Manchester City is doing something this season that they are not accustomed to. They are chasing the title and running against time to knock Arsenal off the first spot.
In the past few seasons, City has sat comfortably on the top while teams have built strategies to belittle and disrupt City’s proceedings.
Liverpool came close but failed at two endeavours.
Manchester City has already lost the same number of games at this hour as they did in an entire season in the previous campaign of the Premier League.
The Cityzens were extremely lucky to have won the title on the final day which could have easily gone to the contenders at Merseyside.
Pep Guardiola is in no mood to fool around and leave things to the last day of the season this time around.
Two losses away from home to Manchester United and Liverpool this season is a huge enough void for Guardiola to fill. He’s been an active voice, demanding ‘desire’ from his players, asking them to reignite the fire in them and charge for yet another record-breaking Premier League campaign.
To achieve that goal, Guardiola even replenished his attack with Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez and has defensive reinforcements in Rico Lewis and Nathan Ake but what Guardiola is slowly coming to terms with is the inability and sluggishness of the old horses to perform and win again.
These old horses who were the backbones of earlier successful campaigns are now rusting away in Guardiola’s eyes. They are Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Aymeric Laporte, Kyle Walker, and Joao Cancelo.
Guardiola is an extremely demanding professional. After the game against Tottenham Hotspur, he criticized his players for lacking the will to win and said that there might be harsh measures if the performances continue to drop.
It looks like Guardiola wasn’t messing around and the maxim of ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ is in play at Manchester City.
In a shock transfer deadline day deal, Cancelo is on his way to Bayern Munich on a loan deal which will see him with the German giants until the end of this season. The deal also includes an option to-buy clause, which will be triggered if the Bavarians will pay €70 million in the summer of 2023.
Cancelo, until now, was Guardiola’s most prized possession. He was instrumental in City’s last two campaigns and his iconic Trivela pass has produced some of the most beautiful assists the game has ever seen. But if Cancelo was such an important piece of the puzzle, why is Pep Guardiola shipping him off to Germany?
Why is Cancelo leaving?
Cancelo returned from Qatar in full spirits to take his place back in the starting XI of Man City. Unfortunately, Guardiola had already seen the dip in Cancelo’s consistency and his intensity on match days, giving him only three starts in the 10 games that City has played until now. It was because of his mistake that City lost at Anfield earlier this season, but that wasn’t the sole reason to expel Cancelo.
In the FA Cup tie against Arsenal, Nathan Ake started at left-back, the position earlier reserved for Cancelo, and scored the winning goal to see City through to the next round. Cancelo confronted Guardiola on the training ground for not starting him in the game against the Gunners.
A heated argument ensued between the two and Cancelo uttered the words, “I wanted to leave,” which he shouldn’t have. If there’s one thing to learn about Guardiola is that he keeps nothing above the team and keeps winning as his only mantra. Since Cancelo was no longer aligning with his mantra, Guardiola was quick to arrange a move for him away from Man City.
What does Cancelo’s departure mean for Man City?
To let a player as senior as Cancelo leave shows just how serious Guardiola was in his pursuit of putting City as a title contender once again. He is desperate to win and if sacrificing a few players helps Guardiola better his purpose, he will not shy away from it.
Cancelo’s departure means that Gundogan, whose contract expires at the end of the season, Silva, who has been on Barcelona’s radar, and 33-year-old Walker, all of them are old warriors who have paid their dues. They need to find a new home soon if they cannot perform.
Guardiola wants blood-hungry people gunning for the title and Cancelo’s loan deal was a message to all these players to buckle up or go home.
The Spanish manager has made it clear. If you want to play for Manchester City, don’t bring any excuse until it’s completely unavoidable. But Cancelo’s deal means that City is left with Rico Lewis or Nathan Ake to fill the position left by the Portuguese. Both are young defenders who have shown that they are eager to win, which aligns with Guardiola’s mindset.
However, it remains to be seen whether Ake or Lewis, who has been promoted to the first team only this season, is at par with Cancelo’s ability as a defender and a ruthless playmaker.