Manchester City became the second team in England’s history to complete the continental treble, following the footsteps of their local rivals Manchester United who achieved the same feat in 1999 under Sir Alex Ferguson.
In his current stint at Manchester City, Pep Guardiola has dominated the domestic scenario with 5 league titles in six years yet heartbreak in Europe’s elite competition remained constant.
Despite facing several criticisms on his big stage performances, the narrative of the story changed this season as Manchester City completed the treble with a (1-0) win against Inter Milan at Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul,Turkey. City did a domestic double by capping Premier League and FA Cup earlier this season. Also read: Manchester City wins the Premier League for third successive season.
Pep Guardiola is a perfectionist, a master of positional play and the pillar of Cruyff’s Catalonia, Guardiola is stubborn with his game plans yet makes adaptability look so easy, his team always tend to finish with a flourish.
Haaland’s first year at City has been anything other than unprecedented success. Since his arrival from Borussia Dortmund, Erling Haaland was named the Premier League player of the season and Premier League young player of the season.
While City’s fluid possession game largely remained the same, Erling Haaland’s inclusion into Pep’s system has seen Manchester City a slightly less rotational movement in the final third.
The Norwegian’s power, pace and aerial ability has simply given them an added dimension, it is very unlikely for a player to achieve what Haaland has accomplished in his debut season in, the young Norwegian has scored 52 goals, assisted nine and won three trophies, which makes him a strong contender for Ballon D’or 2023. Also read: How Erling Haaland adapted himself at Man City?
Pep Guardiola has used Stones in a hybrid role alongside Rodri, and City thrived this season. Pep has been clear with his 3-2-4-1 that comprises a 3-2 shape in the build ups. John Stones returned from an injury in mid-march and has been stronger than ever, the comfortability in possession the awareness to defend in a high line, and his defensive ability add another layer to City’s dominance against counters and low blocks.
Stones possess the technical ability to be able to turn and he is comfortable in the no-8 position, he operates like a midfielder who makes shorter vertical runs instead of making diagonal runs, thus allowing more security at the back. In his new role Pep used John Stones as a inverted centre-back and a half-back, he is the epitome of numerical superiority, jumping into the half spaces when City need more potent in attack, and running back to defend when City needs help.
When Manuel Akanji made a move to the Etihad Stadium at the beginning of the season, it seemed like bringing in just another rotation player to have on the bench for squad depth. Instead, the player has turned into a mainstay in the team. From the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup and even the League Cup, Akanji has played in all. With European competition experience under his belt as well, no one could say that €15 million was a huge splash.
Manuel Akanji might not be the cleanest defender but his passing range is top. Occasionally, Pep has used the 3-2-2-3 system (3-box midfield-3), the system has a high burden on CBs yet Akanji defied all the odds. After the departure of Joao Cancelo, the 27-year-old has truly become Guardiola’s Mr. Reliable. In central defence, at right-back or left-back, the Swiss international just delivers.
While Erling Haaland has been the surprise of the season, blowing away records in England and grabbed all the attention, Akanji has been quietly making sure that the team maintains the solidity required to accomplish its goals, the €15 move from Borussia Dortmund has been the bargain of the season.
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