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Six Manchester City stars have persuaded Pep Guardiola to change his mentality on his starting 11


Six Manchester City stars have persuaded Pep Guardiola to change his mentality on his starting 11

Pep Guardiola’s recent starting lineups and interview comments indicate that he is planning a new strongest Manchester City XI.

Pep Guardiola’s strongest Manchester City starting lineup, presuming everyone is fit, would look very different from the one he is currently depending on.

City added Erling Haaland to their all-star lineup in the summer and decided to permanently shift Joao Cancelo to left-back. Phil Foden had just finished his best season as a left winger at the Etihad, and Bernardo Silva was back to his best.

Manuel Akanji arrived late in the transfer window to bolster the defense ranks, but he wasn’t expected to replace Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte. How times change.

In light of Guardiola’s recent criticisms of his players, whoever does not play these days is being scrutinized even more. Some withdrawals are due to injury, such as Foden, Dias, or Laporte in recent weeks, but others are on form, and a new strongest XI has formed since the World Cup.

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Despite his error against Tottenham, Ederson remains in goal. He apologized for the gaffe, but insisted nothing would affect his style of play – and his assist for Riyad Mahrez to complete City’s comeback win over Spurs demonstrated his worth to the club.

Rodri is another player that is crucial to City’s success. Kalvin Phillips has returned to training but was lackluster at Southampton and isn’t yet at the level required to compete  with Rodri for a regular starting spot.

 Likewise, in any strongest XI, Kevin De Bruyne is an obvious pick and City’s best player – even if Guardiola dropped him against Spurs and suggested that could happen again in certain games in future.

Despite popular belief, City’s attack is best when Erling Haaland leads the line, as his 31 goals demonstrate. It’s reasonable to wonder how their style has changed with Haaland leading the line, but it’s apparent that Haaland heads City’s strongest XI.

At the start of the season, a’strongest’ back four would have included Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo as full-backs, as well as Ruben Dias and Aymeric Laporte at centre-back – with a right-footer and a left-footer at the back.

However, both Walker and Cancelo have been overlooked since the World Cup, with Rico Lewis and Nathan Ake taking their places. Walker, who was injured for 11 games prior to the six-week break in November, has only started two games league games in the seven post-Qatar fixtures, and completed 90 minutes just once, with Lewis getting praise from the manager for making his teammates better. Cancelo has only started two of the last nine games, with only one coming at left-back.

City ‘cannot play well’ without Ake, according to Guardiola, and the Dutchman was chosen to add some defensive strength against Wolves. Walker and Cancelo remained on the bench, and it’s safe to assume that City’s next two most in-form defenders are John Stones and Manuel Akanji. So, with Laporte and Dias vying for starting spots, Guardiola basically has a defense that would have been second or third choice at the start of the season leading the way at the moment.

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Bernardo Silva, along with captain Ilkay Gundogan, would likely play with De Bruyne in midfield. Bernardo hasn’t played badly recently, but Gundogan has impressed with his attacking forays into the box and eye   a pass. It was Gundogan who featured against Tottenham and Bernardo who wasn’t introduced until City had taken the lead.

Then, in attack, Jack Grealish appears to have surpassed Phil Foden on the left wing, in addition to Riyad Mahrez’s stunning increase in form on the other flank. Grealish is still returning goals and assists in drips, but his overall performance is significantly superior to last season and more consistent than Foden’s. If the forthcoming must-win Premier League match against Arsenal were to be played today, a wing pairing of Grealish and Mahrez appears to be the combination Guardiola would go with.

The manager is always looking for his fringe players to demonstrate why they should be starting and to make every selection choice as difficult as possible. Over half of his team earning their way into contention ahead of more established teammates demonstrates that he’s getting the squad dynamic he wants this season.

The issue now is for those players who were regulars last season to respond to that challenge, to demonstrate the ‘fire’ and ‘passion’ that Guardiola has requested, and to ensure that Guardiola has two choices in each position deserving of starting each game.

Six Manchester City stars have persuaded Pep Guardiola to change his mentality on his starting 11

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