Four issues for Pep Guardiola as first Man City players return
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Pep Guardiola will begin work with Manchester City players this week ahead of the new season.
Chief among the priorities will be the defence of their Premier League title, while if they are able to progress to the knockout rounds again the Champions League will again loom large at the business end of the campaign.
As he starts up again at a training ground that has already been partially closed after an outbreak of Covid-19 among academy players and staff, the City manager will be acutely aware of the issues he faces – both footballing and otherwise – with a squad that is still awaiting any major acquisitions despite the bullish transfer talk of his employers.
Here is a look at some of the tasks on his to-do list for the next few weeks at the City Football Academy.
Implement any new ideas
City will likely never get more time on the training pitches together uninterrupted than in this four-week period ahead of the new season.
Granted, they won’t have anything close to a full squad but with the Carabao Cup and FA Cup potentially adding even more matches back into the campaign the priority when the campaigns get going will more often than not be recuperation.
Innovation is never far away with Guardiola – who has had two international tournaments to get ideas from this summer. The players effectively learnt how to switch formations within matches and incorporate three at the back during the 2018 pre-season while Bernardo Silva had a new role drilled into him the following year.
City’s lack of a pre-season last September contributed to their poor start and they won’t want to run into similar issues this year.
City were publicly adamant last summer that there was a world-class talent in Benjamin Mendy despite his injury hell, although you wonder how much of that comes down to the fact it has been impossible to find a buyer for him without taking a major hit.
The French defender will be one of the first players back this season given he is one of the few that wasn’t involved at a major tournament, and Pep Guardiola will have to include him in his plans again unless a big offer comes unexpectedly out of the blue.
Mendy has continued to say the right things about his preparations for the campaign over the past few months after a senseless disregard for the Covid situation at the end of December.
If the Blues can unlock the potential that he showed before his injuries, it would solve a recurring headache for them.
Change the plan for Preston
City have known about their upcoming friendly with Preston next Tuesday for much of the summer, but the plan to include a lot of academy players to try some out and bulk up the squad has been hit by the Covid outbreak at the training ground.
As well as needing certainty that there is no lingering cross-contamination for his first team stars, the manager may need to rethink exactly who is going to get minutes against the Championship side in the first warmup game.
Integrate the new coach
Carlos Vicens will need little introduction to many of the first team squad but the former Under-18s boss is working with the senior players for the first time after being bumped up from the academy.
He has been given set pieces as part of his remit after Nicolas Jover’s departure for Arsenal, something of a poisoned chalice given how small the majority of the group are! Guardiola could not speak highly enough of the impact Juanma Lillo had after joining the backroom staff following the first lockdown, and another fresh face will look to make an instant impact.
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