LONDON • Pep Guardiola faces a stern test of his managerial philosophy as the Manchester City boss aims to overhaul Premier League champions Liverpool this season.
After an extra week of rest due to being in the latter stages of last season’s Champions League, City start their Premier League campaign with a tricky trip to Wolves today.
It is exactly the kind of fixture that proved fatal to City’s hopes of retaining the title last season.
They were beaten twice by Wolves, eventually losing nine league games and finishing a massive 18 points behind Liverpool.
Guardiola knows City cannot afford so many unexpected stumbles this season. But he might need to look in the mirror as he analyses their steep decline.
His inability to fix City’s defensive problems and constant tinkering with his midfield and attack seemed to spread confusion and frustration among his squad.
Only Kevin de Bruyne enjoyed a transcendent season for City but the Belgian midfield maestro could not carry his team all alone.
Guardiola’s positional switches destabilised them again in their shock Champions League quarter-final loss to Lyon last month.
City have the quality in their squad to beat anyone – as they showed in a 4-0 rout of Liverpool last season – but does the Spaniard have the hunger and ability to make it happen on a consistent basis?
City have brought in Dutch defender Nathan Ake and Spanish winger Ferran Torres. Guardiola insists he will not complain if those are his only new signings.
“Since day one, the club does everything to do their best, not just for me, but for the team,” he said.
“If we have to stay with the players (we have) I’ll be happy. I’ve never before, or in the future will I complain. I’m lucky to have these players and be in this club.”
City’s failure to replace defender Vincent Kompany last year proved hugely detrimental and his absence was compounded by a long-term injury to Aymeric Laporte.
With Laporte an unlikely starter today, having only returned to training last Friday following a positive Covid-19 test this month, Ake seems certain to make his debut while Torres is also in contention.
However, City’s record goalscorer Sergio Aguero is still recovering from the knee surgery that has sidelined him since June and could be two months away from a return.
WOLVES V MAN CITY
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