City ultimately have their dream administrator but Pep Guardiola has a lot of work to do to get his squad challenging at home and in the Champions League
Guardian novelists predicted position: 2nd( NB: this is not necessarily Paul Wilsons prediction but the average of our novelists tips)
Last seasons position: 4th
Odds to win the league( via Oddschecker ): 5-2
Here it is then, the season Manchester City have been waiting for so patiently. It has long been obvious, surely since 2012 when the club imported Barcelonas infrastructure in Ferran Soriano and Txiki Begiristain( chief executive and sporting director respectively ), that the ultimate aim was to bring in Pep Guardiola as well and reproduce some of the Catalans sparkling success in the north-west of England.
There was nothing wrong with that ambitious scheme in 2012, except that it took four years to bring it to fruition due to Guardiola inducing Germany his first port of call following his year out after stepping down from Barcelona. There was nothing wrong with his decision to join Bayern Munich either, except Jupp Heynckess parting legacy was to complete the first German treble, leaving the incoming coach-and-four with little to improve. Guardiola did not exactly fail in Bavaria most clubs and coaches would be happy with three consecutive league titles and three appearances in Champions League semi-finals though while several dependable witness have testified to the beneficial consequence he had on the team he did not enhance his reputation to the extent expected.
Three consecutive Champions League semi-finals can be construed as a series of missed possibilities, after all, especially for a coach-and-four hired on the back of his peerless achievements in the competition with Barcelona. The three Bundesliga titles were real enough, but Guardiola took over a very strong team in a league that tends to be dominated by a small number of clubs, with Bayern in particular often able to undermine challengers by picking off their best players. If you wanted to make a harsh assessment of Guardiolas three years in Germany it could be said, indeed is being said, that he was unable to move the club significantly forward. Domestic titles are almost a minimum requirement for the club under present conditions, but if the idea was for Guardiolas genius would rub off to the extent of taking Bayern to the level of Barcelona or Real Madrid it did not happen.
So the prove moves to the Premier League, with Guardiola tasked with proving his worth in circumstances difficult to see four years ago. Whereas City had originally hoped to make a statement and steal a march on their challengers by appointing the most idolized coach-and-four in the business , now it could be argued that Guardiola might not even be the best manager in Manchester. He is certainly not the only treble win. This is not the place for a discussion of Guardiolas merits over those of Jos Mourinho the forthcoming season should be helpful in that regard in any case but it seems safe to say that Manchester United will not be stumbling about in the dark any longer in accordance with existing management. The clueless, beached-whale impression they have been amusing us with since Sir Alex Ferguson stepped aside can be consigned to history, along with any the idea of transitional periods or three-year plans.
As Mourinho deftly demonstrated by nipping into England training to reassure Wayne Rooney of his value as a striker before the team left for France, the new administrator does not work like that. Should Mourinho land Paul Pogba for the anticipated sum of around 100 m it will be a statement of intent greater than anyone else has managed the summer months, and the immediate advantage the United manager has over his new( old) challenger is that he knows the Premier League inside out. Mourinho has won titles in England, one as recently as two years ago. Guardiola comes to Manchester at a time when United supporters are more confident and bullish about their prospects than they have been for the best part of a decade, and it is not only his new home city that the manager has to worry about. Liverpool and Tottenham feel they have the right administrator and players to mount a title challenge, and although Arsenal never quite seem to feel the same way, they at least have the theoretical financial capability to improve their squad and build on last seasons second place finish. Antonio Conte, like Guardiola, will need time to find his feet in a new league, though it is unlikely with a coach-and-four of his pedigree that Chelsea will be as far off the pace as they were last season.
On the positive side, City still have the eminently watchable Kevin De Bruyne to build a side around, will always carry a goal threat as long as Sergio Agero is fit, have picked up Ilkay Gndogan, Leroy San and Nolito to increase their midfield alternatives( Gabriel Jesus will initially be loaned back to Palmeiras) and may be about to win the race, actually more of a slow-motion event, to sign John Stones.