Last season, no one divided opinions among Manchester City fans like Claudio Bravo. However, if your memory is longer than a single season you may recall that before his arrival in Manchester the opinion-divider-in-chief at the club was French central defender Eliaquim Mangala.
The Frenchman arrived from FC Porto for a head-turning fee of £41.4 million in 2014 but was sent on loan to Valencia at the beginning of last season by new coach, Pep Guardiola.
He returned to the blue half of Manchester this summer and the revelation that Guardiola is thinking of keeping him this year, as reported by The Guardian, has already sent opinions scampering in all directions.
To be fair, the criticism that he is currently receiving is perhaps unfair, as the physically strong Frenchman has performed solidly throughout the pre-season.
Old habits die hard, however, and the negative opinions are still focused on the two seasons he played for City under Pellegrini, rather than the competent performances he has put in over the summer. Mangala’s contribution to the club during his first two years could best be described as inconsistent.
He had games where he was rock solid and won over some fans and others which were defined by errors in judgement and a lack of concentration. Nonetheless, his pedigree was evident on a number of occasions.
The Manchester Evening News described his performance against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League semi-final of 2016, as “storming”.
Meanwhile, against Chelsea, in April 2016, he had an amazing Premier League showing, in which he successfully contained Chelsea’s prolific striker, Diego Costa. Many City fans still vividly remember how he kept the Spanish international striker “in his back pocket”.
Still, his overall record at City was not enough to inspire confidence at the Etihad and this resulted in his aforementioned loan move to Valencia. It was at the Spanish club that he again proved his worth and justified the fee that City paid to snatch him from Porto.
An article in Marca, from March of this year, claimed Valencia believed the Manchester City player was what the team needed. Indeed, the club felt he had returned to the level he had attained at Porto before his expensive transfer to the Premier League as he played a direct role in Valencia’s improved defensive performances against aerial threats.
Such an assessment is worthy of consideration at City. As a Premier League team, Guardiola’s men are sure to face constant aerial threats throughout the season. Therefore, the more tall and powerful defenders they have, the better.
Players often endure periods of inconsistency in their careers and then go on to shine.
Goalkeeper Wily Caballero had a strong year under Pep Guardiola after being on the fringes during the Pellegrini era, Samir Nasri impressed at Sevilla after his career was seen to be faltering in Manchester and Edin Dzeko was a prolific striker and key player for Roma last year, whereas, at City, he was often seen as an inconsistent back-up player by some critics.
If Mangala has impressed over the past year and shown himself to be reliable and consistent in Manchester City’s pre-season, then perhaps he should be given a chance to prove himself.
Further evidence that he may be of more value to the team than his critics may admit is that he has attracted interest from the likes of Rafa Benitez, according to The Sun, and PSG, as reported by the Mirror, during the transfer window.
Pep Guardiola is famous for improving players and he showed that ability at Manchester City pushing Aguero to improve various aspects of his game, such as his movement and pressing, over the course of last season.
Surely, he can help Mangala, who possesses many good qualities, to improve his performances and achieve the consistency he never had during his previous stint at the club?
Mangala is the kind of player who could thrive under Guardiola because he has shown a strong commitment in the past to self-improvement. He should therefore respond positively to the uncompromising demands of City’s perfectionist coach.
In 2016, the Telegraph quoted Mangala as saying:
“My first motivation is my personal motivation. Then I play for my family and people who support me. And then I want to win. I live to win. That’s my philosophy.
Every time I go to training. Every time I am in the gym and when I am out on the pitch. It’s the same thing. I am ambitious.”
Over the past week, Sky Italia has reported that Inter is interested in acquiring Eliaquim Mangala from Manchester City. It will be interesting to see if, despite suggestions that Pep Guardiola might hold on to the Frenchman, he is allowed to move to Inter.
With City’s defence in need of reinforcement, the club can only afford to let him go if a better player has already been found and is ready to move. If that is not the case, then the club should be very careful about letting him go, because Guardiola desperately needs to shore up a back-line that was problematic last year.
Mangala has shown over the past year at Valencia that he should be reconsidered as a worthy candidate to fill the defensive gap at City. Opinions on the Frenchman will continue to be divided but if his performances continue along their current positive path then any move to another club may eventually prove to be City’s loss.
Has Leroy Sané been wrongfully dropped from Germany’s World Cup squad?
The 22-year-old will not be featuring in Russia.
It was today announced that the 22-year-old – who made Joachim Löw’s original 27-man provisional team – did not make the official 23-man tournament squad. This arguably comes as the biggest shock of the squad announcements so far.
Sané made 40 appearances this season in all competitions for City, scoring 14 goals and gaining 19 assists along the way in what was undoubtedly the best season of his career.
His performances and statistics were enough to gain him the Premier League’s ‘Young Player of the Year Award’ for the 2017/18 season, further adding to the surprise of his absence from Löw’s World Cup squad.
Germany’s record in recent tournaments is as unquestionable as the strength and depth they have within their squad. To make the final cut of Löw’s World Cup team is a feat within itself and Sané deserved that accolade this summer.
Making the squad at the expense of Sané; Mesut Özil (Arsenal), Sebastian Rudy (Bayern Munich), Julian Draxler (PSG), Mario Gomez (Stuttgart) and Timo Werner (RB Leipzig).
Sané has similar attributes to these five players which is why it is difficult to comprehend any argument for the City wingers absence.
With the exception of Leipzig’s Werner, all of the above scored fewer goals last season than Sané and, on top of that, every player also had far fewer assists than the City winger, with the next closest to him being Arsenal’s Özil with 12 (seven behind).
In fact, if you add Rudy, Draxler and Gomez’s assists together (13), you’d still have six fewer than Sane’s. Combine all of the major statistics relevant to an attacking midfielder/forward’s role, Sané is ahead of every name on this list.
It obviously isn’t all about the statistics, however, and when you consider the calibre of attacking teammates Sané had to work with this season, it is understandable why his personal statistics are so high.
However, a World Cup squad should be the 23 best men at that time to represent their country.
When you consider the jaw-dropping football Manchester City played in this record breaking Premier League season – and Sané’s significant impact in that – surely it is inconceivable to think that he is not within the best 23 players of his nation.
It is difficult to second guess an international manager with the record of Joachim Löw. However, compile all of the statistical evidence with the eye test and it is difficult to understand how Leroy Sané will not be representing Germany in Russia this month.
Manuel Pellegrini’s poor China record should give West Ham cause for concern
The Chilean international looks set to join the Hammers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.