Belfast Telegraph

Pep Guardiola left with plenty of the puzzle to complete at Manchester City

When Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City last summer there was a feeling the club had found the final piece of the jigsaw.

City had been on an upward trajectory since their takeover by Sheikh Mansour in 2008 and, after two Premier League titles, the next challenge was success in Europe.

A squad laden with talent had just started to falter under Manuel Pellegrini but the highly-decorated Guardiola was supposed to take them to that next level.

The thinking was he would do this by introducing the exhilarating brand of football that served him so well at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, where he won a combined 21 trophies including two Champions Leagues.

His reputation would also ensure City were at the head of the queue when it came to signing the world's best players.

But since Guardiola was unveiled to much fanfare by City last July, the feeling has changed. The Spaniard's first season was underwhelming and he may have a bigger job on his hands than anticipated.

He himself stated often enough he needed time to adjust. He could not realistically expect to replicate the "exceptional" success he had previously enjoyed immediately.

Even so, a late-season scramble to finish in the top four and elimination from the Champions League at the last-16 stage were not in the plan.

"We didn't compete, especially in the Premier League, until the end of the season and that was always the main target," Guardiola admitted. "We fought but we were not able to be close, especially to Chelsea.

"But, okay. I think it was a good experience and hopefully this season we can be better."

Guardiola is regarded as one of the best thinkers in the game but some of his decisions last season attracted criticism.

The discarding of England goalkeeper Joe Hart seemed harsh at the time and began to look foolhardy as his replacement Claudio Bravo struggled to impress. This summer's signing of Ederson from Benfica is perhaps an attempt to correct an error.

City mainstays Yaya Toure, Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero also endured awkward periods as uncertainty over their positions was allowed to grow. That did not benefit the team, particularly as it became clear there were other parts of the squad that needed attention first.

The signings of Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva this summer have helped reduce the average age while older campaigners Jesus Navas, Pablo Zabaleta, Bacary Sagna and Gael Clichy have left.

"We have to try to buy and refresh the team in terms of young players, not just for next season but the the next four, five coming years," Guardiola said.

The new signings show a determination to pull the club up to a level they believe it should be. A failure to sign Dani Alves, however, despite the player's open admiration for his former Barca manager Guardiola, underlines how much convincing is still to be done on a number of levels.

Guardiola recognises that and sees there is plenty of the puzzle still to complete.

He said: "Of course we need time. I don't know how long it is going to take but it is fascinating to have the opportunity to try. It is in our hands."

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