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Is it now or never for Pep Guardiola at Man City?

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$215 million in transfer fees last summer.

$262.5 million so far this summer.

What needs to happen at Manchester City in Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era to call him a success? And is there anything that could doom the Catalan man to life outside of the Etihad Stadium.

[ MORE: 2017-18 PL season preview hub ] 

The boss enters his sophomore campaign without a trophy, and for all of his purchases there’s a solid chance that only four of his opening day starters will come from that group (Kyle Walker, John Stones, Ederson, Danilo or Benjamin Mendy).

Heavy is the head that wears the crown as the purported top mind in football management, especially when there are Phil Jackson implications to this third go-round: Guardiola dominated at Barcelona and Bayern Munich with two of the deepest and best teams in the game, and significantly less competition on the table.

If he can’t do it this season at Man City — and we’re talking a PL win, UCL win, maybe multiple pieces of hardware — could it be two-and-out?

That seems a bit nutty, but consider what the hierarchy at Man City has seen from its managers in recent years. Manuel Pellegrini won the league in his first season. Roberto Mancini won the FA Cup in his first full season and claimed the league in his second.

Now that’s not to say Guardiola’s 2016-17 debut in blue was poor; City finished third, and looked stylish for much of the campaign. They scored three or more goals in 12 Premier League matches, beat Barcelona once in the UEFA Champions League before falling to Monaco, and came within extra time of an FA Cup Final.

But a deeper dig shows that Guardiola had a reverse-Klopp season. Whereas Liverpool’s German boss thrived against top PL competition but wilted against lesser lights, most of City’s failings came against the big boys.

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Two losses to champions Chelsea. A loss and a draw versus Spurs and the same against Liverpool. A win and a draw in the Manchester Derby and against Arsenal.

That’s 10 of 30 points from a master tactician. He undoubtedly is, but how big of a liar can the numbers be when it comes to Guardiola? One of the things we heard last season was, “Wait until he has all his guys!” Well, after another summer, it looks like Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Raheem Sterling, Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, and David Silva are good money to keep places in the team, and perhaps Fernandinho, too.

All of this is moot if you, like me, think Man City is going to have an outstanding year, win at least one Cup, make a deep UCL run, and contend for the Premier League crown deep into the Spring. Heck, City has convincing XIs if Guardiola divided his charges for PL and UCL competition.

But that’s the rub for Guardiola. Aside from the rising level of the league’s elite, there is no reason City shouldn’t do very, very well this year. And if they don’t, would it be crazy to imagine his dismissal from the Etihad? We probably won’t have the chance to realistically see it, but the bar is high for a man who last season missed out on a league title for just the second time in eight campaigns.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis/Mkhitaryan transfer saga and more

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Robbie Mustoe and Robbie Earle recap all the key stories from the latest Premier League Saturday fixtures including Manchester City’s 3-1 win over Newcastle (0:20), Chelsea’s 4-0 victory at Brighton (10:15) and the latest on the Alexis Sanchez/Henrikh Mkhitaryan saga after wins for Arsenal and Manchester United (19:00). Plus, a closer look at the bottom of the table and thoughts go out to James McCarthy after his serious injury against West Brom (29:00).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

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Video: Stoke’s Imbula scores stunner on loan at Toulouse

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Stoke City supporters know the name Giannelli Imbula, and perhaps they’ll be clamoring for the Frenchman to return to the bet365 Stadium if he can score more goals like this.

[ MORE: PL Roundup — Top three all victorious; Gunners thrash Palace ]

The holding midfielder is currently on loan with Ligue 1 outfit Toulouse, and for the first time this season, Imbula opened his goalscoring account in some fashion.

Right on half-hour mark, Imbula unleashed a left-footed strike from nearly 40 yards out to give Toulouse the lead over Montpellier (below).

Imbula joined Stoke during the 2015/16 PL season, and has made 26 appearances for the Potters in his time with the club, prior to his loan to France.

Willian proves he’s Chelsea’s x-factor against Brighton

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There’s a considerable difference when watching a Chelsea team that plays with and without one of its Brazilian influences in the attacking part of the field.

Willian — who first debuted for the Blues back in 2013 — hasn’t always managed to be a regular starter for Chelsea, whether it was Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink or current manager Antonio Conte at the helm, though.

[ SOURCES: Jack Harrison expected to join Stoke City this winter ]

The 29-year-old plays with considerable flair, something that certainly isn’t uncommon amongst many players that have grown up in Brazil.

At times Willian’s overconfidence is a significant blessing, and at others it can be considered a curse, however, the former Corinthians player’s presence is something that Chelsea needs now more than ever.

That was on display on Saturday during the side’s 4-0 win at Brighton, a match in which Chelsea dominated from start to finish with Willian on the pitch. While the performance cannot solely be attributed to the attacking midfielder’s showing, it’s easy to argue that the Blues midfielder is becoming the club’s biggest x factor — one that can determine the outcome of a match.

Just look six minutes into the match, when the Blues put together one of the best team goals you’ll see in a match this year (or any year for that matter), which of course, was started and finished by none other than Willian.

What stands out about the play isn’t the brilliant slicing shot into the near post corner by the veteran playmaker, but instead the confidence that Willian exudes and brings to a Chelsea lineup that has plenty of talent to be considered one of the best teams in England and all of Europe.

After all, Conte’s group is just a season removed from winning the Premier League and still sits inside the top three in the world’s top league.

Then, there’s the Blues’ third goal against Brighton, which was set up by a smart, and instinctive, through ball played into the path of Eden Hazard by Willian (below).

Even though Hazard ends up with a ton of time on the ball to make his next decision, which was ultimately to cut inside on his preferred right foot, the run by Willian towards the end line dragged a defender away from the Belgian international — allowing the sequence to progress.

Arguing Willian’s importance isn’t a knock on Hazard — a world-class player in his own right — or Alvaro Morata, who has had the intolerable task of replacing a key player like Diego Costa.

Instead, it simply shows that Chelsea has a plethora of talent, and that some of the club’s attacking struggles throughout the 2017/18 season can be chalked up to Willian being left out of the starting XI on a regular basis.

[ MORE: Sergio Aguero continues to display brilliance for Man City ]

The Brazilian international has scored eight goals and added seven assists this season in all competitions for the Blues, despite only starting 19 matches.

The mind of manager Conte is an ever-changing one, so maybe Willian still doesn’t get the starting nod on an every week basis, but just by watching the team’s performance at the Amex Stadium it’s quite hard to argue against the player being on the field as much as possible.

Premier League Preview: Southampton vs. Tottenham

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Southampton will host Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com) with both sides hoping to pick up three points for very different reasons.

The Saints are currently in the midst of a fierce relegation battle through 23 matches, and sit in 18th place in the Premier League, while Spurs are hoping challenge for a top-four position.

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Mauricio Pellegrino‘s Southampton could get defender Maya Yoshida back in time for Sunday’s match, however, the side will be without Charlie Austin once more, who is currently nursing a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, a number of key figures will miss the match for Tottenham, including goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Harry Winks. Also, Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld remain sidelined with injuries, although the latter is expected to be back soon.

What they’re saying

Mauricio Pellegrino on state of the Saints: “We are not happy with our position but in three or four weeks’ time everything can change. It’s part of our competition. I feel in our team the spirit is really good and everybody is conscious about what we need. I receive these messages from players every day, and we have to convert these feelings into stats.”

Mauricio Pochettino on potential January moves: “To be honest it will be difficult. At some point you always dream but not too much exciting [is happening]. If it happens, it happens. If not, then it doesn’t happen. We are happy with the squad.”

Prediction

Harry Kane is firing at an absurd rate recently, and Southampton’s current form is worrisome to say the least. With just four wins all season, it’s hard to imagine the Saints coming out in front in their clash. Southampton 0-3 Tottenham