1) Pep Guardiola shows who is in charge
When the derby with Manchester United in Beijing on Monday was called off, the Manchester City chief executive, Ferran Soriano, pointed to heavy rain as the reason. “We understand that this bad weather is beyond anyone’s control and that the rain has made it totally unsafe to play on this pitch,” he said.
Yet in Shenzhen during Wednesday’s press conference before City played Borussia Dortmund the following day, Pep Guardiola made it clear the cancellation had nothing to do with the elements or risk of injury.
Instead, the 45-year-old, a football man to his bones, said it would not have been possible to offer the fans the high-quality spectacle they deserved. Guardiola said this, despite Soriano’s stance being the club’s official position, and one echoed by Ed Woodward, his opposite number at United. It suggests City have a manager who is not in the passive mould of his predecessor, Manuel Pellegrini, but a No1 who will do it his way.
2) Yaya Touré for centre-half?
The Ivorian was not namechecked by the coach when Guardiola spoke of his liking for fielding a central midfielder in the middle of the back four. According to Guardiola, Fernandinho could play “10 positions” and Fernando could also operate there. However, the manager did add there were many midfielders at the club who could also do the job.
Yaya Touré was thought to be under threat when Guardiola was announced as Pellegrini’s successor but if he is to remain at City the 33-year-old’s future could be to move into the less-advanced position. He has previously done so, with some success, operating at centre-back when Barcelona beat Manchester United to win the Champions League in 2009.
3) Will the planned extra friendly be enough to complete preparations?
For a coach for whom detail is paramount, to reach the end of July having seen his side play only twice is a concern, especially as these are a group Guardiola has never worked with before – Touré apart. Many of his better players have managed only a half or not appeared at all. Forget the negative public relations caused by the derby that was not played, the real damage was Guardiola missing out on an invaluable 90 minutes of preparation.
On several occasions he has mentioned how negotiating the Champions League play-off round is vital. The first leg of this is played on the week of 16-17 August, a few days after the season opener against Sunderland.
Before City travel to Gothenburg to face Arsenal in a pre-season friendly on 7 August there is expected to be an extra warm-up match. This is potentially against St Johnstone but even this would make only four friendlies spread across a month for City. Factor in that David Silva and Sergio Agüero have played only 45 minutes and Joe Hart, Kevin De Bruyne, Bacary Sagna and Eliaquim Mangala have yet to kick a ball in anger, and Guardiola, as he acknowledges, is in a fight to make sure City hit the ground running.
4) Last-chance saloon for Samir Nasri?
To work under Guardiola is a chance all footballers would surely crawl to the Etihad Stadium for. Not Nasri, apparently, who arrived for pre-season overweight, according to the manager. After an erratic City career during which the Frenchman has admitted to not always having the correct attitude, Guardiola’s appointment was the chance of a fresh start and a rebirth as a footballer who could finally do his talent justice. So what, frankly, was Nasri thinking turning up out of shape enough to be prevented from playing a second of City’s two matches so far?
5) City fail to sell out their game
City – like United – played Dortmund in a stadium that appeared only a third full. This may, in part, have been because of ticket prices but, given the importance of China as a market, the club has work to do to achieve the kind of penetration it desires.
The slipshod nature of the trip and its planning did not help, either. City – again like United – flew home having played only once in the country. This is patently not good enough and having to scramble to stage an extra fixture next week hardly speaks of careful planning for all contingencies.
As with United’s manager, José Mourinho, Guardiola’s frustrations over the tour were evident and there should be a serious review of the International Champions Cup if participation is to be continued. Privately, City officials questioned some of the logistics and organisation of the ICC. The hope will be that what happened in China does not affect the start to the season.