Manchester City supporters never anticipated the start of the season like before. In the summer of 2016, new signings, the world’s best manager and the feel good factor were all installed at the Etihad Stadium over the three-month close season.
Pep Guardiola spent a significant amount of money to ensure his stamp and authority was placed on the first-team. But how well have these players progressed the side?
Here’s a comprehensive look at each of City’s new signings and whether they must deliver next season or else be labelled a ‘flop’.
Claudio Bravo 4/10:
There was little excitement surrounding the Chilean goalkeepers move from Barcelona, but he represented an essential cog into Pep Guardiola’s idealistic Manchester City machine – playing out from the back at all costs.
Thrown in at the deep end (a derby away at Old Trafford) he struggled to cope with the physicality from crosses. After infamously parrying a simple catch which led to a Manchester United goal; this set the precedence for the rest of the campaign as he struggled to deal with simple shots and crosses.
However, there is a certain level of poignancy that his Manchester City career started by dropping a cross against United, and it has potentially ended with him catching one in the return fixture. Subsequently, the season-ending cross came after he injured himself in the process – it remains to be seen what the goalkeeping situation will be like next season, but there will be many scratching their heads if it is Claudio Bravo lining up as number one.
John Stones 7/10:
Another player brought in to perform a particular role for Guardiola’s system, Stones, however, symbolised a long-term project for the Catalonian, and one whom he hopes will mould into one of the best ball-playing centre-halves in Europe.
John Stones has relished at the opportunity to be playing at football’s highest level, and at times, has completely fitted in. His composed nature when on the ball and effortlessly looking ability to prevent danger before it’s seemingly begun, Stones has proved the critics wrong who believed this step up would be too much and convinced he’d crumble and fail.
A few slip-ups along the way, most notably at home against Southampton when his stray ball put through Nathan Redmond to score, but these are inevitable when playing such high-risk football. By eradicating these errors now, John Stones is guaranteed a long and illustrious career with the Blues.
İlkay Gündoğan 7/10:
All the talk surrounding the Germany international’s transfer to the Blues was questioning whether or not, a player who had been plagued by injuries, could stay fit and efficiently contribute to the Manchester City engine room – it proved to be too much to ask.
A late introduction, due to having to nurse a prolonged injury carried over from his time at Borussia Dortmund, Gündoğan added new depth to the squad and dynamism to a midfield which was desperately lacking such assets – he adapted perfectly to the fast-paced, end to end style of English football.
His finest hour being two goals, either side of half-time in a demolition of Barcelona during the Champions League group stage. But it was a sorrow and premature end to the season when he was taken off against Watford in December – a significant loss as he was a player who had shown so many signs of positivity and optimism for the blues.
He now faces a race against time to be fit for pre-season training come early July, but one thing is for certain when the dynamic midfielder returns it will have the feel of a whole new signing again.
Leroy Sane 9/10:
Another acquisition from the Bundesliga, Leroy Sane injected a style of play which had been absent from the Manchester City attacking line up for years; sheer raw pace, a killer instinct and an abundance of directness.
The German got off to a relatively underwhelming start, a cameo appearance on his debut against Manchester United; his first touch always seemingly tetchy and nervous and his final ball often astray – nobody could’ve imagined how well the winger has flourished since.
Nine goals and five assists later, Sane has become an integral part of Manchester City’s attack, even being nominated for the PFA young player of the year award, despite the disappointing start. Leroy has shown the credentials to be one of Europe’s greatest players in coming years; Manchester City is the perfect platform for him to reach his potential.
Out of all the summer acquisitions, Nolito began the most promising; seamlessly fitting into a fledgeling system, the Spaniard hit the back of the net three times in his first three appearances, clarifying just why his signature was so highly sought after in the summer. However, this good form wasn’t to last as a petulant ‘head-but’ against Bournemouth disrupted this encouraging start.
A measly three extra goals in twenty-seven appearances since, amidst being publicly criticised by his manager, Nolito’s influence has slowly faded away, completing the transformation from one of the first names on the team sheet at the start of the season, to struggling even to make the bench towards the end of it.
Nolito is another debutant this season who’s City career hangs in the balance going into a summer which will almost certainly bring about a radical change in the City ranks; now 30 years old, the days seem limited for the out of favour attacker.
Gabriel Jesus 8.5/10:
Anticipation had already peaked when the Brazilian starlet took to the pitch for the first time against Tottenham in late January; months of expectation and excitement surrounding the 19-year-olds acquisition from Palmeiras, and he didn’t disappoint.
Three chances and one offside goal in his first thirty minutes in a blue shirt multiplied the eagerness and suspense over the forward, and he took a little time to settle in fully. An impressive three goals in his first three Premier League starts set the precedence going into the business end of the season; Jesus seemed to provide the missing link for a side which had misfired for most of the season – a final piece of the jigsaw.
All of this until a broken foot brought an abrupt end to his honeymoon period in Manchester – a reality check after an incredible start. Injuries to City’s most prolific strikers are something the blue faithful have become accustomed to, but losing the impotence gained from Jesus was nightly damaging to any hopes of a late title challenge.
On his return, Gabriel Jesus slotted in as he had never been away. Effortlessly adapting once again to the Blues’ style of play, but there is an overwhelming feeling, echoed by Guardiola himself, as to what could have been if the Brazilian had stayed fit; an epitome of Manchester City’s season, personifying the ‘what ifs’.