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League needs a strong City to take Kop on

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Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

PA

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola

Manchester City need Pep Guardiola to go back to the drawing board if they are to challenge for the Premier League next year.

And the rest of the Premier League need Manchester City to find it in them to put up a challenge and make sure that Liverpool have to fight, at least, to retain the title it took them so long to win.

So we'll see if Guardiola is up for the fight to build another team. That will be very much dictated by whether the European ban on City sticks or not, but he does need to rebuild.

Over the two seasons before this one, City won 198 points: by the time this season is over Liverpool will probably have won 197 or 198 points, so for Liverpool to keep going at that level is going to be hard.

Liverpool have done it for two seasons but to do it over three seasons would be some achievement.

It could be a tighter challenge next season as it's hard to maintain that consistency, as City have found this season, and if Liverpool don't add much to the squad over the summer they'll find it a big challenge.

And if you have a Manchester United side and maybe Chelsea who will be stronger next season, the league could be more open.

But the league will need City to put up the main threat to Liverpool, you don't want it to be a procession.

There was the year City won the league by 19 points and there was this season when Liverpool had it won with all those games to spare. The league can't be like that every season, people want to see a challenge.

City's problem is what they need to do in the next transfer window and the outcome of their appeal of the UEFA ban.

If they are in the Champions League next season they'll be signing a different level of player than if they are only going to be competing for the Premier League.

I worked on City's match against Newcastle the other night for TV so I have been thinking about them for a couple of days.

And even though that game, which they won 5-0, was a bit of a stroll, to be better in the league they need to find players with a defensive mindset.

The ethos at City has been about winning games with attacking players, but when you play against the bigger sides, and even the lesser sides at times, you need to concentrate for 90 minutes. You can't take risks and hope that it'll all work out for you in the end.

City have lost seven away games this season and that tells its own story. When other teams come at them on their own patch, City can't defend, their organisation seems to be wrong.

I looked back to the Chelsea game last month. For the first goal you had Benjamin Mendy and Ilkay Gundogan leaving it to each other and Christian Pulisic scored.

Defensive-mined players sort out those issues long before the danger is there and City don't seem to have that type of player at the moment.

In a way, City are only so far behind because of how good Liverpool have been. I don't think City are miles away from Liverpool's standard and one good transfer window could make a big change.

But City need to be buying the players who are the top three in their positions in the world.

They already have some of the best players in the world at City.

Yet I'd like to see another Fernandinho, another Laporte, someone who has more of a drive about defending instead of always looking to go forward.

David Silva is gone, as is Leroy Sane, Fernandinho and Aguero are getting older and those are players who need to be replaced.

So they have holes in key positions, and it looks as if they are looking at replacing eight or nine players over the next three or so seasons.

This summer is vital, and I am sure Guardiola will look for a centre half.

Will he go for the type who is an excellent footballer, who plays the ball out from the back, or will he sign the sort of defender whose main job is to defend and keep clean sheets? The call that the City manager makes there will say a lot.

It could actually be a decent finish to the season for City as they could win the FA Cup and the Champions League.

But nine defeats in a league season is very disappointing and hard to take. Maybe they'll look at it and say this is our year for the Champions League and since lockdown they know the domestic season is over, they'll still come second in the Premier League even if they lose a few more matches.

So they can give most of their squad a game over the next few weeks, before they play Real Madrid. Give them all minutes on the pitch and use the restart in the league as a mini pre-season for the Champions League.

The league table, with nine losses, looks bad for City, but by this time next month they could be European champions with the FA Cup and League Cup as well.

I feel City's problem has more to do with the mindset than the players they have, and if they can add that defensive edge to the side they have now, they'll be closer next season.