Man City 2019/2020 season report card: B – Strategy 'Buy the Title' failed to work
Ok fine, two times out of three it can. It CAN also help you break UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules and get away with it. And yes, it’s usually better to have oil-backed resources to spend, rather than always having to resort to scrounging around the back of your sofa for loose change.
But the key is this – you have to spend your money wisely. And that is precisely what Man City failed to do this season.
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And so, they lost their EPL title to Liverpool. More unforgivably, however, they were unable to give the Reds a proper challenge, as Jurgen Klopp’s men more or less wrapped up the league title by the end of January.
It’s unacceptable, especially when you consider that the Citizens had spent over £130m (S$231m) on new signings the previous summer, while Liverpool spent the equivalent cost of a pack of low-grade potato chips on the likes of Adrian and Andy Lonergan.
The problem for Man City was that a large chunk of their transfer kitty (S$105m) went into buying right-back Joao Cancelo, a player who apparently has serious duddy issues. No, that’s not a typo.
And while midfielder Rodri has shown some promise, he’s not really worth S$113m now, is he?
What Man City really should have invested in was on another solid centre-back, either as a partner or a back-up for Aymeric Laporte, who, as it turned out, was injured for the majority of the season.
Hindsight is always 20/20, yes, but even without the injury to Laporte, Man City really shouldn’t have counted on the brittle John Stones and erratic Nicolas Otamendi to tide them through the season anyway. That’s like counting on Liverpool fans to practice restraint and not rub their EPL title victory in the faces of their Manchester United-supporting counterparts.
WATCH: John Stones frustrated with injury-hit campaign
Ill-advised transfer strategy aside, arguably the biggest worry for Man City is that Pep Guardiola seems to have lost his magic touch.
Yes, Guardiola still had Man City playing his favoured mechanical possession-based football throughout the season. And yes, on their day, Man City are nigh-on impossible to stop. Just ask poor Norwich City, whose parting gift from the EPL was a 5-0 rout by Man City.
But those days are getting rarer. Opposing teams now know how to stop the Man City juggernaut: sit deep, keep compact, and hit them on the break down the flanks when their wing-backs are in the final third.
That’s right – the key to beating Man City is simply to ‘Park the bus’. Somewhere in North London, Jose Mourinho is beaming with pride.
And Guardiola, ever so often the genius innovator, has yet to find a counter to this tactic. Worse still, he no longer seems able to coax his players into giving that little bit more on the pitch, which can make all the difference in a tight game.
The league table, as they say, does not lie. Finishing 18 points behind champions Liverpool is not good enough for a club like Man City. Losing nine games in a season is a travesty – for context, their arch-rivals Manchester United lost eight games, while everyone’s favourite EPL comedians, Arsenal, only lost one game more than Man City did.
Granted, Man City did win the Carabao Cup, and are in pole position to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, so this season is not a complete bust for them.
We all know that cup football is a fickle lover at best, and success in the Champions League is still far from guaranteed for Man City, given that the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona are still in the competition. And winning the Carabao Cup is like going to McDonalds and receiving an extra nugget in your 6pc Nugget meal by mistake – it’s nice, and it helps brighten up your day, but you’re not going to run around the place celebrating and high-fiving everyone just because you got that bonus nugget.
WATCH: Behind the scenes of Man City’s Carabao Cup success
There was only ever one position for Man City to finish in the EPL that would have been considered acceptable, and that was first. That they were unable to do so means that an ‘A’ for them was completely out of the question.
Having said that, finishing second in an increasingly competitive league is not to be sniffed at. Neither is scoring a whopping 102 goals – the most in the league – over 38 games. And when they get into the groove, they really are a joy to watch, especially in attack.
The fear for Man City, though, is that with this irrepressible Liverpool side keen on, and very much capable of, establishing an era of dominance, with United looking to be on the mend, and with Chelsea dancing on the grave of FFP and spending money like a drunken sailor, they are likely to have a much tougher fight for the EPL title next season.
With no David Silva to call upon any longer, and with Fernandinho in the twilight years of his career, Man City could very well find themselves being left behind by their rivals if they aren't careful.
So, even though their strategy of buying the title failed to work this season, they have no choice but to spend big again in this transfer window in order to build a title-winning squad.
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This time, however, they must do it wisely – or they’ll only have bonus nuggets to celebrate again next season.