Manchester City’s Early Season Gauntlet

Silva for Man City

Getty Images

After mixed results to begin the season, Manchester City will be taxed with three consecutive tough challenges over the next 10 days: at Arsenal on Saturday, at Bayern Munich to begin their Champions League quest on Tuesday, and then Chelsea the following Sunday. This is a full-on hellish gauntlet that teams would like to avoid this early in their season. However, if any squad is up for this, it may be The Citizens.

City’s team depth is probably the Premier League’s best. Ranging from excellence to at least competence at every position, this is a side that brought Edin Dzeko and Jesus Navas off the bench in their last match. On the other hand, that was a home loss to Stoke. Manager Manuel Pellegrini wrote off the defeat as a game that “always happen(s) once a year and today it happened to our team”. So, he’s clearly not too alarmed. Still, it can’t be comforting for Man City fans, coaches, and players alike to go into the international break with that kind of loss, especially with these three huge games ahead of them.

This was all before the news of Stevan Jovetic’s injury entered the picture. The man that struck twice against Liverpool a couple weeks ago will most likely be out of the lineup for the imminent future, meaning City will already be dealing with the consequences of not pushing harder for a forward to replace the outgoing Alvaro Negredo. Right now, their striker situation is tenuous at best – not in talent, mind you, but in depth. With just three forwards, if one goes down, the situation becomes semi-dire. Considering injury-prone Jovetic and Sergio Agüero make up two-thirds of the strike force, this doesn’t bode well. The team that boasts massive depth finds themselves short on goal scorers.

Man City's Jovetic

Image: AFP

That is, of course, an overstatement. It’s difficult to call a team that will go into Saturday’s game with Agüero (17 league goals last season), Yaya Toure (20 goals), and Dzeko (16 goals) “short on goal scorers”. Samir Nasri and David Silva can also push up the field for a timely goal when needed. There is still some reason to fret, though. For one, Man City’s last meeting with Arsenal in the Community Shield final didn’t go so well. That 3-0 defeat came in a match that never saw a few of City’s starters, but it wasn’t an encouraging beginning.

This time Arsenal will not have Olivier Giroud and (maybe) Aaron Ramsey, both of whom scored in that game. It is, however, the likely debut of ex-United youngster Danny Welbeck. Expect the home crowd to erupt Mount St. Helen’s-style if he is able to knock one in. City’s defense, which was the weakness of this EPL-winning side last season, will be tasked with holding him back. They have real depth at this position this year, with former Arsenal man Bacary Sagna brought in to provide cover at right back.

I actually like City’s chances against a depleted Arsenal side on Saturday, but things don’t get much easier from there. Just three days later, they will travel to the Allianz Arena in Munich to face off with Bayern in their first Champions League group match. This is the second campaign in a row they were drawn into the same group as the German champs. Strangely, last year each side beat the other away from home. I wouldn’t expect that this time, as Bayern have reloaded their already talented lineup with more weapons (Lewandowski, Xabi Alonso) while City mainly stood pat.

Finally, their next Premier League match is the red-hot Chelsea, now just as lethal offensively as they were stout on defense. Man City struggled against them last season, yet still won the league. To set themselves up well in both the EPL and UCL, you would think City would love to come out of this 3-game gauntlet with two wins, even if that might be unrealistic. Even when you’re rich and successful, things aren’t always easy. I’ll refrain from making a mo’ money, mo’ problems ref…ah, too late.

 

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About the author: Drew Wendt

 

I’m the editor for SoccerPro’s blogs and enjoy writing about The Beautiful Game myself. I follow US Soccer, Chelsea, and Dortmund. Since my hometown is St. Louis that means I’m left without an MLS team, but recently I’ve jumped onto the Sporting KC bandwagon. Non-soccer related interests include basketball, film, and music. Google+


Website: https://soccerpro.com

 

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