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Remembering Man City XI from Pep Guardiola’s first Premier League game

Since taking office at Manchester City in 2016, Pep Guardiola has taken both the club – and the Premier League – to new heights, with three title wins in the last four years and an attacking football that undoubtedly eclipsed the rest of English football.

While success hasn’t come cheap for City – with nearly £ 1 billion spent since entering it five years ago – there is no denying that they are firmly one of the best teams in Europe for years to come.

It didn’t necessarily look like that when he took the job as the squad needed a significant refresher after finishing only fourth under predecessor Manuel Pellegrini last season.

One quick look at the City side in Guardiola’s first top game in English football and it’s easy to forget how far they have come with an overwhelming and injury-ridden side that beat Sunderland 2-1 at home. Thanks to an own goal by Paddy McNair in the 87th minute.

Here is the city that starts with the starting XI in August 2016:

Goalkeeper: Willy Caballero

Guardiola demonstrated his ruthless streak early on when he made the brave decision to take down England’s number one Joe Hart.

With Hart’s eventual replacement Claudio Bravo arriving in the window later, Willy Caballero took over the starting place for the first games of the season, which has been largely a substitute option since arriving from Malaga in 2014.

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The Argentine had little to do against Sunderland as the hosts dominated possession despite being able to fend off Jermain Defoe at close range and little to do against the striker’s goal in the second half.

Caballero would leave the club at the end of the season and join rival Chelsea, where he stayed until he left at the end of his contract last summer.

Right-Back: Bacary Sagna

Guardiola decided to sign three new full-backs the following summer after inheriting an aging squad of defenders that included right-back Bacary Sagna.

Sagna was one of the few players to trade the Emirates for Etihad at the beginning of the last decade, and to join Manchester in 2014 after seven years at Arsenal.

The presence of Pablo Zabaleta meant the Frenchman made only nine league appearances in his debut season before appearing more prominently in his second season.






In his third and final year at the club – which came under the new boss – he shared the duties of right-back with Zabaleta before both men were allowed to leave at the end of the season.

Center-back: John Stones

£ 50million John Stones, the most expensive addition to the club in a busy summer, seemed like the perfect recruit for the new City boss of football.

While making a relaxed debut against David Moyes’ side, his first season at City saw some remarkably unpredictable moments, most notably the Champions League knockout against Monaco.

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Stones’ time with the club has been tumultuous with favor and disadvantage, but at his best he remains a high-profile center-back, as he proved last season when City romped for the title, with his partnership with Ruben Dias laying the foundation for success .

Central defender: Aleksandar Kolarov

Injuries to Nicolas Otamendi and captain Vincent Kompany forced Guardiola to put Aleksandar Kolarov in the middle of a makeshift defensive line, with the Serb being mostly an attacking full-back during his time at the club.

The former Lazio man looked confident and enjoyed a positive final season at the club, performing regularly before ending his seven-year tenure at Etihad with a move to Roma.

Kolarov currently plays his football at Inter Milan, with the 35-year-old being part of the team that won their first Serie A title in over a decade in the 2020/21 season.

Left-back: Gael Clichy

Like Sagna, Gael Clichy was another player who moved to Manchester from north London, joining Arsenal in 2011 and contributing to the club’s first Premier League title in his debut season.

Clichy made 25 league appearances in the 2016/17 season as he battled Kolarov for a spot on the squad before moving on at the end of the season when Guardiola made fundamental changes to his defense.

After leaving City, the Frenchman moved to Turkey to join Istanbul Basaksehir and played a key role in securing the club’s first league title for the club in the 2019-20 season.

Midfield: Fernandinho

While the defense is unrecognizable by today’s team, the midfield and attack feel very familiar as most of the 2016 starters are still at the club.

One man who has remained an important player despite his age over 30 is Fernandinho.

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With so much roaming offensive talent in front of him – and often a shaky defensive chain behind him – the 36-year-old was so often the glue that held everything together as a midfield pivot, with his performance against Sunderland a sign that things are going to go under the new one Boss when he flaunted a man of the game.

Midfielder Rodri’s arrival – as well as his age – has limited his engagement lately, although he remains Guardiola’s trusted midfield general.

Midfield: David Silva

For some of the greatest players to ever wear the light blue jersey, David Silva is an absolute icon at Etihad. This status was recently recognized by the club’s decision to place a statue of the Spaniard outside their home stadium.

The playmaker, who joined the club from Valencia in 2010, was a key figure for a long time before the new coach’s arrival, but reached new heights after 2016, particularly as part of City’s “Centurions”, which won a record 100 points in the 2017 season / 18th

After ten years of full trophies at the club, the world champion decided to return to Spain in 2020 to join Real Sociedad, where the 35-year-old helped the La Liga team to their first major honor since 1987 after winning the Copa del Rey.

Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne

Kevin De Bruyne, the other half of a devastating attacking midfield combination, is City’s current talisman and arguably the Premier League’s best player as he has played a pivotal role in the sensational levels of Guardiola’s side over the past few years.

After failing to reach the class at Chelsea, there were those who questioned the £ 54million Belgian move to Etihad in the summer of 2015, but he quickly silenced all doubters with an impressive debut campaign – and hasn’t looked back since.

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Probably his best hour came during the 2019/20 season, in which the former Wolfsburg-based man posted a joint Premier League record of 20 assists in a single season, which was in line with the record previously drawn up by Thierry Henry.

De Bruyne is still only 30, but it seems it will be a mainstay of this city for years to come.

Left winger: Nolito

Spanish winger Nolito, one of the few newcomers in the summer of 2016, never really settled at the club and only spent a lonely season with the Cityzens.

The pair made their debut at Barcelona during Guardiola’s tenure, and six years later they reunited with the Celta Vigo winger.

While he had a good start to life in England, including an impressive performance against the Black Cats on his debut, the striker quickly faded from view as the season progressed, making just 19 league games and ending the season with just four league goals.

Right winger: Raheem Sterling

Raheem Sterling owes a lot to his current manager as Guardiola has turned a talented young player into a world champion in recent years.

Burdened by the pressure of a mega money exchange from Liverpool, the Englishman initially fought in his new environment before improving quickly after Guardiola took office.

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Sterling has grown into a productive broad-based player and has now scored goals for City for over a century, but his playing time has recently been cut short at the club level despite playing for England at Euro 2020.

Sterling played a pivotal role in City’s quick start against Sunderland, winning a penalty after a Patrick Van Aanholt tie while Sergio Aguero made the right amount.

Striker: Sergio Agüero

Speaking of Argentines, prior to Guardiola’s arrival, there were doubts whether the striker had the work rate required to lead the line in the coach’s system, although he quickly dispelled any doubts by scoring the best record of his career, scoring a total of 33 competitions during the season 2016/17

He already had cult status for the Scored on the final day of the 2011-12 season before building his reputation further by becoming the club’s all-time high scorer with 260 goals over a decade for Etihad.

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The 33-year-old, who scored the first competitive goal of the Guardiola era against Sunderland at City, moved to Barcelona on a free transfer at the end of the 2020/21 season, but is currently out due to injury.

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Jesus Navas

The 2016/17 season proved to be the last for Jesus Navas at the club, with the new coach making extensive changes in his second summer transfer window.

The Spaniard originally traveled from Seville in 2013 and played a major role under Manuel Pellegrini, although at times he was criticized for missing an end product that went hand in hand with his breakneck speed.

Nonetheless, he made an impressive impression at the 2016 season opener when he came off the bench early in the second half to do his part and shot the ball over the box ahead of McNair’s unfortunate own goal.

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After returning to Seville in 2017, the 35-year-old is still a major player in La Liga and the only player to have made over 500 appearances for the club.

Fabian Delphi

Delph replaced David Silva in a midfielder role mid-second half, although the best time of his City career was spent as a left-back as he was heavily represented in that position during the remarkable 2017/18 season.

He moved to Etihad from Aston Villa in 2015, with the club captain initially showing his commitment to the Midlands before reversing his decision just days later.


The England international has had a frustrating and injury-ridden period at Everton since leaving City in 2019.

Kelechi Iheanacho

The Nigerian was a late replacement for Clichy in the game and spent two seasons as a Manchester City player after joining the club in 2015.

He scored 14 goals in all competitions in an impressive debut season but struggled to repeat that feat the following season before moving to Leicester City.

Having shown a glimpse of his deadly skills in the finals at Etihad, he is gradually becoming a regular scorer for the Foxes, scoring 19 goals in all competitions last season.

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