Last Wednesday, Manchester City again failed to win another crucial game, and lost a precious three points against Chelsea that put them out of the championship race. Pep Guardiola acknowledged the fact and stated that, "We have to think about finishing in the top four" after the game. Although the team had great potential and put in some wonderful performances during the season, almost everyone agrees that City are an uncompleted project. Now, the most important question is, how can Guardiola make his team a title-contender next season? In this piece I will list the immediate and long term needs of the team.
First of all, a really high quality goalkeeper is needed as Claudio Bravo has failed to live up to expectations. Considering Guardiola's strategy and his requirements from a goalkeeper, the number one for Manchester City must be good with his feet and Bravo delivered that with the second-highest pass completion rate in the Premier League at 75 at a league high 23 passes per game. Nevertheless, he is by far the worst goalkeeper in the league with 1.04 saves per goal, while teams in the top six, except Liverpool's Karius and Mignolet duo, have goalkeepers who have at least two saves per goal. Given that Willy Caballero and Costel Pantilimon are no better than their colleague, it is now clear that City must immediately buy one of the best goalkeepers in the world who has mastered both conventional goalkeeping and the modern requirements of goalkeeping.
Secondly, neither John Stones nor Vincent Kompany are fit to play alongside Nicolas Otamendi, who is clearly better in all aspects than them. Both are extremely slow and lack the required playmaking skills, which is central to Guardiola's game. Like in Claudio Bravo's case, City need another high quality center-back, who has the required defensive intuitions and playmaking skills with a good physical form. These are the two immediate needs of the City, a top class goalkeeper and a center-back.
On the other hand, there are structural problems in the attack and defense that need to be solved in the long term, because their solution requires a long exposure to collective action. Firstly, Guardiola must take the role of bringing the ball out from defense to Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva from Fernandinho to clearly defined set pieces. Right now either Fernandinho exerts an extraordinary amount of effort to bring the ball to them, or as chaotic games do, defenders play long and inconsistent balls forward. This process has to be more precise, constant and consistent for a team like City, and the only way to do so is to make sure that the midfield trio and the defensive line know where their teammates will positioned in the different phases of the build-up, thus the flow of the game from defense to attack will become second nature. I know that what I ask is an extremely hard task to complete, but it is the only way for Guardiola to cope with counter-pressing teams.
Furthermore, the final shots also must come out of clearly defined set-pieces, and should not depend solely on Sergio Agüero's talent. Until now, even though the team sometimes manages to get the ball to the final third regularly, after that point they lose all their organization. Agüero's connection with Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling must be reorganized in a more neat and restricting way, so that City can create a repeatable pattern before they give freedom to the individual talent.
If these four problems are more or less solved before the start of the next season, we might see a truly dominant Manchester City this September. I am quite excited to see how Guardiola will handle this tough challenge, and I have to admit that I would love to see City as a lethal team next season, alongside with Chelsea and Liverpool.