Bellingham and Nunes – City’s defeat to Real Madrid goes back to last summer

Despite being the better team over the two legs, City weren’t able to score a second goal at the Etihad and came unstuck in the penalty shootout. There’s no shortage of tactical analysis for these big games, and everyone agress it comes down to fine margins.

What tipped those fine margins in Madrid’s favour? Well, events off the pitch affect those on it, and away from the xG and heat maps we can go back to the topic of last summer’s transfer window.

Put simply, Jude Bellingham was City’s top target, yet chose Madrid while City somehow ended up with Matheus Nunes who failed to make it off the bench in both legs. Bellingham was kept fairly quiet by City, but imagine if the situation was reversed with Bellingham playing for City while Madrid had Nunes. It’s easy to imagine a different outcome.

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City’s overlooked failing – the 2023 summer transfer window

Following last season’s treble triumph, there was every expectation that City would continue to dominate in the following season. While very far from bad, performances and several results have dropped from the standards seen in the first half of 2023.

Reasons have been provided, ranging from complacency and a lack of hunger in the squad to the injuries to key players in Kevin de Bruyne and John Stones. Then there’s the view that this is part of genius Pep’s season planning, where he makes a few tactical tweaks, the players peak in the second half of the season and City pick up the trophies.

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Why selling Cole Palmer was a mistake City need to learn from

Sell in haste, repent at leisure. The sale of Cole Palmer was arguably the most controversial made by City for years. Why? Because City have never willingly sold a young player of such ability who had been nurtured by the club since they were in primary school.

Sure, we’ve lost talented players before, but it was always a bit different. Jadon Sancho was very highly rated, but was determined to leave. Going back further, Shaun Wright-Phillips also left for Chelsea, but that was at a time when we needed the money and weren’t competing at the highest level. Most recently Romeo Lavia was tipped for the first team and may be one we regret selling, however Lavia had only been with City a couple of years. Palmer was “one of our own”.

So let’s assess what happened…

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City and United treble talk makes for surprising comparison

With City chasing a treble, there have been inevitable comparisons with the United side of 1999. Inevitably there’s a romanticised look back to Fergie’s team, with it viewed as a purely footballing triumph, while City’s bid is often viewed as something more. A state backed, money no object, inevitable conquest played out on an uneven playing field. Guardiola may be a great coach, but his triumphs come with the asterisk of money (or Messi).

Back in 1999, City and United were in different financial worlds, but what about United and their rivals for trophies? A quick look at the Deloitte Money League comparing then and now makes for interesting viewing.

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