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The development of Leroy Sane under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City

Jake Jackman




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

Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini’s poor China record should give West Ham cause for concern

The Chilean international looks set to join the Hammers.

Max Cohen



Photo: Getty Images

As Manuel Pellegrini inches closer to being named West Ham United’s new manager, many have applauded the potential appointment of a Premier League-winning boss.

With spells at some of the world’s most successful clubs, the Chilean is certainly an impressive acquisition for the Hammers.

Yet Pellegrini’s most recent coaching assignment has been nothing short of mediocre, a sign that should slightly worry West Ham supporters.

Pellegrini officially left Chinese Super League side Hebei China Fortune on Saturday, after just under two years at the club.

The Chilean was appointed in August 2016 and registered an unspectacular record at the club.

Pellegrini’s first season ended with Hebei in fourth position, yet the club missed out on AFC Champions League qualification by one place.

This year, the team has taken a dramatic step back in the opening months of the season.

(Photo by Geoff Caddick/Getty Images)

Under Pellegrini’s management, Hebei China Fortune currently sit eighth out of the 16-team Chinese Super League.

The side has only picked up just 15 points from 11 matches to date, a disappointing return considering Pellegrini has talents such as Ezequiel Lavezzi, Hernanes, and Gervinho at his disposal.

As the Chinese Super League is a far less important and internationally relevant league than La Liga or the Premier League, Pellegrini can perhaps be forgiven for not taking his job as seriously as his past assignments at Malaga, Real Madrid, and Manchester City.

Yet, his Chinese struggles are worrying nonetheless, as ideally West Ham supporters would like to be acquiring the services of a manager who enjoyed success at his most recent club.

In all, the ex-Manchester City manager still has a Premier League title to his name, a fact that makes his recent tough spell in Asia less concerning.

Nevertheless, Manuel Pellegrini’s underwhelming time at Hebei China Fortune reveals that the manager still possesses flaws and should not be expected to work immediate wonders at West Ham.

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Manchester City

Record-breaking Manchester City show Pep Guardiola was right not to change his philosophy

The Spaniard won his first Premier League title in swashbuckling style.

Martyn Cooke



Photo: Getty Images

When Pep Guardiola was appointed as manager of Manchester City in the summer of 2016 it is fair to say that his arrival was met with a mixed reaction throughout British football.

First, there was obvious excitement throughout the blue half of Manchester. Guardiola was widely regarded one of the best managers of his generation after trophy-laden spells with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

He was renowned for the exciting, possession-based style of play that he implemented and the team that he built at the Nou Camp at the start of the twenty-first century produced some of the best football of the modern era.

Then there were the sceptics – and there were plenty of them. The comments were predictable and filled with clichés, unevidenced assumptions and meaningless jargon.

It was suggested that Guardiola had only won trophies with clubs where the race for the title was a two-horse race at best and that he had always inherited world-class players.

Furthermore, it was claimed that the Spaniard’s total-football philosophy would never work in the hustle and bustle of English football.

His technical style of play would come unstuck in the so-called ‘best league in the world’ and would not be effective on a cold, wet Tuesday night at places like Stoke City in front of a tribal, raucous home support.

In his debut season with Manchester City some of the negative predictions appeared to be coming true.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Despite winning all of their opening 10 games of the season under Guardiola, City experienced a poor run of form during the Christmas period that left them trailing their title rivals.

The team were unpredictable and inconsistent during the second half of the campaign and heavy defeats against Everton (4-0) and Leicester City (4-2) left many onlookers wondering if Guardiola had finally been sussed.

The Spaniard never shied away from the critics and he staunchly defended his philosophy despite some poor results and vowed that he would not change his style of play.

City finished the season without a trophy and the sceptics went into the summer proclaiming how they had correctly predicted Guardiola’s failure.

What a difference a year can make.

City’s last-gasp victory against Southampton on the final day of the season rounded off what has been a record-breaking campaign in which Guardiola’s team have swept aside all before them in the Premier League.

The list of achievements is remarkable.

City this season have set new records for most consecutive wins (18), most goals scored (105), most wins (32), most away points won (16), most points (100), the biggest goal difference (+79) and the biggest points gap (19).

Suddenly the sceptics are beginning to look incredibly foolish.

In truth, it is hard to remember a campaign in the modern era where one team has been dominant from start to finish in the way that City have been. Furthermore, not only have the won, but they have won with style.

Guardiola’s playing philosophy has clicked over the last twelve months, undoubtedly aided by effective recruitment during the summer, and the team have played with flair, energy, creativity, pace and innovation.

Opponents, barring perhaps Liverpool, have simply not found any way to combat City’s free-flowing football.

(Photo by Paul Ellis/Getty Images)

Critics will still point to an early exit in the FA Cup against Wigan Athletic, where City played most of the game with ten men, and defeat in the Champions League to Liverpool, where a poor first half at Anfield effectively ended the tie before it had begun, but the success of Guardiola’s style of play is undoubted.

No one is suggesting that the Spaniard needs to alter his philosophy to meet the demands of the English game anymore.

Instead, it is English football that will need to change in order to meet the challenge of Guardiola’s football revolution.

The concern for other Premier League clubs is that City are threatening to establish themselves as the new dominant force in the domestic game. There is nothing to indicate that Guardiola or the team that he has assembled will be loosening their grip on the Premier League trophy any time soon.

The future is bright. Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus, John Stones, Leroy Sane, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, Aymeric Laporte and Ederson are all under the age of 26. This is a group of players that is still improving and will be hitting the peak years of their career over the next half-a-decade.

Manchester City’s success this season is just the start of what could turn into a period of unrivaled dominance, further underlining that Guardiola was right not to change his philosophy.

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English Premier League

With or without David Moyes, West Ham should target his former player John Stones

West Ham would be wise to swoop on the apparently fragile status of Stones’ Man City career.

Mathew Coull



Back in 2013 then-Everton boss David Moyes secured the signature of a very highly rated young Yorkshireman named John Stones. The Everton manager signed the teenager from Barnsley for a fee reported by the BBC to be in the region of £3 million.

The same report suggested Everton fended off interest from the likes of Chelsea, Aston Villa, Sunderland, Manchester City and Wigan Athletic to complete the deal.

Soon enough Stones started earning rave reviews among the Everton fanbase but Moyes himself never got much chance to work with the defender. Moyes left Everton for Manchester United just six months after signing Stones. The youngster then went on to become a regular in the Everton and England defence, eventually earning a move to Manchester City – reportedly worth £47.5 million, according to Sky Sports.

(Photo credit should read Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

But this summer, should Moyes consider trying to sign Stones once again.

Despite making big improvements to his game at Manchester City, Stones looks like he could leave The Etihad this summer. The champions signed French defender Aymeric Laporte in the winter and Stones currently finds himself fourth-choice centre-back at the club.

In order to continue improving and maintain his place in the England starting XI, the defender needs to be playing regular football. Moyes, now manager at West Ham United, has the opportunity to offer him just that.

Of course, much of this depends on whether West Ham retain Moyes as manager which, according to The Telegraph, looks increasingly unlikely.

Moyes would no doubt be a big lure for Stones if West Ham were to make a move for the player, clearly as a loan deal considering the vast sum necessary to pry him from City.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

But even if Moyes does go, West Ham should try and bring the England man to the London Stadium.

He could offer a brilliant ball-playing option at the back that West Ham fans would greatly appreciate. His experience of playing at a higher level could also be vital for the development of talented Irishman Declan Rice and in a back-three, often West Ham’s recent choice, Stones is a brilliant central defender.

So, with or without Moyes at West Ham, Stones should be on the radar for the London club this summer.

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