Ever since he lifted that first UEFA Champions League trophy in Rome in 2009, the world has been clamouring for Pep Guardiola.
The suave Spaniard had moulded his boyhood club FC Barcelona into a new breed of pass masters and in turn contributed to an international dominance by Spain not seen since the turn of the century.
It seemed destined that he would one day manage in the Premier League and after an average spell in Germany, he arrived at Manchester City tasked with turning them into England’s dominant club but as of yet, it hasn’t happened.
After a disappointing first season finishing a distant third and crashing out of Europe at the Round of 16 stage to Monaco, the stage seemed set for Pep to correct the balance.
City hit the reset button massively in the summer, out with the deadwood, a whole new collection of full-backs, a new goalkeeper and another attacking trinket but has it changed anything?
Across the city, their biggest rivals for the title seem to have their house in order, Victor Lindelof adds to an iffy backline, Nemanja Matic adds much-needed bite and steel to the midfield as well as unleashing their deadliest creator in Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku replaces Zlatan Ibrahimovic as well as adding pace to an attack that was far too static last season with the Swede in the team.
It’s far too easy to judge, of course, but it’s noted that United have won their first two games 4-0 and played a blistering attacking style that’s set them apart from the rest of the league, installing them as early title favourites.
City in turn, have dominated both games in terms of possession but struggled to break down the teams in front of them and their brand new defence still seems to share the fallibilities of its predecessors.
Already Ederson has shown himself to be beatable at corners as evidenced by a shaky few moments against Brighton on week one and, much like Claudio Bravo, was beaten by the first shot on target against Everton in his home debut.
Whilst Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin gave the back three real problems as well as seeing new wing-back Kyle Walker sent-off in the first-half for two yellow cards.
Add that to the fact that Pep’s City seems horribly misbalanced, the en vogue three at the back may eventually aid players like John Stones and Nicholas Otamendi who are prone to defensive errors, but further forward it limits the likes of Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, neither man really cut out to be wing-backs or inside forwards.
Pep Guardiola. Has more money spent on full backs than any manager ever then starts Leroy Sane on the left of his defence… #MCIEVE
— Duncan Castles (@DuncanCastles) August 21, 2017
Bernardo Silva, David Silva and Kevin de Bruyne are all vying for a similar role as the lead playmaker with the new Silva having to settle for a spot on the bench so far this season.
Going into the new season, a lot of people tipped Manchester City for the title due to their array of attacking talents but in their first two games they’ve shown they still have defensive deficiencies, just like the season previous and their three new full-backs don’t seem to change that, with a lot of the problems lying in the middle.
Whilst Manchester United have kept two clean sheets so far and Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur showed last season that they are set up very well defensively, Guardiola’s team look closer to Arsenal and Liverpool in defensive ineptitude and that might be the thing that costs them as the season goes on.
With the likes of Virgil Van Dijk and Benedikt Howedes supposedly on the market, it’s almost surprising that the only defender City are linked with is former Manchester United title winner Jonny Evans who seems most likely to be Pep’s Manchester City version of Dmytro Chygrynskiy.
Especially when it’s a position that is vital to City contending this season, captain Kompany is unreliable due to his injury record and Stones and Otamendi still look vulnerable under pressure.
Behind them are Elaquim Mangala who’s never looked comfortable in a City shirt and Jason Denayer who was last season relegated with Sunderland, if City lose one of their three centre-backs, especially if it’s Kompany, they are in desperate trouble.
Guardiola failed to deliver a European crown at Bayern Munich after inheriting Jupp Heynckes’ treble winners and some may conclude that means his spell in Germany was a failure despite the domestic dominance, if he can’t crack the Premier League this season with another squad moulded entirely in his image, he’s in danger of having his prior achievements entirely undermined.