It’s impossible to guess Manchester City’s starting lineup on the last day of the Premier League season when they get their hands on the cup. It is, in reality, often challenging. Pep Guardiola’s game plan is to rotate his players.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has used his team’s strength to get through the season’s shortened schedule. He has made 120 line-up shifts in the Premier League alone, an average of almost four per season. At times, the strategy has been questioned. Most noticeably, he made eight changes for Manchester City’s FA Cup semi-final loss to Chelsea three days after beating Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League quarter-finals.
Guardiola, on the other hand, has never wavered. He clarified in April, “They are human beings, not robots. When we lose, people say, ‘Why rotate?’ I rotate because I’m a genius.’ When we win, people say, ‘well done, Pep’. You must treat the players as usual. However, it is unsustainable.”
Of course, Guardiola has enviable capital. His rotation strategy, on the other hand, has allowed him to keep his players fresh in a season in which they have battled on four fronts. They were unable to achieve an incredible quadruple, however, a treble is within their grasp.
The squad is talented, but it is thin – only Crystal Palace, Leeds United, and Aston Villa have used fewer players in the Premier League this season than City – and there are no passengers.
All have contributed. The £60 million deal to sign Ruben Dias was undeniably crucial to the season’s progress. It has also been a year in which Guardiola has sought options among the players he already had.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the City’s progress is how much of it has been accomplished without the use of a traditional striker.
Guardiola’s team has made up for the deficit in part by spreading the goals around. Manchester City has seen 16 different scorers in the Premier League this season. The highest in the league – but also by finding them from unlikely places.