matt’s corner

The Big Question: Can Manchester City go on to greater things next season?

City’s players are gaining valuable experience together and are arguably still gelling as a side

19:05 April 16, 2018
Manchester City's Gabriel Jesus

Gulf News Sport Reporter Ashley Hammond says 'YES'

Despite romping to League Cup and Premier League honours this season, there will be that nagging feel of a job half-done after Manchester City crashed out in the Champions League quarter-final to Liverpool and Wigan in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

Things fell apart towards the end, they couldn’t manage to hang on in all formats despite lofty expectations and their obvious abilities; and it will be this that smarts over the summer prompting players and the boardroom to redouble their efforts next season.

In a way, this is a blessing in disguise, as to have had it all so early into Pep Guardiola’s tenure — this is only his second season — would have killed desire, and invited complacency.

But, now the need is still there and it’s coupled with confidence and hurt, which is a dangerous formula.

City’s players are still also very young. They are gaining valuable experience together and are arguably still gelling as a side.

They seem to be growing under Guardiola’s guidance. And all seem to be happy and willing to stay there for the long-term, safe in the knowledge that they are onto something special under the Spaniard, which I suspect is a decade of domination.

The same cannot be said of other teams. Chelsea and Manchester United look set to be switching coaches again, which will lead to an inevitable re-bedding in next season; and Liverpool are an inconsistent feeder club, who are regularly forced to sell after one decent season.

In Europe as well, Real Madrid and Barcelona, with their ageing heroes Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, are coming to the end of their cycle, and City are the only club as finely poised to prosper in their void.

Whether all this will come together as early as next season remains to be seen. But three years seems to be the standard for coaches fully bedding in, and Guardiola and his charges are only on an upward climb.

I can’t see them going backwards from here and going forwards only constitutes reclaiming the Premier League and reaching at least the last four in Europe. All of which seems pretty manageable given their quality. In fact they should have gone all the way in Europe this year, but they won’t be the sort to sit and dwell.

Matthew Smith, Deputy Editor Sports says 'NO' 

There is no doubting, in my opinion, that Manchester City are by far the best and most consistent team in England. They have swept aside supposed European footballing superpowers without shifting out of second gear at times.

But therein lies their problem as such dominance can be hard to follow with that tricky second season as champs.

When you reach the height of your limits there is only one way to go. Down.

Liverpool are not too far behind City in terms of attacking, free-flowing football. Under a manager, Jurgen Klopp, who seems to know exactly how to get the better of Pep Guardiola, will be a real force to be reckoned with next season, if not this one as they prepare for their Champions League semi-final against Roma.

While the Anfield club look like they still have more to offer, these past few weeks have shown a few familiar frailties in the City armoury.

They leaked nine goals and lost three games before the welcome and much-needed win over Tottenham Hotspur as the weekend (even then, they were wobbling at times). The defence, regardless of who is playing at the back, is often exposed and prone to errors, and Guardiola does not seem to have found a solution to that while still playing his attacking brand of football.

More teams will exploit this as they see how easily Liverpool cut them open in both ties of their Champions League quarter-final.

Gone as the 5-0s and 6-0s from earlier this season, and that is because more sides now have the measure of City’s style of play and hit them on the break.

Surely Chelsea and Arsenal will not be nearly as lacklustre next season as they have been this campaign, and both should have new managers in place to revitalise their squads.

Manchester United will also not sit back as the noisy neighbours have taken top spot in Manchester and England, and ever the bridesmaid, Spurs will also be determined to find that winning formula.

No one team has defended the Premier League title since the days of Sir Alex Ferguson. That will continue as the target has been painted on City’s back and, sooner or later next season, they will fall.