Manchester City face a tricky opening fixture against Wolves on Monday night. Do you expect Man City to take 3 point or should they settle for a draw?
Danny Mills: I expect Man City to take three points against Wolves on Monday. Wolves have started the season very, very well. The have a very settled side. They've only lost Matt Doherty to Tottenham. Obviously, they are a top team with Jimenez continuing the great form that he's been in but after City’s big disappointments last season, losing too many games in the Premier League and not making it further in the Champions League, Pep will really have his team fired up. He will want to go out opening game of the season and make a really big statement.
Shaun Goater: Considering how Manchester City have performed against Wolves previously, I think it will be okay to take a draw. I think it's just important not to lose that game. Go in for the win, but I think it’s important to walk away with the draw.
It depends again on how the game is being played. Meaning if City are up one nil and we're in the 70th minute then they’ll be wanting to win the game but at the same time, with the ball not being played yet. I would say I would take a draw because Wolves have been a tricky opponent for Manchester City in the last year or two.
What would be considered a successful season for Man City this year?
Danny Mills: Man City have to either have to win the Champions League or the Premier League for it to be considered a successful season. City have set their standard so high - it is a bit like Usain Bolt going into the Olympics – the only satisfactory result is a gold medal and silver would be a huge disappointment. City are at that sort of level where only the best is good enough. Anything other than the Premier League or Champions League can’t be seen as ‘failure’ because it is still an achievement but it won’t be the ultimate success that they're looking for.
Shaun Goater: For a successful season I think City will definitely need to win the Premier League. I would say they need to win the league, with another trophy. I know the talk is all about the Champions League because that's ultimately what City, and every club for that matter, want to win. But I think a successful season is winning the Premier League back and then being able to, perhaps even get to the finals will be a success in the Champions League for a successful City season.
Is this season Pep's final chance at claiming the Champions League? How much more time will he be given to claim the prize Man City most want?
Danny Mills: Everybody knows that Pep Guardiola was brought to Man City as a result of his pedigree in the Champions League and he hasn’t done that yet. Man City now need to do whatever they can get to a global level, whether that comes down to signing the likes of Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe or Neymar or winning the Champions League. If City want to be on the global stage then that means they have to win the Champions League. In relatively recent years, Manchester United have won the Champions League, Chelsea have won the Champions League, Liverpool have won the Champions League, even Arsenal have made the final. Man City haven’t done that yet. So, they need to put themselves up there with the big boys by at the very least getting to the Final this year.
There is clearly a long-term plan at Man City but Guardiola is a manager that doesn’t usually hang around at a club for too long – this is the longest he has ever been at a football club. I wouldn’t say that this season is their last chance under Pep but if they fail to have a good run this year, the club must be starting to think that they might need to make some kind of change.
Shaun Goater: I think the relationship and the trust in Pep is stronger than ever - I think it's more of a question of how long Pep wants to give it rather than the other way around, because the relationship is that strong with the Executives at City. Pep will be given the time and if he was to win the Premier League, I could see, the club saying well, that’s three league wins in four or five years. No other manager has done that, they’d have a statue of Pep Guardiola outside the Ethiad.
He has bought much success to the club, he's not brought what everyone essentially has been anticipating, but he has been successful without a shadow of a doubt. I’m speaking ahead of the season but if he was to win three Premier League titles in the space of five seasons, that shows the total dominance of the domestic league and that's very challenging to do that. So, along with the other trophies that he has won with City, he has bought much success to this club that no other managers have had done, so I could see them mixing the cement if he was to achieve winning the Premier League. If he was to win the Champions League and I think that would just multiply the size of the statue so instead of it being 10ft, it may end up being a 20 ft!
How disappointing will it have been for Man City to miss out on signing Lionel Messi?
Danny Mills: I don't think Messi was ever realistically a possibility for Man City to sign. Had he been on a free transfer, then perhaps there might have been a possibility but without that, it was always going to be very difficult. It's a strange one with Lionel Messi. He is, in my opinion, the greatest player that I've ever seen. He is absolutely sensational. When you see him live, he's even better than when you watch him on the television. But there is a case of where would Man City have fit him in? Of course, he is Messi so you fit him in no matter what but how does he fit into Man City system? Does he play instead of Aguero, does he play in the Number 10 roll behind Aguero? Or do you play out wide instead of Raheem Sterling or whoever else that might be? And does it disrupt the balance of the team? So, yes, everybody would love Messi but actually, I don't think it makes a huge difference to the way that City play and the quality that they have.
Shaun Goater: It's disappointing not to sign Messi, but it's also one of those that you think, was it really good to happen? I was even one that was excited that it could really happen.
But again, you know, it was one of those that until it actually happens, do you really 100% believe it? Whilst I was having this great hope, I didn't 100% feel that it was going to happen.
It would have been absolutely exciting to see to see Messi in the Premier League for starters, and even if it wasn't at City, at any club because he's been one of the greatest players in this time. Between him and Ronaldo, these guys have been absolutely phenomenal so it would have been absolutely brilliant to see him playing in the Premier League. But it isn’t to be and we get our glimpses when we see him play in the Champions League.
How good of a signing will Nathan Ake prove for Man City?
Danny Mills: Nathan Ake could be very, very exciting signing for Manchester City. If he can from a real solid partnership with Laporte then that is the key. You need two players that complement each other. Ake is a key player, he's got experience. City then have Kyle Walker as well, who could either play at right back or City could even play them as a three. City's problem last season wasn't scoring goals, there was no issue with their attacking threat. It was purely their defensive issues that let them down so if Ake and Laporte, in particular can gel, then that would be a real positive for Man City.
Shaun Goater: Nathan Ake is like a soldier, in terms of he is consistent in his game, he doesn’t lose many balls and I think what we'll see is his development of possession. I'm not saying that he was bad in possession but we'll see his ability really come out. I think this is what Pep does with players and their ability on the ball and the options that they choose and this side of his game. He's going to be a great addition because he doesn't often lose balls in the air so from a set piece point of view, defensively or offensively he will be an asset. Add to that the technical side where he'll improve which Pep will improve his skills in terms of how the team want to press and his position and to make sure to counter attack against. I think that Pep will add another pearl to his qualities, without a shadow of a doubt.
Man City are looking to sign Napoli ace Koulibaly. Will he have the same effect on Man City that Van Dijk had on Liverpool?
Danny Mills: Koulibaly is an exceptional defender. The only issue I have with him is: can he do what Pep Guardiola wants him to do? I don't think he's as good as Van Dijk who is a fantastic defender but he can also play. Koulibaly is a great defender but I'm not convinced he's got the ability to play out from the back, like Van Dijk has. That would be my only concern because Pep is so demanding in that area. He wants to get both centre backs on the ball, to split, to go deep and then to play out from the back. My only concern would be is whether Koulibaly is good enough on the ball to play that way for Manchester City. Would he sure up the defence? Yes, without a shadow of a doubt. But as we've seen before, Pep demands much more than just this from his players.
Shaun Goater: Man City believe that Koulibaly will bring the same level that Van Dijk did for Liverpool, or even Vincent Kompany had at City. I think the unknown is also what level of consistency that Ake will bring. He could be exceptional and make very little mistakes, but Koulibaly is a strong, aggressive player who is good and the ball and when City do the work in reaching out for a player, they typically tick the boxes in terms of the qualities that are needed. I think he is probably someone they're looking at from a Champions League point of view to be solid but also to be consistent in Premier League because you’re going to need squad rotation, especially with not really having a pre-season.
I think it can benefit teams like City, Liverpool, Chelsea and United, the teams that have that depth. Not having a long break, we could start seeing some injuries, pulled muscles etc throughout the season and I think it's just going to be important how teams rotate their players and have that quality so that they can continue winning games.
Man City have reportedly had a bid for Atletico Madrid centre-back Jose Gimenez rejected. Do you think he is worth the money that Man City will have to pay for him?
Danny Mills: José Giménez will cost Man City a lot of money but if City need to pay £15 million above asking price and they go on to win the Premier League or Champions League as a result, then you to say that it is a worthwhile investment. There has to be a point where City need to gamble. They were not good enough defensively last season - we can all see the stats and the amount of games that they lost. They scored more goals than anybody else, created more chances than anybody else but their issue is defending. So somehow, they have to fix that and they may well be held to ransom but if they want progress, it is clear that they have to strengthen that area.
Shaun Goater: There’s one thing we know about Atletico Madrid players is that they’re fit, technically good and have a great understanding of tactics. If City are putting a bid in for this type of player it shows you how keen they are for centre-back between him and Koulibaly and Ake. They’re needing these three players for quality setup to really push on all fronts.
There is a freshness of the team, you’ll look and say, it's another quality centre back that’s pairing up today. Rather than always relying on Laporte or similar to Liverpool, it's been Van Dijk, week in week out with Gomez, but at the same time Matip comes in. I think, it looks as though if these get across the line, City looking at four quality centre-backs to rotate throughout the season.
Kylian Mbappe is said to want to leave PSG next summer. PSG have been off to a terrible start this season, should Man City take advantage of this and swoop to sign him this summer?
Danny Mills: Mbappe would be an amazing signing for Man City but they need to consider all the ramifications around financial fair play. Also, where does he fit in? Would he be the number nine? Would he be the replacement for Aguero if Jesus doesn't quite step up and become the player that Manchester City are hoping for.
The problem is that a week is a long time in football, and a year is even longer. Mbappe will have the Euros next summer and after this season, who knows who else will be in for him. You also need to consider where Mbappe will want to go – does he want to go to Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. One thing is for sure, he is that good that he will decide where he wants to go, no matter who wants hiim.
Shaun Goater: I would say that if a player is interested and making signs or noises that he's wanting to move on, and Kylian Mbappe comes into that conversation of, world's best players, and still has a lot of promise, my initial thinking would be why not? But I do think it's more about the personality of the player, it’s about whether his personality suits and mixes well with City and if City feel so then I think they probably would go for it. The interesting thing is because they know they can go ahead with it, and if it worked out, then you’ve got a player that can give you his best for the next 10 years, because he’s so young.
It'd be about getting across the first four or five-year contract and then extending it beyond that but he's an amazing talent and I would be sure that at least eight Premier League club will be interested in signing him.
What do you make of Phil Foden's antics with the England squad – do you think his behaviour will affect Pep's plans for him for the season ahead with him stepping into the gap left by the departure of David Silva?
Danny Mills: Phil Foden’s antics for England were foolish. People are saying that he is young and will make mistakes but when you’re a footballer, you are travelling away on international duty, you are being tested for Covid left, right and centre, you’ll know the ramifications of your actions. He would have been told that he’s not allowed to do this or that. It was stupid. And I think that he has been fortunate and been treated quite leniently by the media following his actions – players are under such scrutiny when they go away with England and if you don’t understand that, then you aren’t in the right place.
From a health perspective, it could have jeopardised the whole squad, all the players could have contracted the virus and then everyone would have needed to go into lockdown. It does beggar belief sometimes what people do in those situations.
As a club manager, Pep will sit down to him and say look, you know, this was ridiculous. You need to learn your lesson from this and he will tell him that it his last chance. Foden will now be under immense scrutiny. Any little mistake he makes will be scrutinised. Look what happened to Raheem Sterling. Any little mistake he makes even if it has nothing to do with football, this will always be brought up. Foden has to live with that now, so he has got to be ultra clean. He has to live the most immaculate lifestyle, and then play well, and silence all those critics.
Phil is in a position where he needs to play a lot more football this season. He needs a lot more starts. I thought he was going to get that last season and I was a little bit disappointed for him. It’s not like he wasn’t trusted in the big games though, he played some big games in the Champions League and Premier League but it was very rare that he played three games in a row and he needs to be in a situation where he is playing 6 or 7 games in a row now.
Shaun Goater: Pep Guardiola will deal with Phil Foden, as he's done with him this whole time, he'll trust him and know that when he represents City, he's not put a foot wrong in terms of on the field and off the field. I imagine that that'll just continue.
From Phil's point of view, he'll be excited to get the first game out of the way, and the interviews under his belt and out of the way, to then be able to draw a line under that under the bad decision making and move on. I think he'll just be wanting to get a game out of the way, get a good result, get some interviews done, and then look forward to the next game and just try to move on.
How excited are you to see Ferran Torres in the Premier League? Do you see him managing to break into City's starting line-up?
Danny Mills: It is hard to see where Ferran Torres fits in as City’s attacking force is sublime. They score goals for fun. I mean, they’ve got Jesus as a backup centre forward. Jesus is Brazil's Number nine. He’s only being kept out by Aguero. Plus, you have Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and you can add Phil Foden into that as well. It is just an incredible amount of talent that Cty have. Torres is just going to have to work very hard to break into that side if and when he gets his chance, he is going to need to perform.
Shaun Goater: With signings like Torres, and the others, City are starting to look like a squad more than a starting 11. So whatever player is there, I feel that we're not going to be saying - he's actually better than Bernardo Silva, or he’s better than Sterling, or he’s the same quality and I think that’s what Pep is trying to put together. Then, when a player is rested and another player comes in, he’s fresh enough but it it's still the same quality and the same intensity to be able to go again in terms of all the trophies that are available, because Pep is a serial winner.
With Aguero ageing, do you think Gabriel Jesus can take on the main goal scoring duty for Man City this season or do they need to sign a new striker?
Danny Mills: The only problem with Gabriel Jesus is that he is not Sergio Aguero. Jesus is a very, very good player. His stats are actually very good. He works very hard for the team but it’s like going to Bayern Munich and having to feel Lewandowski boots, or going to Tottenham to replace Harry Kane. It's almost like it doesn't matter if you score, you know, five less goals. People are still going to say that you're not quite up to that level.
it's very difficult to put your finger on what is missing from a Jesus’s game. The only way to say it is that he is just not Aguero. There's hardly anything wrong with his game. The fundamentals of his game are exceptional. He works incredibly hard. But he's just not Aguero and for that reason, when Aguero does eventually leave then City might need to dip into the transfer market to replace him if they really do want to challenge.
Shaun Goater: Gabriel Jesus can take on the main scoring duty this season over Aguero but I think they still will sign another striker. Jesus when he first came, everybody saw what he was capable of and those levels and his goal ratio is still frightening. It's just that we compare it to Sergio Aguero, who we know is the fans favourite, who scores all the goals and is the record goal scorer and all that. But you've got another in Jesus whose record isn't all that bad, and is still chipping away and scoring goals. I'd like to think that he is capable of taking on the mantle of scoring goals regularly and I think he's just at that period to say that you're my main striker, let's see what you can do. I think until he had that situation, when they were without Sergio for a period, we started to see the goals start to come from Jesus. I would imagine he is able to take that on, but I could also imagine City getting another striker as well.
City have lenses all over the world but City will look with a view for a striker with a personality and the possibility of the player being able to be at the club for a number of years, not just for a season, unless you're Messi. When I look at City, I would just say a striker that has more of a physical presence to be adaptable. For me I think if City have success they may need to be more adaptable, rather than one up top and two out wide.
If City were able to be adaptable and play two strikers, all of a sudden City will be playing a system that’s a bit adaptable and different to how City usually play with 3-4-3. Teams know that City will play like this but if you throw scenarios like two up top, the other teams ask what’s happening?
This is where I have excitement about Chelsea, they have the fluidity and the ability to change systems with the personnel that they bought on. I hope that this is what City can do this season, be a little bit more adaptable in when they play certain teams.
Do you expect the likes of Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling to seek pastures new if Man City fail to win either the Premier League or Champions League this season?
Danny Mills: If Man City are competing for the Premier League and the Champions League then where else would the likes of Sterling and De Bruyne go if they wanted to leave? Where else would be a viable option or better than where they are right now? Barcelona are not the team that they used to be. Real Madrid, possibly not the team that they once were. There are a lot of players going to Bayern Munich but maybe they don't quite pay the wages these players would expect. Also, only one team can win the league, only one team can win the Champions League. If you're playing well, enjoying your football, and you're genuinely challenging then most players will understand that it is part of the game. Everyone's wants to win. We know that and they're disappointed when they're not there but as long as they have a genuine challenge and are enjoying their football at Man City then I think those players will stay.
Shaun Goater: I think De Bruyne and Sterling can only answer that question. In today’s world footballers want to play at the highest level or win the most prestigious trophies. When they go to a certain club, it doesn't guarantee that they win. But they're talented players that will go for 150 - 200 million, but it still doesn't guarantee that they will win the Champions League.
I give the example of Sir Alex Ferguson, in 26 years, he won the Champions League twice. But that’s 26 years so if you split it you're saying 13 years for each time you won the Champions League. Players aren't necessarily guaranteed winning, but you'd like to think, if you go to a certain club, they have more history of winning it. I think it's down to how happy they are and how the family is and if they’re happy with the manager or whether they fancy a change because they've been under a manager for a period. It’s a difficult one to answer because it’s something only they can answer.
Do you think it is time for John Stones to leave Man City in order to resurrect his career?
Danny Mills: John Stones needs a jump start for his career – he needs to leave Man City as Pep doesn't seem to fancy him. Obviously, he's brought in Nathan Ake who we assume will play with Laporte and maybe Kyle Walker if it's a Back Three. Whatever has happened to John Stones, whether football or personal reasons, it appears he just needs a new challenge. He needs something different because it hasn't worked out for him at City.
Shaun Goater: From my last knowledge, John Stones wanted to stay and work to get into the team. That may be because he knows that City are going to win things but when I look at Stones, I think he can go somewhere, be a leader in the team and help to run the team and help them out whilst being seen as the main guy. That wold encourage him to be more consistent, because I think he has all the tools but there’s one tool that lets him down. If you look at Van Dijk as an example, he makes one or two mistakes per season and you look at Stones and can’t say that, and I think that’s the issue there.
He is a good player and has the attributes – he has the strength, the intelligence, but then there may be that decision-making is where he lets himself down couple of times throughout the season.
Barcelona will return with a new bid for Eric Garcia after seeing a first offer rejected by City. Should Man City be willing to part with him?
Danny Mills: As long as Man City have cover in the defensive area then Eric Garcia can leave. He’s a young player who is going to want to play. It might be a case of sending him out on loan to Barcelona for a season. Man City can turn around to him and say “look, we’re probably not going to use you that much this season, go on loan for season, let's see what you can do”. I don't think anybody's going to turn that sort of move down at the moment because it would work for Barcelona. They don't have to pay a fee. Manchester City, get him off the wage bill and they’re getting their player top class experience. So, it wouldn't surprise me maybe if a loan deal is sorted if they are unable to work out a permanent deal.
Shaun Goater: Clearly Pep Guardiola likes Eric Garcia and wants him to stay but with Garcia being Spanish and I guess having a dream to have seen himself play for Barcelona, I think City suffer from. In my experience, it’s not often a player goes against having a dream of playing for a club so I would imagine that Garcia is wanting to go because playing for Barcelona has been a dream of his growing up.
It will be a huge plus if City can keep him on the books and would show the pull and gravity that Pep Guardiola has because, again, Pep has shown trust in him, given him the opportunity and developed him but over time, we will see. He hasn't signed yet and I think he's told the club his thoughts and views so we'll see.
Who do you think will be Man City's most important player this season?
Danny Mills: Kevin De Bruyne will be Man City’s most important player again this season. He's exceptional in the way that he runs that midfield. He is vital, he's a creator of goals, the creator of chances. And most good things that City do go through Kevin De Bruyne.
Shaun Goater: City’s most important player will be a defender, it’s easy to say Sterling or De Bruyne because of what they do in the offensive side in terms of creating goals and scoring goals, but City's most important player could be somebody that seals things up defensively. And right now, Laporte has been absolute quality, but he’s had a couple of injuries.
I'd like I'd like to be able to say at the end of the season, the adjustments or players coming in have been absolutely key and why we've been able to get over the line with this trophy or, winning the league or the Champions League is because of this particular player, and it'd be more about a defensive player, similar to what we saw with Liverpool with Van Dijk, and Allison, these players came in and it all started to come together.
How impressed were you with Leeds against Liverpool last weekend? Based on that performance, can Leeds expect to finish in the Top 10 this season as opposed to just fighting for safety?
Danny Mills: We need to be realistic with Leeds – they can’t finish in the Top 10 this season. if they can finish 15th or 16th and be safe with 5 or 6 games to go then I think most fans, and certainly the club will take that immediately. I've seen Leeds a lot over the last two seasons. I've seen what they put out. I've seen that the quality of the players they have, and they've added quality to that. Ben White is a big loss. because he was an exceptional player but they’ve brought in Robin Koch, who I think will be a good addition, while Rodrigo will add some firepower.
They put Liverpool under all sorts of pressure, they dominated possession and they scored some goals although they did make some errors that they need to cut out if they are going to go on and have a successful season. But I love the way that they continue to play exactly the same way as they have done for the last two seasons. It's what Bielsa does. He plays high press high tempo, plays out from the back. When you look at it, Guardiola is his disciple, he absolutely loves him and he's always on the phone with him. It is the same philosophy for both of them - if Plan A doesn't work, do plan A better. The answer is exactly the same. There is no plan B. They very rarely accommodate the opposition, they just understand they need to be better at what they do.
How important will new signing, Rodrigo, be for Leeds United?
Danny Mills: Rodrigo will be vital for Leeds United this season. Patrick Bamford got his goal against Liverpool, he works incredibly hard, Bielsa has an awful lot of faith in him but there were times last season that he did miss some chances. You don't get that many chances in the Premier League and you've got to be ultra-clinical. That's why they brought Rodrigo in for that. He can play off the right, off the left, can play down the middle, he can even play alongside Patrick Bamford. But the extra firepower he will bring will be absolutely vital.
Following his recent England call-up, how important will be Kalvin Phillips be for Leeds this season?
Danny Mills: Kalvin Phillips will again be integral as to how good Leeds will be this season. He’s a defensively minded midfield player but he takes set pieces, takes corners, takes free kicks, he has an exceptional range of passing. He's also got an exceptional mentality where he's happy to sit, not so much doing the dirty work as it doesn’t work like that anymore but he doesn't want to be marauding forward. He's not massively concerned about being the one who is going to be the creative one and score the goal or get all the assists. He knows his job. He enjoys his job and he does it incredibly well. Another two or three good months at Leeds United with some good performances and there's no reason why he can't be starting for England at the Euros next year.
How good of a signing will Rodrigo De Paul be for Leeds?
Danny Mills: Bielsa is incredibly good at putting square pegs in round holes and turning them into square holes. He shuffles his pack incredibly well. When you look at Hernandez, he is an exceptional player, but he's not the youngest. He is going to tire towards the end of games. Leeds need somebody to back him up or to go alongside into play instead of him sometimes. A player with that creativity, who can unlock a defence and can play that killer ball. And that's probably what they’re looking at in Rodrigo De Paul.
How big of a loss will Ben White be for Leeds? Who do they need to sign to replace him?
Danny Mills: Leeds have bought in Robin Koch to play that role alongside Liam Cooper who was missing at the weekend. They may be a little bit short in that position but I think what you have to look at is nobody had heard of Ben White when he came to Leeds, nobody expected that in any way, shape or form. Mateusz Klich was surplus to requirements when Bielsa came in and was probably on the way out of the club. However, since then he's played every single game but one under Bielsa and he’s been magnificent.
Bielsa certainly does his due diligence better than anybody else - he goes through absolutely every single detail of every possible player that he's going to sign. If he does bring somebody in, it might be a little bit left field, it might be a little bit unexpected but that player will fit in and slot in nicely.
Should Leeds look to sign Danny Rose from Tottenham and will he add much needed Premier League experience?
Danny Mills: Danny Rose is a good player and might be interested in a move to Leeds which is where he was originally from. In truth, left back is not huge issue for Leeds. If he wants to come and wants to work incredibly hard, that he would be a welcome addition. But I think you have to realise that when you sign for Leeds that Bielsa is relentless. It is sometimes three sessions a day, working incredibly hard all the time, there is no let-up and there is no rest. So, you have to be a certain type of character to really want to do that. And if Danny Rose wants to do that, at this stage of his career and play football for his hometown club, then yes, he would be a good addition.
What do you make of Gareth Bale re-joining Tottenham?
Danny Mills: Gareth Bale would be an amazing signing for Tottenham without doubt, but where would you play him? It looks like he will play in the position behind Kane instead of Dele Alli, given the license to roam free, pick the ball up and run and shoot – basically be allowed do whatever he wants to do.
It will be very, very exciting to see him back in the Premier League. Tottenham is a club that he knows well and is somewhere that he has been loved. It is the sort of signing that that falls into Mourinho’s sort of style. He’s happy to defend with eight and then allow the others at the top end of the pitch to make the difference and with the attackers that Tottenham have, that will probably be enough. So, Bale could be a very interesting and good signing for Tottenham.