Manchester City haven’t looked like this in some time. By Christmas time, they are often the only real contender for the Premier League title or in a race with one other team. The 2023/24 has seen them slip and others catch up. This time last season, they were seven points better off.
Not Nearly Creative Enough
Pep Guardiola’s Premier League success has been hard to quantify with his tinkering with formation and tactics, but the one constant is a creative midfield. Whether he’s asking them to blend into the offensive plays or simply work it (efficiently) to the strikers, his midfield is normally always the engine room for success.
We are 17 games into the Premier League season. At this point last year, Kevin De Bruyne already had nine assists in the league. This year, he’s been out with a hamstring injury. FootySamba reported that he was the best active playmaking midfielder in the world, behind only Diego Maradona and Zinedine Zidane in its best midfielders of all time study, and the latter two have long since retired.
Nobody has been able to step up with the same level of consistency. Julian Alvarez has the most assists for the team right now. However, playmaking can’t be considered the totality of his game. The 23-year-old is more of a second striker and will want to be going further up the pitch this season, as he’s finally broken into the City starting eleven.
Does the Answer Come in January?
The new year is nearly upon us, and for Pep Guardiola, that means he could try to fix the void left by Kevin De Bruyne with an incoming player. In the Premier League, there aren’t that many suitors to provide creative routes from the midfield. Pascal Groß, in theory, fits the bill but is too old, at 32, to fit the City transfer policy. Dortmund’s Julian Brandt might be a more realistic option, with the German having already made seven assists in the Bundesliga this season.
Better yet, could Man City promote one within their ranks? Kalvin Phillips has seldom appeared for the club since signing from Leeds United. Could he take on a new role? Pep has already given youth players chances in the first team this year. Micah Hamilton scored in his debut for the club in the UEFA Champions League but is more creative in his PL2 squad. Could he make the step up?
Still Silverware in the Season
While Manchester City might not be able to repeat the historic treble sensation from last season, there’s still success to be had. Pep Guardiola already lifted the UEFA Super Cup at the start of the season; the team could lift the FIFA Club World Cup on Friday night, which would give them two trophies for the season before the Boxing Day fixtures.
City fans can also boast a 100% record in the UEFA Champions League group stage where the team won every game, mostly in convincing fashion. The team were then given a favourable draw in the Round of 16, against FC Copenhagen, who they will be expected to beat – even if the Danish team gave Manchester United problems. The Cityzens can also look forward to the FA Cup starting for them in January when they’ll have EFL Championship opposition in the form of Huddersfield Town.