ESPN’s Luck Index: Man City, Aguero unlucky? Man United lucky?

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  • A team like PSG, with both Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, the two most expensive players ever, has to sacrifice depth and quality elsewhere in the squad because of the resources put into those two players. And so the top-heaviness makes them more vulnerable to an individual injury. Neymar has missed the knockout stages of the Champions League two years in a row, and PSG have gone out in the Round of 16 both times

    Guardiola doesn’t have that problem. According to the 21st Club model, City have five players in the top 20: the three Chaudhuri mentioned plus Leroy Sane and David Silva. Liverpool and PSG (three each) are the only other clubs that have more than two.

    De Bruyne goes down and in steps Bernardo Silva, who’s suddenly one of the best pressing midfielders in the world. If Sergio Aguero, perhaps the greatest goalscorer of the Premier League era, gets hurt, guess who backs him up? Gabriel Jesus, a guy with an even better goal-scoring rate. Leroy Sane, who was second in the league last year in non-penalty goals plus assists per 90 minutes, might miss the whole season but it almost doesn’t matter because Sterling, Bernardo and Riyad Mahrez are there to eat up his minutes.

    Oh, and this summer they spent a club-record £63 million on Rodri to answer the lingering question of what happens when Fernandinho’s battery dies, and Joao Cancelo came over from Juventus to add cover for the ever-present Kyle Walker.

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    “They’ve reached these heights in large part due to improving the performance of many existing players,” said Chaudhuri. “There’s no player you would say has gotten worse under Pep, which I think shows the gains clubs can make through good coaching instead of recruitment, which is often seen as a panacea at other clubs.”

    Of course, Guardiola is the one through-line that connects the great Barcelona teams with the great Bayern teams with the current great City team. There’s still one thing left to be accomplished and much like his time in Germany, his stint in Manchester likely won’t be fully appreciated unless the team wins the Champions League. However, in an era where the Premier League has more money and more managerial talent than ever before, Guardiola and Co. put together the competition’s best-ever season with just one player who finished in the top 15 of Ballon d’Or voting… and then they followed it up by winning even more trophies while he sat on the sideline.

    Globalization and previously unimaginable amounts of money have transformed the sport — and especially this club — but City’s on-field cooperation, albeit bizarrely, does evoke the success of Sebes’s Hungary side. Given all of the resources behind Guardiola and given how his team has been able to dominate the most competitive league in Europe with a rotating cast of key characters, it’s hard to see anyone else in England catching up for as long as he hangs around.

    “To me, the tragedy was utter helplessness… being unable to do anything to alter the grim outlook,” Harry Johnston, one of the England center-backs for the defeat against Hungary, wrote in his autobiography. Over half a century later, the rest of the Premier League might soon start feeling the same way about Man City, if they don’t already.