This season, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City had the difficult task of attempting to match their 2018-19 trophy-laden campaign, which saw them become the first side in history to win an English top-flight domestic quadruple.

Manchester City and the Four-midable 2018-19 campaign

In the 2018-19 season, City successfully retained the the previous term’s EFL Cup and Premier League – setting the competition’s then-second-highest points tally in the process (98), two points fewer than their previous campaign.

Guardiola’s men also won their sixth FA Cup title, ensuring City completed a league and FA Cup double for a historic first time, with the FA Community Shield success in August 2018, fulfilling the quartet.

In the Champions League, City reached the Quarter-finals for the second successive campaign. However, just like in the 2017-2018 competition, where they were beaten by Liverpool, The Sky Blues were eliminated once again by English opponents, in Tottenham Hotspur.

Manchester City v Huddersfield Town - Premier League
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 06: [Editor’s note – digital filters were used in the creation of this image] Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City lift the Premier League trophy during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Huddersfield Town at Etihad Stadium on May 6, 2018 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

2019-20: mixed fortunes for Manchester City

This term, Guardiola‘s side have had a mixed bag of fortunes. While they were able to retain the Community Shield on penalties against Liverpool and clinch a third successive EFL Cup with victory against Aston Villa, their league title defence saw them finish 17 points worse off than in their previous season.

Although Liverpool were a class above the league contingent, and more than worthy winners of this season’s Premier League title, two main factors played a part in the Sky Blues’ disappointing demise this term.

Defensive frailties

The side’s inconsistent defensive performances were one of the reasons as to why City were unable to win the league again. The Citizens are certainly in a transition period, conceding 12 goals more than in their previous campaign under the guidance of then-captain Vincent Kompany, who departed last summer.

He was a leader in the heart of defence and a natural centre-back, which enabled him to recognise the danger and position his counterparts accordingly to deal with the threat.

With Kompany gone, Aymeric Laporte has been relied upon to be the Belgian’s successor this season. However, due to injury, which saw the Frenchman sidelined for approximately four months, Guardiola had been forced to use a variety of centre-back pairings to fill the vacated void.

Due to a culmination of unnatural centre-halves in Fernandinho as well as a host of defensive errors, the side conceded in 17 of the 23 league games Laporte missed, seven of which were defeats.

Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – JANUARY 12: Sergio Aguero of Manchester CIty celebrates after he scores his sides fifth goal during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City at Villa Park on January 12, 2020 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Absence of top-scorer Sergio Agüero

Another factor which led to City’s shortcomings were the injuries to Sergio Agüero. Despite scoring 16 in 24 appearances, the Argentine certainly would have made a difference in the 14 games he didn’t feature.

He started just one of his two appearances since football resumed following the lockdown, and missed City’s final eight league matches and subsequent games in the FA Cup and Champions League. However, despite his omission through injury, it allowed other players to flourish in their deputising role, ultimately setting another club record.

City became the first club in Premier League history to have five players reach double figures for goals in a single campaign. Including Agüero’s league tally, Raheem Sterling (20), Gabriel Jesus (14), Kevin De Bruyne (13) and Riyad Mahrez (11) contributed to 74 of the 102 goals City scored in the league.

 

The figure was seven goals more than in their previous campaign and equalled their 2013-14 tally (joint third-highest for goals in a single league season), but it wasn’t enough. The club’s defeat to Chelsea on June 25 ultimately sealed Premier League coronation for The Reds, who won their first English top-flight title in over 30 years, by an 18-point deficit over The Citizens.

FA Cup elimination

Guardiola’s side had the opportunity to win a second consecutive FA Cup title this campaign. This season’s Cup run made them favourites, as they reached the Semi-finals alongside Arsenal, Chelsea and city rivals Manchester United.

However, despite an overall dominant attacking-display against The Gunners, their defensive issues were exposed by the pace of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who scored twice to eliminate Guardiola’s men.

It was a clinical defeat by the north London outfit, who eventually went on to win the title under Mikel Arteta, previous assistant manager to Guardiola.

FBL-ENG-FACUP-ARSENAL-MAN CITY
Manchester City’s English defender Kyle Walker (R) reacts during the English FA Cup semi-final football match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Wembley Stadium in London, on July 18, 2020. (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP) / NOT FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING USE / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Champions League ambition

Guardiola will be desperate to win the Champions League trophy, the only available title in each of his previous three years to have eluded him since joining City.

In February, the Spaniard, who won the competition twice previously as manager of Barcelona, told BBC Sport that his season’s priority was the Champions League – believing his tenure at the Manchester club would be a failure if he wasn’t able to deliver the title.

Guardiola’s City have never progressed beyond the Quarter-finals in the competition. His first campaign ended at the Round of 16 to Monaco, before the aforementioned exits to Liverpool and Tottenham.

This season, the side have a genuine opportunity to go one further and reach the Semi-finals for the first time since 2016-17, under then-manager Manuel Pellegrini, who were beaten by eventual winners Real Madrid (the competition’s most successful club with 13 victories).

All or nothing: European champions?

Manchester City v Real Madrid - UEFA Champions League Round of 16: Second Leg
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 07: Raheem Sterling of Manchester City celebrates scoring his teams first goal during the UEFA Champions League round of 16 second leg match between Manchester City and Real Madrid at Etihad Stadium on August 07, 2020 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chloe Knott – Danehouse/Getty Images)

Guardiola’s men eliminated Madrid in the Last-16, beating the Merengues home and away – thus becoming only the third British side to win at the Santiago Bernabéu when they won in February. The overall victory also inflicted a first ever managerial defeat for Zinedine Zidane in the knockout stages of the competition, which he has won three times as boss.

Having dispatched Los Blancos, The Sky Blues will face Lyon in the Last-Eight, who on paper appear to be a more favourable opponent than Juventus. However, Guardiola’s men will need to be wary of Les Gones, who stunned I Bianconeri on away goals. They cannot afford to become complacent against the Ligue 1 side, considering they were knocked-out in 2016-17 Last-16 by French opposition.

The Citizens could then come up against Guardiola’s former sides Barcelona and Bayern Munich, should they progress and would then be two wins away from lifting the trophy.

With two-legged ties scrapped for the remainder of the competition, City only have one opportunity to win the tournament this season, and losing is not an option. A Champions League success would rescue a somewhat disappointing season and get one over the sides who ridiculed them in seasons past.

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