MX23RW : Monday, February 18 02:51:40

How Manchester City could line up in 2018-19

Ahead of their opening match of the season against Arsenal, Sports Mole looks at how champions Manchester City could line up in 2018-19.

How does one improve on the greatest team the Premier League has ever seen?

That is the question facing Pep Guardiola and his coaching staff this summer after seeing his Manchester City side storm to the title in record-breaking fashion last term.

Arsenal's Invincibles, Jose Mourinho's first Chelsea crop and various incarnations of Sir Alex Ferguson's Manchester United may argue, but statistically speaking the Man City crop of 2017-18 were the finest the league has seen since its inception.

Guardiola's men became the first team to amass 100 points, scored more goals than any other team in Premier League history and won the title by an unprecedented 19 points.

It is 10 years since any team retained the trophy, though, and City must strive to maintain those ludicrously high standards if they are to create the sort of dynasty that last season's performances suggested they are capable of.

It has been a fairly modest summer by City's standards; Riyad Mahrez arrived for a club-record fee but there have been no other major incomings, whereas a number of their expected challengers have significantly strengthened.

However, City boast plenty of young talent amongst their ranks who will only be better with another year's experience under their belts, and there was little need to tamper too much with a squad that achieved so much last term.

Here, Sports Mole looks at how Man City could line up in 2018-19.

Possible Man City XI 2018-19
Transfers in: Riyad Mahrez (£60m, Leicester City), Philippe Sandler (undisclosed, PEC Zwolle), Daniel Arzani (undisclosed, Melbourne City)

Transfers out: Will Patching (free, Notts County), Ashley Smith-Brown (undisclosed, Plymouth Argyle), Jacob Davenport (undisclosed, Blackburn Rovers), Angus Gunn (£13.5m, Southampton), Isaac Buckley-Ricketts (undisclosed, Peterborough United), Jack Harrison (loan, Leeds United), Bersant Celina (undisclosed, Swansea City), Kean Bryan (free, Sheffield United), Tosin Adarabioyo (loan, West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (£3.5m, Burnley), Brandon Barker (loan, Preston North End), Thomas Agyepong (loan, Hibernian), Lukas Nmecha (loan, Preston North End)

If it wasn't for the incredible goalscoring form of Mohamed Salah last season, Ederson may well have been the best signing of the 2017-18 campaign. The Brazilian settled immediately into the Premier League and contributes as much to Man City's passing style as most others in the team.

The biggest defensive decision for Guardiola to make this season comes in the middle, where he is spoilt for choice. Captain Vincent Kompany remains an integral part of the team when fit, while John Stones reminded everyone why Man City spent such big money on him with his displays at the World Cup. However, Aymeric Laporte could establish himself ahead of that pair in the pecking order following his move last January for a then club-record fee, partnering Nicolas Otamendi, who was arguably the best defender in the division last term.

Kyle Walker has made the right-back slot his own since his move to the Etihad Stadium, and on the opposite flank City will be delighted to have Benjamin Mendy available after he missed the vast majority of his debut season in England through injury. Fabian Delph performed admirably in that role during 2017-18, but Mendy is expected to be first choice this season.

Delph is likely to be given more time in central midfield as a result, although 33-year-old Fernandinho remains the base off which those ahead of him can build off. The Brazilian allows Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva to pull the strings for the front three, with the pass-masters combining for 27 Premier League assists between them last season.

Ilkay Gundogan provides a different option in the middle of the park too, while youngsters Patrick Roberts and Phil Foden will be hopeful of gaining more first-team experience during the campaign.

The strength in depth at City's disposal is perhaps most evident in the final third, though. City splashed a club-record £60m on Mahrez this summer, but there is an argument that the Algerian international would not get into their first-choice XI, with Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane having contributed 37 goals between them last season. Throw Bernardo Silva into the equation too and City have an embarrassment of riches in the wide areas.

As if that wasn't enough, Guardiola can also boast two of the best strikers in the division - although there seems to be only room for one of them. Sergio Aguero has been one of the world's most potent finishers for a number of years now and will no doubt get plenty of game time this season, but Man City's record all-time goalscorer may be just behind 21-year-old Gabriel Jesus in the pecking order as things stand. It is a nice problem for Guardiola to have, though.

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Alvaro Morata celebrates scoring for Chelsea on September 23, 2017
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