Premier League

Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola absolutely needs to deliver trophies this season – or else

The 46-year-old has shored up his fragile defensive line which should give the Citizens more steel at the back.

Perhaps no other statement summed up Pep Guardiola’s last season more than the one he made ahead of an all-important Champions League last-16 clash against Monaco. Manchester City led 5-3 from the first leg at home. Ahead of the away tie, the gaffer felt even that wasn’t enough.

“Take the ball and attack as much as possible is the only way I know to beat this type of team,” Guardiola had said. “If one team scores 123 goals and you are thinking about only defending for 90 minutes because we won one game 5-3, you kill yourself.”

City went on to lose the second leg 3-1 and, with it, the tie. It epitomised their season completely – a runaway train when in the mood, but more often than not, lacking steel and prone to derail when adversity approached.

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A third-place finish in the league and no silverware could have hardly been what City chairperson Khaldoon Al Mubarak and their legion of fans expected when Guardiola sauntered into the Etihad Stadium last year. Here he was, in flesh, the saviour to direct the team to take what they regarded as their rightful place along Europe’s elite.

But even the best-laid plans go awry. After a honeymoon period at the beginning of the season where they won their first six Premier League matches and 10 consecutively in all competitions, City fell off the precipice and never managed to find a way back. Amidst a wave of defensive fragility, Guardiola-ian rigidity often bordering on indecisiveness and the entire Joe Hart-Claudio Bravio fiasco, City settled on a third-place finish, licking their wounds.

Splurging on the defence

This season, the 46-year-old has shown early signs that while he may not completely abandon his attack-at-all-costs attitude, he may be a little more flexible. The arrival of the 23-year-old Ederson from Benfica for €40 million gives him more stability for keeping options but more importantly, he has completely redesigned the back-four which was an Achilles heel last season.

Defenders Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta and Aleksander Kolarov are no longer with the team and the Citizens have spent heavily on bringing in replacements that will suit the Guardiola style of play. Kyle Walker, who signed for City in a £53 million deal from Tottenham Hotspur and Benjamin Mendy, who signed for £52 million from Monaco, will shore up the left-back and right-back positions and hopefully give Guardiola the sort of impetus he wants and needs. The 26-year-old Danilo, who signed from Real Madrid for £26.5 million and can play either as a full-back or in defensive midfield, can also pitch in whenever required.

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However, much focus will also be on Vincent Kompany and his fitness. In full flow, he is the captain City desperately needs but the problem is he spends most of his time on the injury list rather than on the field. For City to bounce back, Kompany’s injury and form, along with John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi’s performances, will be crucial.

Riches at front

If the issues at the back are sorted, Manchester City and Guardiola will heave a huge sigh of relief as half their job will be done. Their attacking riches are the envy of everyone else in the league and if they can put on a more consistent display through the season, few will bet against more silverware coming their way.

A front five of Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus is a nightmare for most opposition defences. Then there’s the newcomer Bernardo Silva to contend with, as well. On paper, this is a lethal attacking force which can steamroll any team in the world. Kevin de Bruyne was one of City’s best playmakers last season controlling their attack beautifully in some of their best results. This season needs an encore, but something more than that – clinical ability in front.

One thing’s for sure. Guardiola can’t afford another silverware-less season. Nor can Manchester City after spending close to £200 million this summer.

Prediction:

1st: If this team can start playing together, no one can stop them from going to the top. And after first season’s disappointment, Guardiola will be doubly determined to make that happen

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.