While Manchester City are favourites to finish first, we’ve picked out five issues they will have to contend with this season.
Manchester City remain most people’s favourites to claim the 2022/23 Premier League crown.
It’s no surprise given what Pep Guardiola has achieved in English football, winning four of the last five titles and playing a brand of football which has amazed City fans and demoralised opponents.
The Blues also have perhaps the best player in the division in Kevin De Bruyne, who pushed them onto another Premier League crown last season.
No team scored more or conceded fewer than City last term, and their summer recruits haven’t been too bad either, adding the prolific Erling Haaland to the star-studded squad which had already been assembled.
Football’s full of fine margins and, had City lost to Villa, then there would be a plethora of articles detailing the reasons they let the title slip away
And despite all the optimism surrounding City, some of those underlying defects are still present as we head into the new campaign.
We’ve picked out five factors which could stop City’s ruthless rabble from claiming another title this season, and open the door for someone else to win the league…
1. Squad depth
This was a real problem for City at the end of last season, when they finished the campaign with Fernandino at centre-back, while they had insufficient options at full-back all year. If anything, it’s a situation that has only worsened over the summer due to the sale of Oleksandr Zinchenko, with City yet to add options in the wide defensive areas. Aymeric Laporte’s injury means City will begin the season with just five senior, fit defenders, and urgently need cover in that area. Meanwhile, striker is another concern, with the main back-up to Erling Haaland being Julian Alvarez, who isn’t an out-and-out centre-forward, and the inexperienced Liam Delap.
2. Cup runs
This aligns with the lack of squad depth, and cup runs only heighten the demands on the squad. We saw that last season when Guardiola had so few options for the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool. The further City go in the cup competitions, the more pressure it puts on the relatively small squad.
3. Haaland adaption
After perfecting a striker-less system, City now have to develop their style and tactics to accommodate Haaland. There were signs even in the Community Shield that this might not be straightforward, with the Norwegian struggling to get involved in the build-up play. As with all Guardiola’s tactical schemes, the perfected version should be devastating, but in the short term there might be some teething problems when it comes to incorporating Haaland. There’s also a slight concern about whether Haaland will hit the ground running in front of goal, as the forward adapts to the rigours of English football.
4. Grealish output
City’s £100m man was eased into life at the Etihad last season, with the former Aston Villa winger contributing little in terms of goals and assists. He provided just three of each last term, with others in the team shouldering most of the burden when it came to scoring and creating. But the departures of Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling mean more is expected of Grealish this campaign, and he’ll likely need to treble the number of goal involvements if he’s to play a big role for City this time around.