Article By +Ryan George Goodman
After 1703 days in charge, Pep Guardiola’s Man City reign is over. In four and a half seasons ruling half of Manchester, he oversees several runner-up campaigns in the Premier League and two cup wins but never achieves massive success. With Man City dropping down the league, the board grew impatient and on 28th of Feb 2021, Pep is relieved of his position and I am named as the favourite.
The Man City job comes along at an interesting time in my career. In the same period that Pep struggled to hit big success at City, I take Inter to 3 consecutive domestic doubles and a Europa League win in the first season. I interview for the City post and as things look positive I start to seriously consider it. The media reiterate that there would be a lot of money to play with, something that is hard to come by at Inter, unless I keep selling my star players. I also consider what else I can achieve at Inter as Champions League success seems unrealistic without major investment. I ask City to wait until the end of the season so we can complete the fourth domestic double – which they oblige.
We win the league and cup for the fourth year running and I leave Inter a day after the cup final to start my journey at City, beginning to pick up the pieces from Pep.
Man City finish 6th in the league and looking at the squad it is easy to see why. Pep seemed like a FIFA player going mad on career mode buying top players from all of their rivals. Players like Coutinho, Firminho and Lewandowski joined the already impressive roster of attackers like De Bruyne, Sane and Sterling. There’s even more quality in the squad with stars such as Saul and Joao Mario. Creating a balanced squad is going to be a challenge.
As amazing as the attack seemed, the defence hadn’t had as much attention. John Stones and Otemendi were the last remaining players at the club from present day Man City. As good as Stones can be – he’s definitely not good enough to carry the defence in difficult games. The great attack could only take the team so far, the lack of defensive reinforcements showed where Pep might have gone wrong.
First port of call was to find out what the budget was and where I needed to improve. Immediately the defence was a primary target, as well as a dominant central midfielder. I was quite keen on going back to Inter and grabbing some trusted players but I know that would come at a cost.
I was salivating on what budget I was getting, when I joined it said £6M and I was certain that would improve when expectations were set – I was sadly disappointed.
With only a small amount of money to spend I knew I would have to sell to buy, and that would include a lot of work and tough choices. Big bids come in for Firminho, Saul and De Bruyne. We hold off on selling De Bruyne as we see him as an integral part of the squad. Firminho doesn’t impress in the first couple of friendlies and as I’m designing the tactics, he doesn’t fit as well as others. We take the opportunity to cash in and get some money to improve other areas of the squad. Saul leaves for a big £40M to Dortmund and we manage to fob off Kondogbia (who I also fobbed off at Inter too, probably hated the fact I joined) for a decent fee.
Moving to the premier league presents a lot of new issues and questions. I rock up with no current league knowledge, only that United have been dominant, and try to implement the same system that did me well at Inter. The issue with that is that the players don’t all fit in the system. Despite some rocky performances in pre-season and a couple of small tweaks, we stick with it. I’ve made a rod for my own back though, as I end up needing to do a lot of business.
The problem areas in the squad is the defence and goalkeeper. Usual number one Geronimo Rulli is a target for Juve and has his head turned. With other deals on going, we decide to sell. The second-choice goalkeeper is nowhere near the calibre we need him to be, so we must look elsewhere.
In comes Fabrizio Bertini, an Inter youth product who had a fairly successful loan spell in the Premier League the previous season. He’s highly rated with a lot of potential and has some experience in the Premier League. He doesn’t immediately seem like a No.1 which is a concern, and we pay for the potential.
Stat wise, he’s a decent player at 20 years old and if I’m a success at Man City he’ll be a long serving player, starting in the cups but eventually becoming the No.1
In other transfer business, Cesar Azpilicueta becomes available for around £3M and having previously been a target while at Inter, we snap him up, allowing us room to get rid of Clyne, making a small profit on the position in the process.
Letting Saul and Kondogbia go means I need a trustworthy midfielder to fit into the team. After looking around a little, we go back to Inter again and go after Sergi Darder. He’s a great central midfielder who can play both deep lying playmaker and does a serviceable job in the box to box role.
He costs a bomb equalling £38M, but I know I can rely on him to do a job. He’s got a good few years ahead of him too which should equal the cost out.
We visit Inter again for a cheap centre back to go alongside John Stones, substituting for the outgoing Otemendi.
Niklas Sule has been in my squads since I started at Inter and has proven in the past that given a run in the team, he’s a great option. Costing £17.5M it’s a relatively cheap option in the grand scheme of defenders around the world.
The only other business we do before the start of the season is Joao Mario leaving the club for a cool £20M. For all of the Inter players I bring into the club, I certainly don’t like keeping ones around that have been around prior to my arrival.
With all of the business done and pre-season over, it’s time to start the season with what we’ve got.
All of our new signings slip in to the team straight away. Without a true No.1 around, Bertini starts and it’s a big test. Sule comes in to and is there to cover when Azpilicueta pushes forward. Coutinho starts on the left as an Attacking Playmaker and Lewandowski is a Complete Forward set for Attack. We’re attack focused and with such a massive gap in the Everton midfield, we should be able to split them open if we play to the tempo that I want.
It’s my first Premier League game and in all honesty, I’m bricking it. This is a different test and I’ve left a domination Inter Milan team to try and restore Man City to glory – and it all starts here.