Chelsea, Man City, Premier League, Tickets

Man City Set Down Marker For Rest Of Premier League

What can you read into the Community Shield? Very little, probably nothing whatsoever. Ask David Moyes, who won this in 2013 with Manchester United, or Arsene Wenger, who won it last year.

So maybe things will go wrong for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City in the coming months, and as ever there are always one or two concerns ahead of a new campaign, but there has been little to no evidence of any issues serious enough to derail the team that finished last season so far ahead of the chasing pack.

For one thing, City are two years into the Guardiola era, whereas Chelsea are a few weeks into life under Maurizio Sarri. If City looked more polished than their opposition it’s because they are.

But that’s the problem for all the other challengers, too, even the ones that finished above Chelsea last season. City were so much better than the rest last time not because they had excellent players, but because those players fully understood what Guardiola wanted them to do.

The crucial bit is that they still do.

By the end of the season City barely did any fitness or tactical work in training, they just rested. Guardiola insists that fitness takes care of itself in the thick of a long season, and there was no need to ram home the principles of positional play because the players had already learned it.

So much so that Vincent Kompany has said that all the players had Guardiola’s methods so programmed into their heads that things were done automatically. The fine goals and impressive results they picked up throughout the season is testament to that.

Those ideas will not have been forgotten over the summer. Sharpness may be a concern for the first couple of games, owing to the fact that most of the City squad were at the World Cup, but the ideas that took them to an historic 100-point title victory are still in place.

That much has been obvious all summer; Guardiola’s style was evident even when teams of youngsters were losing to Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund in the International Champions Cup. The fact that City looked so comfortable on Sunday when a number of first-teamers returned to the team is also encouraging. Some might suggest inevitable.

Guardiola would have liked more time to try new things with his squad this summer; he has said in the past that pre-season is the time to work on new tactical principles, and that is what they did 12 months ago when they welcomed five new faces.

In that sense, most of City’s senior players have not learned anything new in the past few weeks, and that may pose a problem if their domestic opponents wise up to their threat. But that is easier said than done, and, if anything, would require more work from the opposition.

In any case, if Guardiola decides that something really needs to be hammered home, he will do it in the coming weeks; in the first two months of last season the team were drilled in winning the ball back immediately after losing it, something they are now accomplished at.

The failure to sign Jorginho also represents something of a blow to Guardiola’s plans to evolve the team, but, again, they were so much better than the rest last season they may well still be good enough to do it all again, even without major strides forward.

It will be up to the chasing pack to try to exploit any weaknesses. Liverpool look best equipped to mount a title challenge after an impressive summer of acquisitions, especially given the relative struggles of Manchester United, the lack of investment at Tottenham and the overhauls at Chelsea and Arsenal.

Those teams will also be hoping that injuries pick holes in City’s squad, namely in goal and at the back of midfield, but that said most predicted City would struggle last season if Vincent Kompany and Benjamin Mendy got injured…

So the big picture suggests City are looking well placed to defend their title, and if we must take conclusions from Sunday’s 2-0 Wembley win we can surmise that two-goal hero Sergio Aguero is looking sharp, Bernardo Silva looks right at home in midfield and the 18-year-old Phil Foden will not be daunted by a role in the first team.

Not everything was perfect; Claudio Bravo will not be able to deputise if Ederson were to get injured, Riyad Mahrez still needs some games to get up to speed with Guardiola’s demands, and Fernandinho – in that crucial midfield role – looked a little leggy.

But these should not be cause for alarm.

It looks like City are ready to pick up where they left off last season, and that’s bad news for the rest.

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