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Pep Guardiola revolution cranks up a notch as Man City sweep past rivals

It's the half way point in the season and time to take stock of the season so far at Manchester City.

Pep Guardiola's men have been graded and we've picked a star man, flop, key question and prediction for the rest of the season. 

Grade: A

A record-breaking 17 successive victories, the best ever start to an English season, 13 points clear at the top of the Premier League and qualification for the Champions League round-of-16 by finishing top of the group, there is nothing to quibble about over City's first half of the campaign.

Guardiola went into the season under plenty of pressure after a difficult first 12 months in England and a heavy spend in the summer with close to £200 million splashed out on new arrivals.

But his side have grown in confidence with every passing game and Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Leroy Sane and Nicolas Otamendi have seen their games improve spectacularly.

Opponents have tried everything to stop City from high pressing to ultra-deep defending and all have been picked off with the exception of Everton, who held out for a point against 10 men.

City's closest rivals Chelsea and Manchester United have already beaten on their home grounds -- each by a single goal although Guardiola's side controlled both games. Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal, who were seen as possible title rivals, all went to the Etihad and all were emphatically beaten.

Kevin De Bruyne has been superb in Manchester City's stunning campaign so far.

Star Man

So many of City's squad have stepped up this season and their success has been built on team understanding but De Bruyne's performances have arguably been the best in the Premier League.

De Bruyne has always been a passing master. Statistically, the Belgium international has the joint-most assists in the Premier League this season, most chances created and most passes in the opposition half. But one thing the figures don't show is the quality of his passing.

In City's biggest win this season -- the 7-2 victory over Stoke City -- his slide rule pass for the second goal sent the entire defence and half the stadium the wrong way but he contributed an even better assist in the second half with a 30-yard pass that dissected four defenders to set up Sane.

He's also contributed a number of vital goals, not least a brilliant individual winner at Stamford Bridge, a stunning 20-yard strike at Leicester and well-taken goals against Arsenal and Spurs.

Guardiola has no doubts about De Bruyne's quality. "I have no words to describe [him]," he said after the win over Tottenham.


It's slightly unfair to pick out Bernardo Silva as he hasn't done anything particularly badly, rather he has just not managed to break into the City team, but Guardiola is confident he has a bright future at the Etihad. City moved quickly to sign the playmaker in May after a brilliant season with Monaco where he had been a key member of Leonardo Jardim's side that won the Ligue 1 title and reached the semifinals of the Champions League.

Guardiola and City fans had seen exactly what Silva was capable of after a starring role in their Champions League round-of-16 tie when Monaco went through on away goals after a thrilling 6-6 clash. But he missed the summer tour to the United States after playing at the Confederations Cup with Portugal and has been playing catch-up ever since.

The 23-year-old has made just four Premier League starts and a further three in the Champions League and his only league goal was the seventh in the 7-2 win over Stoke.

But Silva is confident he can show his quality. "Always when you move clubs and move to a new country, you need time to adapt," he said.

"England is a special country where the football is very fast and very competitive so I'm getting used to it each time we play. Fortunately, with more time and more games, I'll be able to show everyone what I can do and prove my value."

The pressure was on Pep Guardiola to deliver this season and he has done so in style.

Key Question

City's defence has the best record in the Premier League but the big tests will come in the second half of the season -- particularly if they reach the latter stages of the Champions League.

They are already without a recognised left-back until around April after new signing Benjamin Mendy suffered a cruciate knee ligament injury, although midfielder Fabian Delph has been an excellent deputy.

City have also looked short of options in the centre of defence with Vincent Kompany's muscle injury problems continuing and doubts over the reliability of Eliaquim Mangala. It's put a strain on City's regular starters and Guardiola must decide whether to spend again in January to add more cover to his defence.

Predicted Finish

Premier League: 1st.
FA Cup: Quarterfinals.
Champions League: Semifinals.
Carabao Cup: Winners.

Jonathan is ESPN FC's Manchester City correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @jonnysmiffy.


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