The evolution of Manchester City

Over the past 15 years Manchester City have transformed beyond recognition to emerge as true masters of the beautiful game.

Manchester City

Manchester City players Source: Sportimage/PA Images

This season they have have scored 22 goals and conceded just one in their past five matches in all competitions - ridiculous yes, but it wasn't always this beautiful to watch.

I was 11 when I chose to support an English Premier League team in 2002.

I narrowed it down to Fulham and newly promoted Manchester City, the latter winning out due to my love of the colour blue.

The first City game I watched was on SBS - their round one clash against Leeds in 2002-03 season.

It didn't make for good viewing, comfortably beaten 3-nil by Leeds at Elland Road, with Australia's own Mark Viduka netting one of the goals.

As the years went on City’s playing style wasn't pretty but at times was effective.

The likes of Danny Mills, Sylvain Distin, Ben Thatcher and Richard Dunne were uncompromising in defence.

Joey Barton emerged as an enforcer, Shaun Wright-Phillips as the future before he moved to Chelsea.

Shaun Goater, Jon Macken and Antoine Sibierski worked tirelessly upfront.

How those names pale in comparison to those who City fans adore today.

It didn't matter how we played as long we won.

Sven Goran-Eriksson took charge in 2007 and a free-flowing style emerged.

Expectations changed when Sheikh Mansour bought the club, his billions allowed us to dream big.

Star players arrived but it was all a bit too much for Mark Hughes.

Roberto Mancini took us to heights I never thought we would reach.

Manuel Pellegrini ushered in a relentless attacking style but we never built on the success of 2013/14.

Then Pep Guardiola arrived.

In the 14 months since he took charge, the Spaniard has shown why he will go down as one of the greatest manager’s in history.

The proof is in the pudding.

In 2015/16 (Manuel Pellegrini’s last season) - City averaged 55.2% of possession a game and a pass accuracy of 83.1% in the Premier League.

In Pep’s first season, City topped both those categories with 60.9% possession and a 85.5% pass accuracy.

The campaign yielded no trophies but the signs were positive.

Ageing players departed in the off-season and most importantly three wing backs arrived - Kylle Walker, Benjamin Mendy and Danilo - essentials for Guardiola’s system.

In just six games this season, City has averaged 64.7% of possession and a pass accuracy of 88.6%.

In Europe’s top five leagues, City sit third in both those categories.

Finally now I have realised this is how football should be played, the beautiful way.

Short passing, playing out from the back, constant movement, moving into the spaces, a patient build up and pressing as soon as the ball is lost.

It’s no longer about just winning, but about how we achieve victory.

Pep has made almost every City player better in the space of just over a year.

He demands perfection and it’s fair to say so do us fans now.

In the space of a decade, I’ve gone from cheering a clearance into touch to cringing every time it happens.

Funny how things change.

City were below par against Crystal Palace on the weekend and still won 5-0, scary.

Tomorrow morning, Shakhtar Donetsk won’t be as forgiving in the Champions League.

Watching this team play is a privilege - it’s why you should tomorrow on SBS from 4.30am (AEST).

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4 min read
Published 26 September 2017 at 3:48pm
By Adrian Arciuli