Pep Guardiola: How will he rebuild Manchester City in the summer?
Sunday Supplement panel debate City's task of overhauling Liverpool
Last Updated: 10/02/20 6:13am
This summer, Manchester City must find a way to get back ahead of Liverpool - but what's the scale of their task and is Pep Guardiola capable of masterminding the rebuild?
That was the debate on Sunday Supplement, as the panel assessed what's gone wrong for the defending champions this time around and Guardiola's relative inexperience at rebuilding a team.
Reports have suggested there could be significant changes at City at the end of the campaign, while there is also speculation about Guardiola's own future, with his current contract expiring at the end of next season.
Here's how the Sunday Supplement panel assessed the situation…
Next season could be Pep's last at City
Mail on Sunday chief football writer Rob Draper believes next season could be Pep Guardiola's final year with Manchester City, offering him one shot at rising above Liverpool once more…
"He's not done more than four years at a club before and his last year at Barcelona was very fraught," said Draper. "Even his relationship with Lionel Messi was beginning to break down at that stage. Even the really senior players at the club were saying it was getting very intense by the end.
"The way he plays, what he demands of them, you ask an awful lot of them. You're going to the well again and again and again. I'd be surprised if he did beyond five years, if he signed a new contract it would personally surprise me.
"He may feel that Manchester is where he wants to set himself up, that there's less pressure than being at Barcelona. It's clear being at Barcelona and being a Catalan, is a unique pressure to take on yourself.
"But we've not seen him take a club for 5-8 years before."
Key players will leave but full-backs need improving
City's task could be made harder over the next couple of years with key senior personnel such as David Silva and Sergio Aguero leaving the club, meanwhile Guardiola must make improving the full-back positions a priority, says Steve Bates, chief football writer at the Sunday People.
"They didn't replace Vincent Kompany and now Guardiola is losing David Silva," said Bates. "They have a more-or-less replacement in Phil Foden, who has huge potential. He will get that chance, there's no doubt about that.
"Then maybe in a year or 18 months or so Guardiola's going to lose Aguero. So there is going to be a churn of players.
"It's similar in a way to Manchester United's famous five (Peter Schmeichel, Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister, Paul Parker, Denis Irwin) suddenly disappeared and United were left with a huge problem in replacing those players and sometimes you just can't.
"Where he's fallen down this season is he didn't identify the issue of losing Kompany and he couldn't bargain for the fact that Aymeric Laporte was going to be injured for most of the season and has been hugely influential on City dropping off.
"The way City play demands every single player in that team, particularly his full-backs, have to be at it, 90 minutes, every single game and they haven't been.
"Kyle Walker hasn't been as good. Joao Cancelo hasn't delivered. There are question marks over Benjamin Mendy, Oleksandr Zinchenko is in and out. There are big issues for him to address and he's going to have to rebuild that team."
Overhaul or clever tweaks?
In contrast, Jason Burt, chief football correspondent at the Telegraph, argued City's squad doesn't need major surgery and the scale of their problems shouldn't be exaggerated.
"I don't think there's much wrong with City," Burt said. "Two or three players need to be replaced. People talk about an overhaul of the team and a spending spree but they can't do that anyway because it's going to cost too much money and FFP is going to kick in.
"They can move players on - Leroy Sane will generate quite a bit of cash for them. There are older players there but it's a strategic approach - change two or three positions and they'll be fine.
"I don't think they're that far off. Last Sunday I was at Tottenham and they absolutely destroyed Tottenham. They were that little bit off what they used to be.
"It won't take a lot to change it again. Maybe it needs Guardiola to commit himself and that might just settle everything down. I think it's more a question of fine tuning rather than a huge change."
The Liverpool problem…
However, whether City opt for major changes or smaller adjustments, the level of Liverpool will be a key factor in how Guardiola's side fare next season. Draper believes returning to the pinnacle of English football will be no easy task for City while Jurgen Klopp's men are performing so well.
"In a normal season City wouldn't be in a crisis now, they'd be in a title race," said Draper. "But then you're assuming next season Liverpool are going to fall away. If Liverpool put two or three seasons together playing like this then Man City are going to struggle to keep up with them.
"I'm not sure Pep Guardiola is the kind of manager who likes going into seasons where he thinks he's going to finish second best. To get back to the 100-point season they have quite a bit of work to do.
"It's ridiculous to say they're a terrible club because clearly they're second in the table, and they got 198 points over the last two seasons, so they can't be miles away but they do have work to do to get up to Liverpool's standard.
"They have to go into the market to do it and they are constrained in the market. So it's not entirely clear how they're going to do it."