Have Manchester City lost their chances at UEFA Champions League success?
Although the lifting of their UEFA Champions League ban has lifted the spirits of the Cityzens, there may be a lingering quandary rising from beneath the surface.
Kosta Diamantopoulos of La Trobe University
If there's anything that the FA Cup loss to Arsenal tells us, it's that Manchester City are perhaps mentally weaker than they are accredited with. A defensively dogged Arsenal side that exploded with pace on their counter-attacks rarely looked phased against a Manchester City side boasted with some of the league's top talents; not to say that Kevin De Bruyne wasn't highly impressive.
The Belgium presented a classy performance of chance-creation, whilst exhibiting frustration with teammates Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and others when their quality just wasn't equaling his.
But what can you expect? When a defence like Arsenal's sits so ridiculously deep after claiming the 1-0 lead, the likes of Sterlings extreme pace and ability to get in behind is essentially rendered redundant.
It's easy to question if Ilkay Gundogan, Jesus and Riyad Mahrez were even selected that day; besides the Algerian's strike that was met with an exquisite save from replacement goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez, the impact was minimal.
It's hard to imagine being so critical of a Manchester City side that includes such talented players, but this side is arguably two/three steps beneath that of the 2017/18 campaign.
I often recall this side as Manchester City's greatest chance at European domination, as there is no denying the domestic destruction they inflicted on their Premier League opponents.
The team showed incredible mental restoration following narrow defeats to both rivals Liverpool (4-3) and Manchester United (2-3) by not being phased and achieving the ultimate goal of a 100 point season.
The sky-blue side saw four of their most threatening players boast the top four spots in the PL 2017/18 league assists tally. (K. De Bruyne: 16, L. Sane: 15, D. Silva: 11 and R. Sterling: 11)
To measure the quality of players from then and now, a great example is now City-legend David Silva.
The Etihad-exiting Spaniard was arguably in the prime of his late-blooming career at 32 years old, collecting 10 goals accompanied by an impressive 14 assists as he performed incredibly in the playmaking central midfield role.
Not to say he doesn't remain a fine player, but he certainly isn't where he was 2 years ago. His replacements haven't necessarily proved themselves either but it's Phil Foden who will be looking to be the next in-line to fill the hole Silva will leave.
The signing of Mahrez filled an entirely different position in the wide-areas, whilst Gundogan's job to step-up into Silva's central role hasn't proved to be as influential as Pep Guardiola would hope. Bernardo Silva previously had multiple appearances in the Spaniard's role too - but he ultimately flourished on the right wing later in the 18/19 season.
The ageing of defensive-midfielder Fernandinho hasn't benefited the side either as he's now at 35 years old. The Brazilian proved to be the embodiment of versatility as he has been played in numerous different positions and has been resourceful throughout his City career.
Once lauded as being one of the best centre-halves in the world, Vincent Kompany has since left a Manchester City side who has failed to replace him as of yet. There is a clear centre-back problem within the club and it seems like the potential signing of Nathan Ake will be the perfect remedy for Guardiola and his plan, it's only a matter of bringing the dutch-man in.
Now we fast-forward to the end of the 2019/20 season. Manchester City don't seem to be an undesirable side as they have attracted the likes of Sane, Jesus, Laporte, Ederson, Mendy and more to the club, but it appears there may be a slight struggle to seek the most attractive players from around the world. With Lautaro Martinez, Nelson Semedo and David Alaba snubbing moves to Manchester City we may be seeing a slight decline in the attraction that Manchester City once had for foreign players.
With Kompany gone, Silva retiring, Aguero still riddled with injuries and Sane sold to Bayern Munich, a rebuilding phase seems to be a necessity to get this side back to the fearsome, well-oiled machine it once was touted to be.