It doesn’t seem so long ago that the season ended (in fairness, it was only a few weeks ago) but now we’re here, about ot lock horns with the Premier League again as a new season is about to get underway.
Last year was a disappointing one by City’s recent standards, with the League Cup being City’s only silverware and this season, the blues will be on a mission to show that their treble winning season of 2018/19 was not a one-off.
But this time around, the blues not only face some stiff competition n the form of regulars Chelsea and Liverpool, but another two teams that could figure in the title race in the form of a resurgent Arsenal and, sadly, Manchester United (stop laughing).
So let’s take a look at these four teams and see how they compare with the blues.
I suppose we should start with the Mersey reds. They won the title in the same fashion that City won it in the 2017/18 season and it’s City’s turn to make up the points in order to make a serious challenge.
As the blues proved, it is difficult to retain a title in successive seasons and only did so in 2019 by a solitary point. Liverpool haven’t seriously strengthened their side up to now and are relying on the same players to carry them to another title. This could be their downfall.
City fans will be acutely aware of the difficulties the club endured in the 2012/13 and 2014/15 seasons, when they failed to strengthen significantly and lost their league crowns as a result. It doesn’t mean players like Mane, Van Dijk and Salah will suddenly be rubbish, but if one or two of them are hit by long term injuries, they could struggle to defend their title.
The blues have been there, done that and proudly wear the T-Shirt of terrible title defences and the lack of summer signings may come back and haunt Klopp and his team.
Frank Lampard didn’t do too badly in his first season as boss at Stamford Bridge. With he transfer restrictions that were in place last summer, it was always going to be difficult for the former City midfielder to make a huge impact, however he did guide the club to fourth in the Premier League and an FA Cup final.
This summer, Chelsea have strengthened their defence in the form of Ben Chilwell from Leicester, striker Timo Werner from RB Leipzig, and midfielders Thiago Silva and kai Havertz from PSG and Leverkusen respectively.
A push for the title is definitely not beyond them and it would be expected they will be there or thereabouts come May.
The Gunners endured a difficult season until Mikel Arteta left the blues to take over as manager at The Emirates. Despite a rough restart, Arsenal rallied to finish 8th in the Premier League, but they inflicted a third defeat of the season on Liverpool, before beating City in the FA Cup semi-final and going on to lift the trophy again.
Arsenal have brought in nine new players, most notably Willian moving across London from Chelsea, but importantly, Arteta is bringing the belief back not only to the Arsenal dressing room, but in the stands. The supporters are rallying around him and want the boss to be given time to build at Arsenal and if the board back him, there’s every possibility he will succeed.
A title push may be a stretch in Arteta’s first full year, but a Champions League spot is very much a possibility.
The Salford Rangers were one of the form teams following the restart of the Premier League and they finished the season on third place ahead of Chelsea on goal difference. The reds were often accused last season of not showing up form some games and they will rely on the form of Bruno Fernandes if they are to make any challenge for the Premier League title.
The midfielder has added something to their midfield, but the big problem for United will be scoring, despite having Marcus Rashford and Mason Greenwood in their ranks. Towards the end of the season, the reds were getting a lot of penalties, and if they dry up, the goals may well do so too.
United have only made two signings so far, with Donny van de Beek joining from Ajax and Odion Ighalo returning for another loan spell until January. Their well documented pursuit of Jadon Sancho looks to have failed, however there is still time for a deal to be reached, but even the signing of the England midfielder may not propel them to the title.
As for City, it is clear they need to tighten that defence. While City can score (102 goals in 38 games is enough proof of that), conceding goals is still a big issue. Pep Guardiola will rely heavily on Aymeric Laporte at the heart of City’s defence and he may well partner Nathan Ake alongside him. Nicolas Otamendi really is a liability and John Stones is still questionable, although he has said he will stay and fight for his place.
City will be up there and are many people’s favourite to be crowned champions. If they can just shore up that defence. They have options at the back, with Mendy and Zinchenko who can both play at left back, Walker and Cancelo at right back and Ake, Stones, Laporte and Garcia (if he stays) in the centre of defence. If Pep can find a winning combination at the back, City will be champions by May.