Manchester City face uncertain road ahead this summer
There is a certainty to Manchester City.
A club built with the long-term in mind, very rarely do they stray from the principles Pep Guardiola has drilled into them. Even when trailing Aston Villa by two goals in a game they simply had to win, very little changed, aside from perhaps the urgency with which it was done.
All game, City had done what they tend to do best. Pulling the opposition wide and looking for balls across the box, it’s just that – until the triple substitution which saw Oleksandr Zinchenko, Raheem Sterling and Ilkay Gundogan come on – there was no one to offer any kind of threat.
Ultimately, the process would pay off and normal service was resumed. The thrill of that five-minute comeback cannot be understated of course, but it was the most predictable of outcomes done in the most predictable of ways.
Indeed, the sight of Guardiola’s side lifting the Premier League title on Sunday evening is as predictable as it comes. They are simply too good, too rich and too powerful for anybody else over a 38-game League campaign when they are at their best.
This summer, however, is interesting in its uncertainty.
Erling Haaland’s imminent arrival is fascinating. On paper, the signing of a lethal striker should – and most probably will – complete this team, although Guardiola’s patchy record when it comes to working with players of his type is worth considering.
The type of signing City have rarely tended to make, it is not out of the realms of possibility there are some teething problems.
Elsewhere, the departure of Fernandinho means another defensive signing is needed. Given how long Rodri took to adapt, the idea of finding another player so capable of acting as a deputy seems remote.
When injuries struck during their Champions League run-in, much was made about the lack of options in Guardiola’s squad. Now, City aren’t likely to get any sympathy on that front having spent so much money, as well as where those funds come from, but it is true to an extent.
Sterling and Gundogan, two of the heroes of the final day, are both being linked away as they approach the final year of their contracts. Gabriel Jesus, meanwhile, looks the player to make way for Haaland, although part of the Brazilian’s charm is his ability to play across the frontline.
Bernardo Silva was another who has seemed set for an exit on numerous occasions, with the Portugal international understood to be keen on a fresh challenge.
Obviously, City have the means to replace all of these players, although doing so in every position over the course of just one summer seems hugely unlikely.
That’s not to suggest they will lack options necessarily, but with Liverpool having so much strength in depth, it’s far from an ideal situation. For many of the individuals to have taken the club to so much success under Guardiola, it is starting to look like the end of the road.
Building great squad after great squad is what set Sir Alex Ferguson apart. It might be hard to argue the legendary Scot was as an astute a tactical mind as Guardiola or Jurgen Klopp, but his longevity is what puts him above even the best names in European football.
Klopp, at least, has already started the process as Liverpool continue to make smart signings to pad out their squad. Haaland is the first step for City but there’s a long way to go and an awful lot of important decisions to make at once.
For the first time in the Guardiola era, it’s not quite certain which way it will go.