Matchday 38: Highlights of every Premier League gameMay 30
Ahead of a brand new season of Premier League football on BT Sport, we spoke to fans of each and every team about their expectations for what lies ahead over the next nine months.
Talking all things Man City, BTSport.com sat down with Lloyd Scragg of the 9320 podcast to get his thoughts on the defending champion's upcoming season in the top flight.
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Last season was pretty incredible. We’ve never made it to the Champions League final before and even if we didn’t win it, getting there was a massive monkey off our back.
City fans have held the Premier League in higher esteem than the Champions League because we haven’t been as good as the bigger teams, but that may have changed last season and losing to Chelsea in that manner hurt a lot.
Obviously we want to retain the league, that’s our number one priority. But there’s a desire to get over the line in the Champions League and that is at the forefront of we want to do given Pep has just two years left on his contract.
How we managed to play so well without a No 9 – with a 'false nine' – was some of Pep’s finest work since arriving at City. The fluency and control you play with is unbelievable and there’s a concern that if you add a No 9, then you may lose some of that fluency to our game.
But I would want a mixture of that incredible technical ability in midfield in pinning teams back but also a No 9 to add a ruthlessness in front of goal. It’s mad that Ilkay Gundogan was our top scorer last season but we need someone like Harry Kane to take those half chances that would give us that edge to win games more comfortably.
There were lots of games last season where it was goalless with 60-70 minutes remaining after we’ve been profligate, so adding a No 9 would fill a big hole in the squad.
My fears are that we don’t get the deals over the line. Jack Grealish might be a bit of a luxury buy. The big fear is we don’t sign a No 9 because we really need one.
While Pep worked miracles with a 'false nine' last season, I don’t think the players can do that again mentally and make up for the deficits for another full 60 games.
I imagine Ferran Torres would be the starting No 9 if someone else doesn’t come in. I think he’s shown a lot of great instincts, and impressed for Spain at the Euros, but he’s still essentially a square peg in a round hole.
Left back is still an issue too. Oleksandr Zinchenko has come on leaps and bounds in the last few months, and I think he’ll go onto do big things for us this season, but if he gets injured, Benjamin Mendy is more of a social media phenomenon right now than a footballer. He can’t stay fit and even when he does play, his head doesn’t stay screwed on.
There’s also going to be massive strength across the league this season. Liverpool and Chelsea look better while Man United have signed two massive players. I’d be surprised if a team runs away with it this season because it seems there will be more horses in the race.
Most important player
Kevin De Bruyne is the easy answer – he’s the best player in the league. If he plays well, City will play well. But the player whose form is most closely tied to our fortunes is Phil Foden.
If he can continue his rise and he establishes himself as a starting XI player, it will be almost a passing of the baton from De Bruyne to Foden. If he continues to dazzle like he did in matches last season, and I expect he will, then he’s on that trajectory.
As things stand, it looks like there's a good chance that Liam Delap might go out on loan, which would be a shame. He's definitely the young player I would have earmarked to shine this season.
Particularly in light of our lack of a first-choice No 9 at the moment, given Aguero's exit and the well-documented difficulties in signing Kane. Delap made a few first-team appearances last season but has been absolutely ripping it up at youth level (for both City and England) so seems primed to go.
However, if he does go out on loan, the other main player to watch would be Cole Palmer - who looks every inch a Pep Guardiola attacking midfielder. His minutes might be limited this season given our options in his position, but Pep himself has confirmed he'll be an active part of the first-team squad this season, so keep an eye out for his silky left foot.
What I’ve missed the most
The atmosphere and seeing the game in person is great. I sit right on the south stand by the away fans so you get that back-and-forth banter between the fans. You can’t recreate that.
But I miss all the other stuff around game time. Meeting up at the station, seeing your mates, going to the pub, getting on the concourse 15 mins before the game.
Going to Porto for the Champions League final was almost an out of body experience. You are meeting all your mates at a bar in Porto before the game, ruminating over what team Pep will play over a beer and asking whether Pep has ‘bottled’ it again… It’s all that kind of stuff, all the things encased around football that isn’t the actual game like seeing the people you only see at the football.
1st – If we sign Kane, I expect us to win the league. Even if it’s rare that Pep signs a player who he drops right into the XI. If we don’t, I’d be a lot less confident because it’s such a big hole and I don’t know how else we fill it. That looks to be the only deal on the table so I do expect it to get done.