Manchester City are emerging as a European force to be reckoned with as Pep Guardiola’s Blues surge past opponents early this season, and it appears that a year of growing pains in the system is finally paying off.
City are undefeated in all competitions this year, their near-perfect start being spoiled by a 1-1 draw to Everton, albeit, City finished that fixture down a man after a questionable sending off.
They have been flying since the start of September, cruising past opponents in fine fashion, and have switched into a new gear since the September 9 fixture against Liverpool, where a 5-0 drubbing seemed to have inspired, or rather possessed, Pep’s side.
Since that date, City have netted 31 times, and allowed only three goals against.
Hopes are extremely high for success in England and Europe this season for Manchester City, and a number of factors should inspire continued success.
Manchester City have been dominant in possession this season; everyone is aware from Pep’s time at Barcelona, that he firmly believes that the best form of defence is offence and keeping the ball, and he has brought this mentality with him to the north-west of England.
So far in the league this season, City have averaged a 63% possession rate. More of the ball may leave City open to the counter; however, it hasn’t negatively affected them yet.
City want the ball as much as they possibly can; even teams like champions Chelsea are setting themselves up prepared to deal with lack of possession.
More importantly than possessing the ball is what is done in possession. City have been able to maintain the ball this year because of their ability to confidently move it in all thirds of the pitch.
They are averaging an astonishing 696.25 passes per game, complete with a 89% accuracy rate.
City have three players (Nicolás Otamendi, Fernandinho and David Silva) who have already completed over 600 passes so far.
They have also thrown 179 crosses into the box, with an accuracy rate of 26%. With one in every four cross finding its man, City are certainly threatening in the attacking third.
City play out of the back and the signing of Ederson this summer has provided them with the sweeper keeper they have been looking for to shorten the field, provide the centrebacks with cover, and distribute the ball.
Ederson is averaging a 87% success rate, with an average distance of 29 metres in his distribution.
It all starts out of the back with Pep and Ederson is proving a successful transfer early in his City career.
City have scored 29 league goals this year in only eight games; this rate of goals is magnificent and amounts to an average of 3.63 goals per game.
The combined team creativity is evident from every player, in every position on the pitch, with a total of 114 chances being created, 155 shots taken, 64 shots on target and being denied by the frame of the goal four times.
The mindset is obvious – to attack and score.
Distribution of goals
As mentioned, City are showcasing quality from every position, and the goals have been teaming in, with ten players already finding the back of the net in the first eight games.
Pep wanted a more balanced attack after last season, and a more well-rounded contribution from his wingers to support Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.
Aguero, Jesus, and Raheem Sterling all have six goals to lead the team and considering the eight games played, this is an incredible stat.
When considering the starts of each player, this stat is even more impressive; Jesus (seven), Aguero (six), Sterling (seven). Leroy Sané is playing his part with four goals thus far.
Pep’s vision is reality early in the campaign, with contributions from the wing supporting his striking options.
Quite frankly, the City attack is promising to be a consistent threat each and every week.
With so much upside from these very young attackers, Sane (21), Jesus (20), Sterling (22), the ceiling is very high for City going forward.
Most pundits and fans alike were expecting City to be confident and clinical going forward, but what has been equally impressive, and perhaps even shocking from Pep’s side this season, is the quality of overall team defence.
When City lose out in possession, they swarm to the ball in numbers, sometimes with three players on the ball to quickly recover and regain possession.
Another big difference is the quality in the fullback positions; the acquisitions of Benjamin Mendy (injured), Kyle Walker and Danilo have provided Manchester City with quality going forward, but also a healthier support when defending.
Fabian Delph too has looked capable playing on the left side of defence. John Stones seems to have shorn up his game, and we haven’t seen any errors or blips from him this year.
He has completed 97% of his passes and averaged four defensive actions per game (blocks, interceptions, clearances).
As Pep tends to get the best out of all of his players, Nicolas Otamendi too looks to be transformed, more intelligent on the ball, more confident and less rash
With captain Vincent Kompany injured yet again, the pairing of Stones and Otamendi has looked solid, helping keep five clean sheets and conceding only four goals in eight games.
Keeping goals out will be a big contributing factor to any success City have in this campaign; aiming for a potential four titles this year is a lofty goal, when scoring dries up, team defence will win this club important points in tight games.
Pep Guardiola has done his work in the transfer window and on the training ground to transform his players into a collective team.
It is obvious that his squad has fully bought into his tactical vision and plan, and are happy to contribute their best each game for their manager.
Pep has strengthened the weaknesses of last year’s team and has added a great deal of depth in every position.
A good combination of youth, experience, and players hitting their prime has City looking like the team to beat.
With rumours still swirling surrounding the addition to Alexis Sanchez, this City squad look capable of running away with the Premier League and could very well be “a Sanchez” away from European glory.
For the neutral or Citizen, there’s absolutely no better team to watch in the Premier League right now.