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Manchester City

Ederson is proving to be Pep Guardiola’s missing link at Manchester City

Rob Meech

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It was roughly 12 months ago that Manchester City‘s campaign began to unravel. They had started in blistering fashion with six consecutive victories and appeared to be the frontrunners for the Premier League crown.

However, winter’s arrival coincided with a distinct downturn in fortunes, with a trio of defeats in December effectively ending their title aspirations. City’s final position of third saw them finish 15 points behind champions Chelsea.

The transformation of Pep Guardiola’s side into serial winners this season has been remarkable. Last weekend’s victory over arch-rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford increased their advantage at the summit to 11 points. They have triumphed in their past 14 top-flight outings, dropping only two points all campaign.

Even though we are not even at the halfway stage, City already have a vice-like grip on top spot. But to what can their sparkling form be attributed? In terms of personnel, Guardiola’s side is not dissimilar to last season.

Nevertheless, the players who have come in have made a massive difference. Kyle Walker, for example, who joined from Tottenham Hotspur, has brought pace and guile to the problematic right-back position.

Undoubtedly, though, the biggest change has been between the posts. After unceremoniously dumping England number one Joe Hart, Guardiola signed Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo, whom he believed would be perfect for the brand of football so synonymous with the Spanish manager.

However, Bravo struggled to adapt to the unique challenge of the Premier League and committed a catalogue of errors that cost City vital points.

As a result, and having decided that Bravo was not up to the required standard, Guardiola returned to the transfer market in the summer, splashing out £35 million on Ederson from Portuguese club Benfica. The fee made the Brazilian the second most expensive goalkeeper in history.

But to Guardiola, he’s been worth every penny. Whereas Bravo never looked at home in a City shirt, Ederson has fitted seamlessly into his new surroundings and looks every inch a world-class stopper. Crucially, he is comfortable enough on the ball to fulfil his manager’s instructions.

Guardiola demands his goalkeeper be able to retain possession at all times by finding a team-mate instead of kicking long. However, unlike Bravo, Ederson’s ability with his feet is not being undermined by handling mistakes.

There was no greater example of his growing importance to City than in the Manchester derby, where he kept the United onslaught at bay, late in the second half. In particular, the point-blank double save to deny Romelu Lukaku and Juan Mata was reminiscent of the stops made by his opposite number, David de Gea, against Arsenal one week earlier.

Comparisons with de Gea, who is arguably the best goalkeeper on the planet right now, are already being made. And at only 24, Ederson has time to elevate himself to the Spaniard’s level. His significance to this City side cannot be understated.

Last season, Guardiola’s attacking stars were let down by the side’s defensive frailties. But the strong foundations now in place – starting with Ederson – have enabled the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus to play with freedom. It is why City are a class apart.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace should swoop for Manchester City’s Yaya Toure on a free

The Ivorian midfielder looks set to leave the Etihad this summer.

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Yaya Toure
Photo: Getty Images

When Manchester City legend Yaya Toure was thrown on to the pitch with 25 minutes to go against Swansea City on Sunday, the City faithful were given a chance to celebrate the wonderful Citizens career of the Ivorian.

It was a perfect cameo for Toure, delivering a pinpoint chipped assist to Gabriel Jesus for City’s fifth goal.

Toure celebrated at the Etihad on the way to his third Premier League title, but he faces an uncertain future as Manchester City are unlikely to offer him a new contract.

The Metro reported that the 34-year-old wishes to remain in the Premier League, and Crystal Palace should seriously consider making a move for Toure.

Palace know all too well the supreme qualities of the midfielder. When Toure made his return from the exile Pep Guardiola imposed on him in November 2016, his first appearance came at Selhurst Park.

(Photo credit should read OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ivory Coast international absolutely bossed the show that match, scoring two emphatic goals en route to a 2-1 victory, after three months out of the first team squad. It was a timely reminder of Toure’s unique skills, which would be perfectly suited to Crystal Palace’s style of play.

Roy Hodgson’s side play matches with a high-intensity, all-action swagger, and the coolness and relentless drive of Yaya Toure would slot in seamlessly. Toure would also add an experienced head to the Eagles, with lengthy spells playing for the best teams in the world.

Even though Toure is 34 years old, he still possesses a superb reading of the game and tremendous work rate. He is truly a box-to-box midfielder, running back to snuff out danger one moment, and striding forward and leading the attack the next.

A move to Selhurst Park would suit both sides, as the Ivorian wishes to keep his young family settled in England. Crystal Palace would do brilliantly to acquire the services of the three-time Premier League champion, a transfer that would lead them to the top-half of the top-flight table.

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Arsenal

Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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English Premier League

Kyle Walker’s move to Manchester City justified and Tottenham must learn lessons

The England international has won the silverware he craved at Manchester City.

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Manchester City finally wrapped up the Premier League title yesterday evening, without kicking a ball. Manchester United’s shock loss to West Brom at Old Trafford gave City an unassailable lead at the top of the Premier League table.

For one City player, it was the justification of a big decision made last summer.

Kyle Walker made it clear to former employers Tottenham Hotspur that he wanted to leave the club last summer. The England international was subsequently dropped for Kieran Trippier and sold. City paid Tottenham a total transfer package reported to be in the region of £54 million by The Times.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The motivation behind Walker’s exit was often questioned by Tottenham fans. He made it clear that his main reason behind leaving City was to win silverware, something that was not happening at Tottenham. However, in terms of form, Spurs had been the better team than City over the previous two seasons.

It saw some fans suggest Walker left the club for the money. Forbes suggested Walker doubled his Tottenham wages with the move to Manchester.

Now, Walker can certainly feel his move was justified. After years of near misses at Tottenham, playing under Pep Guardiola has helped him pick up both the Premier League and League Cup winners’ medals this season.

Undoubtedly, the money will have had something to do with Walker’s move. But he also clearly felt his chances of winning trophies were improved at the Etihad.

(<> at Wembley Stadium on March 27, 2018 in London, England.

It is a sickener for Tottenham fans, but one they will have to take on the chin. Instances like this certainly highlight how tough Tottenham will have it trying to pick up the Premier League trophy whilst always fighting a losing battle in the wages department.

The FA Cup is still on the cards for this season. Manchester United are Tottenham’s opponents in the semi-final this weekend and Spurs will hope to find some silverware at Wembley this season. That can hopefully be the catalyst toward Tottenham pushing for the Premier League title again next season, and keeping players like Walker happy in North London.

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