Chelsea and Manchester United stole the show in the transfer window with the acquisition of top goal scorers in Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo. Liverpool duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane remain amongst the best in the world in attacking prowess and putting the ball in the net.
Harry Kane’s choice to stay put at Tottenham also gives the Lillywhites an undeniable boost. His partnership with Heung-min Son can lift the club to perform beyond expectations as has happened before. Mikel Arteta and Arsenal have been wounded early on. The Gunners now have a point to prove.
Where does this leave Manchester City? The Blues face a tough task defending their title. It does seem the neutrals will want any other team but City lifting the Premier League title this time around. Cross city rivals Manchester United went the extra mile to bring back their former star man back in the quest to bring the trophy back to Old Trafford.
He brought with him a massive following. While City vs Leicester City highlights got a few hundreds of thousands views on City’s YouTube channel, Man United vs Newcastle United got over nine million. Fortunately, that’s not what determines results in the end.
City have three unique advantages that still puts the team ahead of the chasing pack.
Pep Guardiola remains the best manager in the world right now. The results say it all. Not since Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign at Old Trafford did any manager dominate the Premier League like the Catalan manager has done. Three titles in the last four seasons is simply outstanding.
Don’t forget the competition in the league is much tougher than it was during Ferguson’s time. The Red Devils were significantly better than their rivals then owing to a stronger financial muscle. They paraded the best players in the division by far and the result was dominance.
That was before the emergence of Chelsea and City.
But unlike then, all of Chelsea, Liverpool, United, City and even Tottenham have quality squads. And they all keep stocking up on ammunition.
The difference is now management. Except for the mistakes against Chelsea last term that cost City both the FA Cup and Champions League trophy, Guardiola was a step ahead of the other managers in the league.
That is a key advantage for City even in this campaign. Early statistics already put City in a strong position. As per Whoscored, Man City tops the division in ball possession at 63%. Liverpool and Man United come in at 3rd and 4th with 56% and 55% respectively.
Apart from shots per game in which City rank second in the league (21), the team also leads its rivals in aerial duels (56%), ranks first in the league in passing accuracy (90%) and comes first overall rating as the best team in the league (7.14). Liverpool and Chelsea come second and third with 7.11 each.
2. Shared goal scoring responsibility
Harry Kane, Mohamed Salah and Bruno Fernandes came first, second and third in the goalscorers charts last season. City’s top scorer Ilkay Gundogan held the rear at 10th position. He scored just 13, but the team scored more than any other team as a collective. That was a key reason the team won the title by 14 points.
The goals were shared round.
That pattern seems set to repeat this term. Except for the setback in the first game of the season, the team is doing the job despite not having a single player firing in the goals. Even though there’s no City player in the top 10 of the scorers list, the team is tied at the top with 11 goals overall.
3. Defensive solidity
Another important reason City won the title last season was defensive solidity. Ruben Dias and John Stones struck up a strong partnership at the centre of the defence. Jaoa Cancelo was also at his best with Kyle Walker solid as a rock. The team conceded the least number of goals as a result.
Ederson’s performance against Leicester City shows he will also play a huge role this term. But it's not just about that game. The Brazilian has kept the most clean sheets of all Premier League goalkeepers this calendar year (15).
AymericLaporte wants in on the credits too. The Spanish international has started the campaign so well he is keeping Stones out of the starting lineup.
The brewing competition can only help the team as both players strive to outdo each other. In the end that competition in all departments will mean Phil Foden will want to outdo Bernardo Silva when introduced. Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling will also want to remind the boss why they deserve to start.
Finally, new boy Jack Grealish will relish the opportunity to finally team up with Kevin De Bruyne to destroy defences and put City on top again.