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Manchester City

The development of Leroy Sane under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City

Jake Jackman

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Sane

The Pep Guardiola era was always going to be one filled with exciting, swash-buckling football, but the first season was one of transition for Manchester City.

Although it took time for the players to adapt to the Spaniard’s style of play, it was worth the wait, as they are now leading the Premier League by five points after nine rounds of matches and their position is justified. They have the best attack, with 32 goals scored, and the joint-best defence, with only four goals conceded.

Although the former Barcelona and Manchester City manager was criticised for his poor first campaign in charge, he will have predicted an initial struggle. He took over an ageing squad and, ultimately, the players at the time were not able to succeed with his style of play.

One of Guardiola’s first signings as manager at the Etihad Stadium, in an attempt to restore a sense of youth at the Etihad, was exciting young Schalke winger Leroy Sane, who played a key role in the team’s win over Burnley this weekend. The 21-year-old played on the left-wing as part of a front three and he was difficult to deal with for the Clarets.

Sean Dyche’s Burnley are well-drilled and regarded as one of the best defensive teams outside of the top six, but the movement and physicality of the 21-year-old German proved too much for them. He is full of energy on the pitch and always looks to make a positive contribution when he has possession on the ball.

His pace added to his upper body strength and technical ability make him an incredible dribbler of the ball. There are few better in the Premier League once he finds his stride and he was at his best on Saturday. During the match, he completed six dribbles and was a live-wire throughout.

His end product was threatening as he attempted two shots and made two key passes against the Clarets, contributing a goal and an assist during his side’s 3-0 win.

Sane’s goal displayed his greatest strengths as an attacker. Kevin de Bruyne played an excellent through ball to the German, who raced clear of the Burnley defence. He then took the ball in his stride and finished confidently into the bottom corner.

It was a well-taken strike and underlined the threat that he poses when there is space behind the opposition defence. Meanwhile, his assist as he delivered a very good corner that was met by Nicolas Otamendi. There were two pieces of class from the German and both led to goals.

How has Guardiola got the best out of him?

The Spaniard’s managerial methods have been widely discussed and it is well-known that he asks for a lot from his players. Guardiola is a perfectionist and he expects the same from the individuals under his charge.

Leroy Sane was signed at the age of 20 for a fee of £37 million. It was seen as an expensive deal at the time, but the City boss clearly believed that he could develop into a leading Premier League player.

His time at Bayern Munich would have alerted him to the talent of Sane and BBC Sport reported the following comments from the manager when the transfer was first announced:

“He is a special talent and an exciting player that I think our supporters will enjoy watching.”

“He is fast, enjoys creating chances for others, works hard for the team and scores goals too. He also has a very positive attitude and will fit in well.”

It was obvious that Guardiola was a huge fan of the winger and it is interesting that he alludes to the attacker’s positive attitude, as this is a key attribute that every player must have if they are to succeed under the Spaniard. As stated above, he demands the world from his players and they must be willing to trust him in order to benefit from his coaching.

The fee was high for a youngster with his limited experience, but Guardiola was buying a player with potential that he could mould to suit City’s needs. His pace and power made him a good profile for the Premier League. Although he didn’t have an immediate impact, he worked hard on the training ground and earned his opportunity.

At the beginning of 2017, Sane was starting to make a name for himself in the first-team and became one of the first players on the team-sheet. However, his manager was keen to keep his feet firmly on the ground. He said the following to Sky Sports after he scored against Sunderland in March.

“We can’t expect at 21 years old that he is done. He still has to perform for 90 minutes, in the game sometimes he can disappear a bit but that is part of the process.

“That is why it is nice to work with young players because you can imagine how they can become better in the next few years.”

Sane will be remembered as the first player of Guardiola’s generation to arrive at Manchester City and the manager’s comments above show the process of development that the attacker is going through. This came at a time when the German was being praised in the media, but his manager wanted to remind him of the long-term process.

Despite featuring in all nine Premier League matches to date this season, Sane did not have a good pre-season and Guardiola openly commented on that to the press, with ESPN reporting the following quotes from the manager on the 21-year-old:

“He didn’t make a good preseason, he wasn’t good in the first games of preseason. He didn’t deserve to play.”

This was a reminder to Sane that he needs to continue applying himself and looking to improve, rather than get complacent after a good first season in England. A lot of young players make a similar error, but Guardiola spotted it early and punished the attacker for poor performances. The response from the 21-year-old shows maturity and underlines his elite level personality that attracted Manchester City in the first place.

During the opening nine matches, Sane has played a key role in Manchester City’s success in attack with five goals and four assists. He is currently contributing a goal every 55.3 minutes, which is superb for a player of his age.

It has been a delight to watch Sane’s development over the last 12 months, as he has grown physically, technically and mentality. His end product is now more consistent, while his ability to bounce back from criticism or a setback marks him as a top-tier talent. He is still at an early stage of his career and has already established himself as a leading Premier League attacker.

For those that doubt Guardiola, just look at the growth of the former Schalke winger over the last 12 months as that is evidence of the manager’s ability to develop elite-level talent.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Manchester City

Manchester City must guard against complacency

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Photo: Reuters

Manchester City have been absolutely fantastic this season after they failed to pick up any silverware last term, the first time Pep Guardiola has gone a whole season as manager without winning a trophy of some description.

It looked like the Premier League leaders would become the second side to complete an invincible campaign but Liverpool ended their hopes of that with a classic 4-3 win.

After the weekend’s action, the Citizens have a 16-point lead over 2nd-placed Manchester United but must make sure they don’t let that slip away.

It is an extremely tough task for any of the Premier League’s top sides if they want to catch the Citizens but they certainly shouldn’t lose hope of closing that substantial gap.

In the two games after losing to Jürgen Klopp’s side, Man City didn’t falter and scored six goals to earn six more points but in the third match, they failed to beat a resilient Burnley unit.

They drew 1-1 which was disappointing after taking the lead from a scorching Danilo strike in the first-half.

The two results against the Clarets and Liverpool have showed that Pep Guardiola hasn’t built a completely bulletproof team.

The two matches that they have dropped points in since the New Year were against very different teams.

Liverpool are sublime going forward but leave a lot to be desired for at the back, while Burnley are an incredibly tight defensive squad with little cutting edge in attack.

The latter relied on an 82nd-minute ‘smash-and-grab’ equaliser while the former overcame City with a furious nine-minute spell in which they scored three goals to put the fixture beyond doubt.

This should give confidence to every other team in the league as a side who aren’t considered by anyone as one of the Premier League’s ‘big teams’ managed to take points from them.

Man City are facing a few tough fixtures in the league as well as some congestion as they are still fighting on four fronts.

Their next four matches are in four different competitions with one in both the FA Cup and the EFL Cup, and their first leg of the last 16 in the Champions League, before a return to Premier League action.

Their two league games after next week are against Arsenal and Chelsea and while wins in those would be considered as them getting one hand on the title, they could easily slip up.

You can get 21/5  for Chelsea to beat City on Sunday 4th March. For a Man City win, punters can get 8/13 and 29/10 if it’s a Draw.

You can have Man City to beat the Blues in your 5+ Acca Insurance with Coral Betting and if one of your legs lets you down, you’ll receive your stake back.

To win the Premier League, Pep Guardiola’s side currently sit at odds of 1/500, so you’re likely to find more value in the race for the top four, where you can back Chelsea at evens and Arsenal at a HUGE 14/1.

You can also check the best betting offers here like £20 Deposit Bonus by Coral or bet £10 and get £30 by 888Sport.

With four matches in the space of three weeks, including the EFL Cup final and a Champions League match, Manchester City might encounter some injuries and that could be their undoing in the games against Chelsea and Arsenal.

The two London sides have certainly got their problems but the Gunners look like a different animal with a couple of very good January signings while Chelsea can be absolutely fantastic if all of their players are fit and firing, especially Eden Hazard who has been linked with a move to Man City.

Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side are in an unbelievable position to go on and win their third Premier League title but as their Spanish boss has said, they aren’t over the line yet and still have a lot of work to do over the next 12 matches.

It would be unimaginable for them to let their lead at the top of the table slip but a run of poor results or a bad set of injured players and they could be in a bit of trouble.

However, they are still on for a sublime quadruple and at the end of this month they have the chance to win their first piece of silverware in the EFL Cup final against Arsenal.

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Leicester City

Manchester City 5-1 Leicester City: Sergio Aguero issues timely reminder to Pep Guardiola

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the Etihad as Manchester City dismantled challengers Leicester City, 5-1, to continue their pursuit of the Premier League title.

Rob Meech

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Manchester City
Photo: Reuters

Sergio Aguero scored four second-half goals as Manchester City blitzed Leicester City to take another step towards the Premier League title.

Raheem Sterling’s third-minute opener was cancelled out by Jamie Vardy, as both teams went into half-time level-pegging.

Then came the fireworks.

Aguero netted his first on 48 minutes before putting another three past Kasper Schmeichel, with his fourth and final goal coming on the 90-minute mark.

City’s victory, coupled with Manchester United’s surprising 1-0 defeat to Newcastle United, extended their advantage at the top to the table to 16 points.

Leicester, meanwhile, remain in eighth spot despite enduring a torrid evening at the hands of Aguero and co.

Here are three talking points…

Aguero issues a timely reminder to Pep Guardiola

There is only one place to start.

At times, this has been a difficult season for the Argentinian sharpshooter, who has often played second fiddle to Gabriel Jesus in the crunch fixtures and cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines.

However, the Brazilian’s injury opened the door for Aguero and he has barged through, reminding Pep Guardiola why he can still play a major role as City fight on three fronts; in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League.

Aguero was at his predatory best against a Leicester side that were far too accommodating in the second period and, with Kevin de Bruyne pulling the strings in behind, the Argentine has the perfect foil.

All the talk right now is about Harry Kane, but Aguero is only two goals behind the Tottenham man in the goalscoring charts, after netting in his seventh straight game at the Etihad.

This tally has also seen the 29-year-old surpass 20 goals for the fourth successive season.

Off-field issues undermine Leicester

With such a major distraction off the pitch this week, a visit to the runaway leaders was not the ideal fixture for Leicester manager Claude Puel.

Riyad Mahrez had dominated the headlines in light of his failure to report for training.

A U-turn saw him make himself available for the City clash, but at such short notice he was only afforded a place in the substitutes bench, coming on just after the hour mark.

Mahrez has acted unprofessionally after a deadline-day move to City was blocked by the club and he will have bridges to build with the club’s supporters.

When Vardy scored for the fourth game in succession to equalise, those fans would have hoped that they could return to the Midlands with a point.

Alas, City flexed their muscles after the interval and extinguished such aspirations.

But Leicester, in the comfort of eighth spot, can hopefully look forward with their best player back in the right frame of mind.

De Bruyne sparkles like a real diamond

This week, Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard was honoured with Belgium’s player of the year award.

Perhaps that was the spur for de Bruyne to produce another virtuoso performance.

He was always at the heart of City’s attacking play, the conductor of the orchestra who is at the peak of his powers.

De Bruyne assisted City’s first three goals to take his tally for the season to 14 – four more than his nearest challenger.

The cross that teed up Sterling was perfectly weighted, so was the delivery that enabled Aguero to open his account.

Another sumptuous ball from de Bruyne for the Argentinian left him with the opportunity to double his tally, which he duly took.

Football is subjective, but it is hard to believe at present there is a better midfielder in Europe than de Bruyne – that includes Hazard.

Belgium are fortunate to have them both in their ranks.

Wrapping them up in cotton wool will be crucial to their World Cup bid.

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Arsenal

Which four of the ‘big-six’ clubs will qualify for next season’s Champions League?

Martyn Cooke

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There are just 12 games remaining of the current Premier League season and, with Manchester City seemingly destined to secure the title, attention will now turn towards the battle to secure a place in the top-four.

There are only three places available to share between Manchester United, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Liverpool and two of those clubs will be have to be content with competing in the Europa League next season.

Here, The Boot Room predicts who will finish in the top four at the end of the season…

Arsenal

There was once a time when the possibility of Arsene Wenger and Arsenal failing to qualify for the Champions League was unthinkable, yet the Gunners are facing the realistic possibility of missing out on playing in Europe’s elite club competition for the second consecutive season.

This campaign they have been held back by their inconsistent and unpredictable form away from home and are playing catch-up with their rivals with a five-point gap emerging between themselves and fourth place.

There is a new sense of optimism around the Emirates Stadium after Wenger added Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan to his squad yet a defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday would all but end their hopes – qualifying through winning the Europa League could be a more realistic option.

Prediction: 6th

Manchester United

There is currently a slight sense of disappointment around Old Trafford this season that, despite obvious progress since the arrival of Jose Mourinho, the club have had to be content with seeing cross-city rivals Manchester City stroll their way towards the Premier League title.

It is difficult to imagine Manchester United missing out on a Champions League place as they already have a considerable buffer of seven points and undoubtedly have a squad that is full of quality and experience.

The arrival of Alexis Sanchez will provide additional impetus in the closing stages of the campaign and the only real danger is that their attention might be redirected towards challenging for the Champions League or FA Cup with the title already all but lost.

However, Mouirnho has his team ticking over nicely and it is likely that they will maintain their current league position.

Prediction: 2nd  

Chelsea

It has been a frustrating and increasing turbulent season at Stamford Bridge following the failure of Chelsea to build on last season’s title triumph.

Back-to-back defeats against Bournemouth and Watford have left the Blues clinging on to their place in the top four and there is now a realistic possibility that they may miss out on Champions League qualification.

Antonio Conte’s frustration with the club’s transfer policy has been clear to see since the summer and the off-pitch squabbling can only be a destabilising influence for the players.

Chelsea are certainly a team that are out of form and appear to be short of confidence and direction and it will be a true test of Conte’s managerial prowess to see if he can facilitate some sort of revival in the closing months of the season.

However, momentum is currently against them and they may well be one of the two clubs to miss out.

Prediction: 6th

Liverpool

You get the sense that it is always two steps forward followed by one step back at Anfield under Jurgen Klopp and you never know quite what to expect.

Liverpool continue to be consistently inconsistent as demonstrated by their recent, contrasting performances against Manchester City and Swansea City.

The arrival of Virgil van Dijk in the January transfer window is a boost, although recent games have suggested that he alone will not solve the club’s defensive frailties, whilst the sale of Phillip Coutinho is offset by the impressive array of attacking players that Klopp has collected.

If Liverpool can put together a good run of results then they will be able to capitalise on Antonio Conte’s woes as Chelsea and finish in the top four.

Prediction: 4th

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur supporters will now have a taste for Champions League football after the success of their team in this year’s competition and they are hitting form at just the right moment in the Premier League.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side are unbeaten since mid-December and have plenty of momentum with the inspirational figure of Harry Kane continuing to his remarkable, prolific run of form in front of goal.

Much will depend on whether the England striker can stay fit until the end of the season whilst they also need Dele Alli to rediscover the sparkle that he has lost in recent months.

Tottenham face a season-defining fixture on Saturday when they face Arsenal in the North London derby but they should have enough quality to qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Prediction: 3rd

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