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Pep Guardiola stood between his two central defenders on a baking hot evening in Hong Kong

Manchester City pre-season review: Pep Guardiola’s players have barely slept during treacherous Asia tour but Mikel Arteta is fine-tuning Rodri and Kevin De Bruyne is a man possessed

  • Pep Guardiola’s players were practising progressing upfield during training
  • There has been no great reinvention of Guardiola’s Manchester City this summer
  • No changing of basic principles or ideas, but subtle tweaks are arriving for City
  • They were becoming clearer against Yokohama F.Marinos in front of 65,052 fans
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Pep Guardiola stood between his two central defenders on a baking hot evening in Hong Kong last week, barking instructions as he directed the traffic in front of him.

His players were practising progressing upfield. Guardiola was in amongst it as they built attacks, enthused at what he witnessed. The arms were waving, training was regularly stopped. The squad were probably happy for the breathers in 35-degree heat.

There has been no great reinvention of Guardiola’s Manchester City this summer, obviously no changing of basic principles or ideas, but subtle tweaks are arriving as they strive to palm off the chasing pack once again. They were becoming clearer against Yokohama F.Marinos in front of 65,052 fans on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola stood between his two central defenders on a baking hot evening in Hong Kong

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Pep Guardiola stood between his two central defenders on a baking hot evening in Hong Kong

The £62.8million capture of Rodri from Atletico Madrid appears pivotal here, with the midfield three asked to rotate more often during the 3-1 victory over their City Football Group sister club. Kevin De Bruyne was everywhere; David Silva almost an auxiliary striker alongside Raheem Sterling for much of the friendly coined the EuroJapan Cup.

Mikel Arteta pays particular attention to Rodri during training, telling him to leave his anchor, to go and attack spaces. It is not something he is used to and that will take some adapting. A work-in-progress and one that will be allowed time, given Fernandinho is returning from the Copa America.

The idea behind this tweak must be to best utilise Kevin De Bruyne, who has been a man possessed for the last fortnight. He started popping up in unnatural positions at the Nissan Stadium, bringing about his 18th-minute goal when drifting in from the right and thundering home on his left foot thanks to Claudio Bravo’s pinpoint pass and Bernardo Silva’s ingenuity.

De Bruyne’s freer role — he was also seen alongside or behind Rodri when certain occasions dictated — is probably one Guardiola wanted to cultivate last season, plagued by the Belgian’s injuries. De Bruyne, who recouped on family holidays to Greece and Turkey over the summer, missed more days injured than in his entire career.

Mikel Arteta pays particular attention to Rodri during training, telling him to leave his anchor

Mikel Arteta pays particular attention to Rodri during training, telling him to leave his anchor

Mikel Arteta pays particular attention to Rodri during training, telling him to leave his anchor

It is not something the new £63million star is used to and that will take some adapting
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It is not something the new £63million star is used to and that will take some adapting

It is not something the new £63million star is used to and that will take some adapting

So in that sense there are fresh concepts at play and this City starting XI —  an indication of who will get the nod against Liverpool in the Community Shield next Sunday — are beginning to take to them.

‘It was an incredible test to prepare for Liverpool and the beginning of the season,’ Guardiola said. ‘It was perfect. Rodri was incredible the way he played today. I can assure we’ve got an incredible holding midfielder for the next decade.’

Despite what has been a treacherous tour of Asia, and without their South Americans plus Riyad Mahrez, City do look ready for Wembley.

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Humidity has sapped energy here, with sessions earlier in the tour fairly gentle. A number of Guardiola’s players have barely slept – even on the final leg in Japan.

They will be glad to see Manchester Airport on Sunday, although the manager has been stirred by the intensity of sessions in the second week of the trip. Players have left training completely drenched and Guardiola remarks of this squad being as determined as he’s seen.

A number of Guardiola’s players have barely slept during City's treacherous Asia tour

A number of Guardiola’s players have barely slept during City's treacherous Asia tour

A number of Guardiola’s players have barely slept during City’s treacherous Asia tour

Kevin De Bruyne has been a man possessed for the last fortnight for the champions

Kevin De Bruyne has been a man possessed for the last fortnight for the champions

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Kevin De Bruyne has been a man possessed for the last fortnight for the champions