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Pep Guardiola: Manchester City 'don't have the money' to spend big again

Pep Guardiola: Manchester City 'don't have the money' to spend big again

ESPN

Liverpool will look forward to bumper sales of their traditional end-of-season DVD review. Like last summer's release it will feature lots of goals and wins -- just what supporters love -- which indicates two good seasons in a row, something not experienced since 2009.

A cursory examination of both campaigns sees certain similarities, such as how exciting Jurgen Klopp's team can be and occasionally infuriating too.

One difference will be how goals were shared around. During season 2016-17 Liverpool's main attacking trio were Philippe Coutinho, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. Together they scored 39 of Liverpool's 92 goals, amounting to 42 percent.

Having added Mohamed Salah to their attacking arsenal, and still including Coutinho, four players scored 102 of Liverpool's 134 goals this time around -- a huge hike to 76 percent.

Incredibly, just 32 goals have been scored by the rest of Liverpool's squad this season compared to 53, last time out.

There are reasons for this. Both Salah and Firmino were virtually ever-present. While Mane missed some earlier games through injury and suspension, he also featured in most matches.

Last season Klopp had to dip into his squad more. Players like Divock Origi and Daniel Sturridge were called upon to share attacking duties. This year they've been out on loan. For the whole season at Wolfsburg in Origi's case, for half a season with West Brom in Sturridge's -- for all the good it did him or them.

A big frustration for Klopp was a season of injuries for Adam Lallana, who made a telling contribution last time and emerged as the manager's favourite. The famous Klopp hug seemed more heartfelt for the England man than for anybody else.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had tried to fix this gap in Liverpool's midfield, made worse by Coutinho's sale to Barcelona. Having struggled for months with very little game time, the former Arsenal man dug in and contrived to become a fixture in the team before a cruel injury forced him to miss the end of this season and probably a fair bit of the next one. By the beginning of season 2018-19, Liverpool could well be missing the contributions of six players that have helped them to fourth place two years running.

Coutinho is probably the most important loss. Klopp managed to keep Liverpool in the top four while also reaching the Champions League final but that's been done despite losing Coutinho and not because of it.

His creativity and long-distance shooting -- from free kicks or normal play -- haven't been replaced fully, with Liverpool depending largely upon the general improvement in Firmino's game and the extraordinary finishing of Salah.

From the summer of 2016 to the summer of 2018 Liverpool will have had big changes in personnel. It remains to be seen whether these are damaging in any way.

The increase in percentage of goals their forwards score isn't in itself worrying -- most teams have a high fraction for their best players. But it's somewhat ironic Liverpool won their last game against Brighton 4-0 with three goals from unusual sources: Dejan Lovren, Dominic Solanke and Andrew Robertson.

There is something to be said however for the claim that such a massive goal contribution from Salah cannot be relied upon next time around.

Klopp may prefer to see a more even spread of goals, but how he goes about getting it will be interesting. The hardest thing in football is to try and fix something that on the surface isn't really broken.

Liverpool will want better attacking strength from the bench than they've been getting from Solanke and Danny Ings, whether from the returning Origi and Sturridge or new recruits.

Qualifying for the Champions League again means Klopp has plenty of chances to offer his second-string players. They must see it as an opportunity to impress and to be part of something much bigger than themselves. Many could get regular football elsewhere, but to what end?

Already there are stories about Rhian Brewster wanting first-team opportunities. If there is genuine belief in the Under-18 World Cup star making the grade, his progress has to be constructively managed and encouraged.

It is not Klopp's job however to mollycoddle youngsters. His own position is on the line with virtually every match. In a results-driven business experimentation simply isn't feasible, but there needs to be balance between using present and future stars.

He can point to Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson as classic examples of younger squad players biding their time and reaping the benefits. Their reward will be a starting place in Europe's biggest showcase on May 26. That has to be the bait, for youngsters and experienced squad players alike.

Steven Kelly is one of ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @SteKelly198586.

When football historians look back over this season in years to come, it will be interesting to see how important they view the signing of Alexis Sanchez to Manchester United's ambitions.

It is striking to think that there were many who were concerned by the Chilean forward's transfer from Arsenal -- this writer included -- and some who did not see the need for it altogether. Sanchez, it was feared, would rapidly reduce the playing time of Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford at a key stage of their development -- a fear which turns out to have been justified.

Yet, in this era of warp-speed news cycles, it's easy to forget just how sensational his switch to United actually was. He had been courted for months by Pep Guardiola, but had also long been the subject of a private and protracted approach from Old Trafford. And so, in one of Ed Woodward's finest moves yet -- a phrase which two years ago would have been difficult to imagine, given Woodward's initial failures in the transfer market -- Sanchez found himself in red instead of blue.

Sanchez was set to join a City squad already creaking under the weight of its firepower -- he would have found himself among the ranks of one of the most devastating attacks the top flight has seen, alongside Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva.

Perhaps he looked at that cast and did not believe he would be a regular choice, despite Guardiola's presumed arguments to the contrary. What is for sure, though, is that United's need for him was far greater than that of their local rivals.

Sanchez, like Romelu Lukaku and Jesse Lingard -- no coincidence that they are seemingly Jose Mourinho's first-choice front three -- is someone who can still thrive in a largely unstructured attack. His first few games, though, raised minor alarm. For the most part, despite his considerable efforts, he was far below par -- his passing and his shooting were equally wayward, and he had little understanding of the movement that his team-mates were making around him. Given the vast salary Sanchez commanded, he was expected to settle at once -- but it would have been unrealistic for him to do so.

In recent months, he has looked much more like the player Mourinho and Woodward relentlessly and successfully pursued. Most notable have been his showings in United's "big" matches, most particularly the 3-2 derby win over Manchester City. In this fixture, he played a leading role in United's comeback from two goals down, and provided an exciting glimpse of the team's future. He thrived amid chaos, sending in the free-kick that Chris Smalling steered home for a remarkable winner, and when making decisions in the final third he was the very soul of focus. His runs, so often mistimed before that day, were perfectly in sync with his fellow forwards.

Though Sanchez's understanding with Lingard has only just begun to thrive, it has been striking to see how frequently he and the England international find each other in space -- in a couple of respects they have similar approaches, unafraid to shoot from distance and very keen to play one-touch football at speed. That economy with the ball and diligence without it seem to be key to Mourinho's attacking approach, a welcome change from the pedestrian football that has often drawn frustration from United supporters.

Mourinho will call for patience, given that his side finished second in the table and have reached the FA Cup final, and that Sanchez is still finding his feet -- he ended up with two goals in 12 matches, and three goals in 17 appearances in all competitions.

Much seems set to come from him, and not too soon -- City outscored United this season by 106 goals to 68, a difference of 38. Chile's loss, though, is United's gain -- since their inability to qualify for next month's World Cup in Russia means that Sanchez, for the first time in years, will have a full summer off. That's no small matter, given that the last few seasons have seen him competing furiously at international level, in the process claiming two Copa America titles at the expense of Lionel Messi's Argentina.

United have some way to go to catch City, but the addition of Sanchez -- an almost unrivalled force of dynamism -- may just be the first step in the fightback. If so, the January transfer window of 2017-18 will be regarded as one of uncommon drama, and where the most thrilling of gambles handsomely paid off.

Musa Okwonga is one of ESPN FC's Manchester United bloggers. Follow on Twitter: @Okwonga.

A change of managers at Chelsea is nothing new. In the 15 years Roman Abramovich has owned the club, the Blues have had 12 different men in charge of team affairs on a permanent or temporary basis. The likelihood is that this will soon become 13 with Antonio Conte expected to depart in the coming weeks.

Presently, there is no glaringly obvious candidate to replace Conte and Chelsea supporters are widely divided over the suitability of the managers being linked to take on one of the most challenging jobs in football.

Fan concern at this latest hiatus is exacerbated by the fact that Abramovich is pressing ahead with plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge. It's expected the Blues will play at the Bridge for two more seasons and then move to temporary home for at least four years while the stadium is rebuilt. Where Chelsea will play their football during this period has yet to be decided. Wembley remains the most likely venue, but a ground-share with West Ham at the London Stadium is also being rumoured and it's believed that options to remain within the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham are also being explored.

To make matters worse for supporters already troubled by these uncertainties, the Blues have come up short on the pitch this season. Premier League champions Manchester City have raised the bar and in the process, erased a number of records set by Chelsea in the Abramovich era. Manchester United, Tottenham and Liverpool also finished ahead in the table, meaning Champions League football will not be on the agenda for the 2018-2019 campaign.

What Chelsea fans crave right now is managerial stability and sight of a clearly defined football strategy that will enable the club to claw back the ground lost to rivals. When Jose Mourinho returned in 2013 for his second stint as boss, hope sprang eternal the Portuguese would go the distance and stay to build a dynasty that would overarch the stadium redevelopment that was announced during his tenure. Of course that didn't work out -- boom soon turned to bust for Mourinho. When Conte was appointed and led Chelsea to the title in his first season, the same thought processes were applied -- but then the Italian's world rapidly unravelled as well.

At face value it could be argued that supporters are worrying over nothing. Saturday sees Chelsea play Manchester United in the FA Cup final and with that comes the opportunity to win yet another trophy. Win or lose, Abramovich has huge cash reserves to throw at his expensive hobby.

Conte may well leave and, should he do so, the next man will come in and be given money to spend on new players -- that's the way things have always worked at the Bridge under the Russian and the 14 major trophies won to date under his ownership make it hard to criticise the way success has been achieved.

Scratch beneath the lustrous veneer that this silverware represents, however, and there is little for fans to be enthusiastic about. Chelsea lack the director of football-style structure and stadium permanence their rivals now have in place. Yes the academy continues to deliver success, but that is also measured in trophies rather than progress -- which in this case means players breaking through to the first team.

Right now nothing appears joined up. Abramovich, of course, has the financial resources to address this, but does he have the right kind of football wisdom? The next managerial appointment and the back office support that goes with it is potentially the most important in the club's entire history.

Get it right and Chelsea will soon be back in the groove and match-going supporters will ride out the stadium redevelopment and continue to part with their hard earned cash to follow the team. Get it wrong and the empty seats that were very much in evidence in the final home game of the season with Huddersfield will become increasingly noticeable and only get worse when the Blues move away from the Bridge.

Gazing at rows of empty seats at the Emirates when disgruntled Arsenal season ticket holders stayed away during the final troubled weeks of Arsene Wenger's managerial reign was a portent of things to come. Watching football is an expensive business and now as never before supporters need to feel that their club is doing the right thing by them.

Clearly conscious of this fact, Arsenal are being meticulous about appointing a successor to Wenger who was in charge of the team for 22 years. A long-term strategy is clearly in play, but they know they need to get the right man. Whether or not Abramovich is thinking along the same lines is a mystery -- he should be though, because if two years down the line Chelsea find themselves without a manager once more it will only mean one thing -- failure, and with it a long hard road might lie ahead.

Mark Worrall is one of ESPN FC's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter: @gate17marco

With the Premier League season done and dusted, Cesc Fabregas was able to complete the most important assist of his life by getting married.

Indeed, the Chelsea midfielder tied the knot with his long-term partner Daniella at a picturesque ceremony at Cliveden House in Berkshire, England.

One magical day ????

A post shared by Daniella Semaan (@daniellasemaan) on May 15, 2018 at 7:03am PDT

Fabregas first met Daniella when she asked for an autograph for her son in Japanese restaurant in Knightsbridge, London, some seven years ago.

The couple have been together almost ever since, and have three children together.

Just married to the woman of my dreams @daniellasemaan ???????????????? Thank you @pamelamansourmehanna & @rosa_clara & @parazarme & @bassamfattouh & @signature_bespoke for making this day so perfect ❤️

A post shared by Cesc Fàbregas (@cescf4bregas) on May 15, 2018 at 5:34am PDT

One look says a thousand words ????

A post shared by Cesc Fàbregas (@cescf4bregas) on May 15, 2018 at 11:02am PDT

Cesc will have to be snappy about rushing his honeymoon through though, as the FA Cup final is on Saturday and the World Cup is set to start in less than a month's time.

Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.

Pep Guardiola said Manchester City won't match their spending of the past two summers with just one or two players set to arrive before the new season.

City have spent around £300 million since Guardiola took over in 2016, bringing down the average age of the squad.

Yaya Toure is out of contract and Guardiola said a replacement for the midfielder is his top priority, with sources telling ESPN FC that Napoli's Jorginho is a top target.

"Yaya is leaving so we have to replace him, and maybe another one," Guardiola said on Sky Sports' Monday Night Football. "One or two more, no more. Maybe people don't believe me, but we don't have the money to invest £300m every season."

When asked where else he would consider adding players, Guardiola suggested up front.

"We have to think and talk more with Txiki [Begiristain, the director of football] and the staff," he said. "It's four competitions. We need new faces to compete with the guys from this season."

City won the Premier League by a record 19 points and will be the early favourites to defend their title next season, but Guardiola is expecting a tough challenge.

"At Barcelona and Bayern Munich, people expect you to win, but at Manchester City, you never know," Guardiola said. "We don't have history behind us like other important teams and there are five or six really tough teams at the top.

"When you look at the distance of the gap we won with and think about doing that again, it will be impossible. You think about 25 points to Liverpool, and all the other clubs, it's unreal. And the weather conditions, the amount of games, it's quite different to Germany and Spain."

No team has won back-to-back Premier League titles since Manchester United in 2009.

"For no team to [defend the title] for a long time shows how difficult it is," he said. "The target is there but the other teams and contenders are trying too. The target is to win. It happened with Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

"I am curious how we are going to run without the ball. That is our main target. That would be a good signal if we are still a humble team with desire and show how we run back. Normally after winning you say, 'Now I don't run' -- this is the moment you are not going to win. We will try to focus on that next season."

The title was City's third in the Premier League after wins in 2012 and 2014, and Guardiola knows that he will have to keep winning to establish the club as one of the league's best.

"Winning one title, a lot of teams have done that, it's not exceptional," he said. "To be a big team in England or in history, you have to win more. I know the players a little bit and I think they have the desire to try it again."

Guardiola said he appreciates the tactical challenges presented by other Premier League managers, praising Chelsea's Antonio Conte for his movement and the quality of United under Jose Mourinho.

And he had particular praise for Liverpool, who knocked City out of the Champions League quarterfinals and also won the teams' league meeting at Anfield.

"Liverpool is magnificent," he said. "I suffered a lot against Jurgen Klopp in Germany. The transitions to attack inside is so quick. They learnt a lot from last season."

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

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