The new season is just days away, and already Manchester City have issues. Erling Haaland’s xG rating at the Community Shield was 0.0! He’s failed to score in his last six matches for City! It’s crisis time for the big Norwegian!!
Of course, Haaland had a disappointing showing at last season’s curtain raiser too. That underwhelming performance a year ago prompted many of football’s most distinguished minds to suggest the striker could take a while to bed in at Man City.
Haaland scored 52 goals in total
As it turned out, it took him one game. Haaland scored a brace on his Premier League debut, away to West Ham, and finished the season with 52 goals in all competitions, in a season when Man City won a historic treble that included their first ever Champions League trophy.
We’re frantically groping for an argument, any argument why City won’t canter to Premier League glory once again this season. It’s not easy, even if you ignore the fact that Haaland could actually improve.
Leaving the big blonde goofball out of this for a moment, let’s focus on the Citizens. They’ve won five of the last six Premier League campaigns, somewhat undermining the claim that the Prem is the most competitive of the big European leagues.
And simply because he achieved his long-desired goal of lifting the Champions League trophy with the Manchester side, it seems unlikely that Pep Guardiola will lose any intensity or hunger for glory.
City have seen significant departures, with inspirational captain Ilkay Gundogan moving on, along with forward Riyad Mahrez.
Will Declan Rice justify his price tag?
But new signings include Mateo Kovacic, formerly of Chelsea, while centre-back Josko Gvardiol cost £85m from RB Leipzig. Just 21, Gvardiol helped his home nation Croatia reach the World Cup semi-finals last year.
But after the Gunners gave up a commanding lead in the final stages of the previous campaign, there are questions about the north London side’s ability to maintain a season-long challenge.
That’s even despite the club having added quality new players. Arsenal paid West Ham £105 million for Declan Rice; can the much-admired England midfielder live up to that costly fee?
And how about Kai Havertz? The former Chelsea man didn’t always convince for the Blues, though his goal in the 2021 Champions League final against Man City tells us the German might just be the man for a big occasion.
Still, after the dream scenario of a season that defied all expectations last time out, Arsenal could be in for the nightmare scenario of a season that defies all expectations this time round. Revisiting Liverpool may be instructive.
Will Liverpool be back in the hunt?
Last season the Merseyside team started the season by winning the Community Shield, having come painfully close to winning an unprecedented quadruple in the previous campaign.
Yet far from challenge for the title in 2022-23, instead Jurgen Klopp had to settle for a fifth-place finish. Klopp’s side won just half of their league games, struggling for consistency before an 11-match unbeaten run in the last two months of the season.
Does that improvement suggest the side will be back in the hunt for the Prem this time out? It’s possible – but Liverpool haven’t had an ideal pre-season. Recruiting Alexis Mac Allister and Dominik Szoboszlai looks like sound business.
But the side have also bid farewell to James Milner, Naby Keita, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and, infamously, Jordan Henderson to a Saudi Arabian club. Fabinho has also been sold to a Saudi Pro League club, while yet another Saudi side is reportedly interested in Mo Salah.
The Liverpool forward isn’t interested in the move, it seems. But with the Saudi transfer window remaining open some two months after the Premier League closes, no wonder Klopp is agitated about further potential disruption of his plans for the season.
Can Pochettino get Chelsea back on track?
If you remain unfazed by Liverpool’s ups and downs, they are 8/1 to win the title this season.
City, Arsenal and Liverpool are the top three in the betting; after that Man Utd are 11/1 shots. Could the Manchester side continue to improve after a decent first season with Erik ten Hag in charge?
And what of Chelsea? Last season was truly disastrous for the west London club, who went through three managers and ended up 12th in the table. Will Mauricio Pochettino be able to steer the side back into the top four?
Will Brighton and Newcastle continue to impress? And what of Tottenham? With Ange Postecoglou having impressed during his time in the Scottish Premiership, is the new Spurs boss capable of restoring some sense of pride to the north London side, with or without Harry Kane?
There’s plenty of storyline strands that promise to keep us engrossed by this sporting soap opera. But our pick for outright glory? City. Of course. Sometimes, you have to expect the expected. Anything can happen – but probably won’t.
If you can’t bring yourself to back Man City for the title at 4/5, maybe it’s worth buying the dip, in investment terms. That is, hope that another side can build a lead over them, as Arsenal did last season.
When that happened, Man City’s price became slightly more generous, Guardiola behaved as if the jig was up – then Arsenal had a crisis of confidence, and City picked up the pieces to go on and win the title anyway. It could happen again.
Alternatively, you could check our Man City markets; you can get 5/1 on the side to win two trophies again this season. It’s no kind of stretch to see them claiming both the Prem and the League Cup this season…
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