Guardi­ola is un­der pres­sure to en­sure his sec­ond sea­son in the Premier League is far more suc­cess­ful than his tor­rid first.

Guardi­ola had a trou­bled de­but cam­paign at East­lands as the Spa­niard failed to win a tro­phy for the first time in his sto­ried man­age­rial ca­reer.

Third placed City fin­ished 15 points be­hind Premier League cham­pi­ons Chelsea, crashed out of the Cham­pi­ons League against Monaco and failed to reach ei­ther of the do­mes­tic cup fi­nals.

Guardi­ola has ad­mit­ted such a lack­lus­tre per­for­mance would have seen him sacked at his pre­vi­ous clubs Barcelona and Bay­ern Mu­nich.

How­ever, City, who start their Premier League cam­paign at pro­moted Brighton on Satur­day, al­ways in­tended to give Guardi­ola time to reload and a pre-sea­son spree has put him in po­si­tion to get it right this time.

That build­ing work has in­volved spend­ing big on five ma­jor sign­ings.

Close to £130 mil­lion was in­vested in full-backs as Guardi­ola shored up his de­fence with Tot­ten­ham’s Kyle Walker, Monaco’s Ben­jamin Mendy from Monaco and Real Madrid’s Danilo.

All three have the pace to change de­fence into at­tack quickly, some­thing City lacked in the full-back po­si­tions last sea­son.

Guardi­ola will hope goal­keeper Eder­son, ac­quired from Ben­fica for £34.9 mil­lion, is less er­ror prone than Clau­dio Bravo, whose dis­mal sea­son was a ma­jor fac­tor in City’s failed ti­tle chal­lenge.

City look stronger in at­tack too, with Bernardo Silva, bought from Monaco for £43 mil­lion, bring­ing ex­tra cre­ativ­ity to the fi­nal third.

With Jan­uary sign­ing Gabriel Je­sus over the in­jury trou­ble that stalled a promis­ing start in Eng­land, City look well placed to com­pete for all the ma­jor tro­phies.

Mendy is likely to be ab­sent on Satur­day with a thigh in­jury, while Silva may start on the bench, hav­ing had only a short pre-sea­son af­ter help­ing Portugal to the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup semi-fi­nals.

Guardi­ola could start with Je­sus and Ser­gio Aguero up front, given he has used a 3-5-2 set-up for much of pre-sea­son, which sug­gests Walker and Danilo are to be de­ployed as wing-backs.

The for­ma­tion al­lows an ex­tra man in mid­field, which has proved to City’s ad­van­tage in warm-up vic­to­ries over Tot­ten­ham, Real Madrid and West Ham.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter Brighton se­cured pro­mo­tion to the top-flight for the first time in 34 years, their chair­man Tony Bloom warned he would not break the bank in a bid to avoid rel­e­ga­tion.

But Al­bion shat­tered their trans­fer record ear­lier this week on PSV Eind­hoven mid­fielder Davey Prop­per, and were set to pass that mark with the £13 mil­lion ac­qui­si­tion of Colom­bia winger Jose Izquierdo from Club Brugge ahead of City’s visit.

Those deals were small change com­pared to City’s spend­ing of course and Chris Hughton’s sign­ings have been off­set by a bro­ken leg for Beram Kayal that will keep the mid­fielder side­lined for around three months. AFP

Pep Guardi­ola

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