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 By Simon Curtis

Guardiola's Man City have depth and defence to win Premier League title

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City mission involves improving the club's performances in Europe as well as winning back the Premier League title. Widely regarded as the best manager on the planet, the Catalan will enter the campaign under plenty of pressure.

Here's a look at Manchester City's 2016-17. Guardiola's era is finally ready to start but how will he adapt to the Premier League?

At a glance

"It begins" is the phrase that's been chosen to mark Guardiola's start in the Premier League, but perhaps more important is City's continued emphasis on organic growth, which has seen the club become the most consistent Premier League finishers in recent times.

Quick predictions

Premier League: ​Champions
FA Cup: Semifinals
League Cup: Quarterfinals
Champions League: Semifinals

Transfer business

City have been extremely busy in the market this summer, bringing in eight new players in Guardiola's first attempt at squad building, culminating in the £47.5 million capture of Everton's John Stones. Not all of the team's summer purchases look like they are designed to bring instant success, however, with a clear emphasis on vibrant young talent for the future.

A failure to land either Aymeric Laporte or Leonardo Bonucci to bolster a critical area in central defence led to a late scramble to organise the backline, which -- it could be argued -- is exactly where stability is required well before the season starts. Playing the likes of Aleksandar Kolarov and Fernando there in preseason hardly screamed "we have a plan," but Stones' arrival certainly does say exactly that.

In one fell swoop, City now look ready for the off, suitably stocked in all departments with a depth of squad to match all comers. With defensive stability a must, City's attacking prowess will provide a headache for all opponents this term.

The arrival of England international defender John Stones from Everton gives Manchester City stability in defence.

Key questions

The big question is how quickly can Guardiola stamp his authority on this squad and on to the Premier League title race. In a fascinating-looking lineup, City will have serious competition this time out from Manchester United and Chelsea, with Arsenal, Spurs and possibly Everton and Leicester City hoping to have a significant influence too.

City's new talent is young -- Stones is 22, Leroy Sane is 20 and Oleksandr Zinchenko is 19 -- and tender talent can be prone to sudden and unexpected dips in form and confidence, as was seen last season with Raheem Sterling. How is this going to affect the team's title ambitions?

It is also time for more progress on the European front, where a tricky two legs vs. Steaua Bucharest need to be negotiated before the Champions League group stage proper. This initial challenge should run smoothly, but can Guardiola beat City's -- and his own -- semifinal jinx in the competition to get the club to a first-ever final and break his own long-running streak of four straight semifinal defeats?

Potential pitfalls

City missed out on a gilt-edged chance to win the league for an unprecedented third time in five years when a stodgy last season under Manuel Pellegrini allowed Leicester in from nowhere. Manchester United and Chelsea were nowhere to be found, but City's chance for a relatively simple title win disintegrated in a cloud of disinterest and poor form.

With United and Chelsea astutely restocked and unlikely to be anywhere near as lethargic this time around, the challenge is much tougher than 12 months ago. Have the well documented defensive troubles been completely solved with the capture of Stones or will this area of the side hinder progress once again? Can Vincent Kompany recover properly from a series of injuries to partner newcomer Stones?

Pep Guardiola will hope that Vincent Kompany can recover properly from a tough series of injuries.

One to watch 

Although midfielder Kevin de Bruyne has already shown what he can do and is hardly a newcomer to the scene, he was cut down cruelly by serious injury and missed a large chunk of the second half of his first season in the Premier League.

This season should provide the platform the Belgian needs to underline his fantastic talent. He is unmatched in his ability to combine precise passing with regular scoring himself and 2016-17 should be the season that confirms just what a brilliant performer he is.

If De Bruyne can stay fit, he may be City's most important influence.

Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.


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