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Media Watch: City tipped for more success

JUST CHAMPION: Manchester City begin the defence of our Premier League title away at Arsenal tomorrow

JUST CHAMPION: Manchester City begin the defence of our Premier League title away at Arsenal tomorrow

It’s the weekend we’ve all been waiting for… the start of the new Premier League season.

And ahead of City’s trip to Arsenal, more members of the media have been pouring over our chances of success over the campaign… and it makes for pleasant reading!

Starting off in the Telegraph, Jason Burt is in no doubt that Pep Guardiola’s reigning champions remain the side to beat for everyone else.

Burt writes: No team has ever finished as far ahead as Manchester City did last season and not retained the Premier League title. 

"Nineteen points. That was the daunting gap between City and Manchester United but it felt a world apart in terms of the football they played and the dimensions between them. Even the statistics, as great as they are, do not equate to the gulf. 

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"No team has ever previously hit a century of points as City did. Before last season, the biggest gap between first and second in the Premier League era was 18 points. That was achieved by United in 1999-2000 and they retained the title the following campaign in the middle of a run of three consecutive crowns.

"And that is the challenge for City. To become the first team, since United in 2009, to retain the league title and as their demanding manager Pep Guardiola has outlined: to do it not just again but better.

"A glimpse has already been offered. Guardiola spoke about the hunger to win more titles, to go again, before the Community Shield against Chelsea last Sunday and City captain Vincent Kompany, one of those who returned early from his post-World Cup holiday, has revealed the mindset within the squad.

"In fact, in one phrase, Kompany encapsulated Guardiola’s approach. “We prepared for Chelsea like it was a Champions League final and I like that,” the 32-year-old defender said.

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"City have strengthened, with the adornment of £60 million Riyad Mahrez, and the return of full-back Benjamin Mendy but the Community Shield highlighted two distinct things: the desire of even experienced, older players such as Kompany and Aguero to go again and, at the other end of the scale in terms of their careers, the determination of Bernardo Silva and, even younger, the 18-year-old Phil Foden to be part of the project. 

"It is no bold statement to say that City are the ones to beat and over a 38-game season it is difficult to see them not gaining enough points to be at the top of the table."

That theme is echoed by Jack Pitt-Brooke, as he looks ahead to the next nine months in the Independent.

He writes: In boardrooms, changing rooms and concourses across the country this weekend, one question hangs over the new Premier League season: are we now in the era of Manchester City hegemony?

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"Pep Guardiola’s record breakers start against Arsenal on Sunday afternoon and it is hard to remember the last side which began a season as unanimously backed and admired as this City team. 

"Even though City broke the wins, points and goals records last season, Guardiola certainly thinks they can keep improving this year. His view is that for as long as his individual players can keep getting better on the specific skills of the game, then so can the team as a whole. 

"That is why Guardiola teams keep improving, and why their third season is always the strongest.

"Even when they have learned this system they can still master it. Guardiola’s third season team at Barcelona, 2010-11, was unambiguously the greatest side of the modern era. They won La Liga, the Champions League, then the Super Cup and the Club World Cup soon after. His third season at Bayern was just as dominant.

"To watch Manchester City play towards the end of the last season was to see a team who had fully learned the Guardiola system. Every pass, every run, every overload, every formation was so internalised that execution was automatic. 

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"But that does not mean Guardiola will now leave his team on cruise control 

"Throw in the arrival of Riyad Mahrez, the return of Benjamin Mendy and the integration of Aymeric Laporte and City are far likelier to be better this year. They will play more precise, penetrative controlling football than ever before."

Jamie Smith’s verdict for goal.com is equally effusive when it comes to City’s prospects for more silverware over the 2018/19 campaign.

He scribes: "After winning the Premier League by a record 19 points last season, the Catalan coach claims he is not seeking to make more history in 2018-19

"Pep Guardiola feels setting a points target would be a mistake for Manchester City as they seek to defend the Premier League title for the first time.

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"No team has won back-to-back Premier Leagues since Manchester United under Alex Ferguson in 2008-09, with City failing on their two previous attempts.

"But the Catalan says he is not motivated by the prospect of setting further landmarks with his side, noting clubs such as Chelsea have struggled to follow up their successes.

"It's not the point. I'm not here to say we have to win by 20 points," Guardiola said. "To improve is to see the team play better and individual players get better, but opponents will be better.

"What happened last season, we have learned and we know what to do. To improve is not about points or statistics, sometimes you play better and don't win.”

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Finally, Dan O’Toole writing in the Manchester Evening News believes that City’s displays during pre-season only augur well for the challenges ahead

O'Toole writes: “It has been something of a seamless transition from last season for Guardiola’s side with an impressive showing in pre-season.

“That a second-string side - missing so many first-teamers on post-World Cup holidays - was capable of replicating the fast, incisive football that saw City crowned Champions with relative ease last season makes the feat all the more impressive.

“Playing with the fluency that garnered such success for the Blues last season shows the extent to which Guardiola’s philosophy has been bought into at the Etihad."


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