Manchester City (4/6 to win title) will be seeking to win a fourth Premier League title in five years this season, but a lot could depend on whether Pep Guardiola’s side are able to complete the key signings of Jack Grealish and Harry Kane.
The Citizens regained their title in convincing fashion last term, as they finished 12 points clear of nearest rivals Manchester United, although their campaign did end on a sour note when they were beaten in the Champions League final by Chelsea.
A renewed challenge is expected to come to City’s domestic dominance this year, with United, Chelsea and Liverpool having all strengthened, while the reigning champions are yet to do any significant business in the transfer market.
However, that could be about to change, with reports suggesting City have tabled a £100million bid for Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, while Tottenham forward Harry Kane also remains a primary target.
If City can get those two signings over the line, then they could take some stopping on all fronts.
Hopes for the New Season
Anything short of retaining their title will be seen as an underachievement for City, although their priorities are likely to once again lie in Europe, as they go in search of that elusive first Champions League crown (City 7/2 to win Champions League).
City have won eight major honours over the last four seasons and they should have enough strength in depth to challenge on all fronts once again, although they are yet to replace all-time leading scorer Sergio Aguero, who left for Barcelona at the end of last season.
Kane (3/1 to finish as Premier League top scorer) would certainly fill the void left by Aguero, while Grealish would provide even more creativity in the final third, but with no guarantees that either of those deals will get done, City may have to line up other transfer targets or risk heading into the new season weaker than they were 12 months ago.
Arrivals and Departures
Scott Carson – Free Transfer from Derby
Sergio Aguero – Free Transfer to Barcelona
Eric Garcia – Free Transfer to Barcelona
Lukas Nmecha – £11.7million to Wolfsburg
If City do complete the signings of Kane and Grealish then they will both feel they can stake a claim to be considered the club’s star man alongside the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Ruben Dias and Riyad Mahrez.
Guardiola’s squad certainly oozes quality, but perhaps Phil Foden can emerge as City’s star performer during the 2021-22 campaign.
The 21-year-old came of age last season, scoring 16 goals in 50 appearances across all competitions and he is likely to be handed even more responsibility this term (unless the arrival of Grealish sees his playing time limited).
Foden has been regarded as one of Europe’s most exciting prospects for some time, but he is now reaching an age where he is ready to deliver on a consistent basis and he will be keen to establish himself as one of the first names on Guardiola’s team sheet.
Guardiola’s tiki-taka brand of football that he became renowned for at Barcelona remains at the forefront of his approach with City, and he took that philosophy a step further last season by opting to play without a striker in most matches.
That meant Aguero and Gabriel Jesus often found themselves on the bench, with the likes of Foden, De Bruyne, Mahrez and Raheem Sterling forming part of a fluid false nine formation where they all took turns to lead the line (City 1/3 to be highest scoring team).
The potential arrival of Kane would likely see Guardiola revert to a more orthodox approach, although the England captain does like to drop deep and link the play, which means pace in the wide areas could prove pivotal.
Expect to see more of the same from Guardiola in terms of his full-backs moonlighting as central midfielders during matches and goalkeeper Ederson playing more like an outfield player than the last line of defence.
The 50-year-old is sure to have one or two more tactical shifts up his sleeve for the new campaign, with his ability to adapt being one of the main reasons he has enjoyed so much success throughout his managerial career.
Last season – 1st.