Even without the £51 million signing of prolific forward Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund, Manchester City were always going to be favourites to win the EPL in 2022/23.
After all, the club has won four of the last five EPL crowns despite ferocious competition from Liverpool, and an average price of 8/13 to add to his haul next season seems more than reasonable.
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However, the arrivals of Haaland and South American forward Julián Álvarez have been put into further context by the likely departure of Raheem Sterling. So, how will City line up next season, and will it change the way that they play?
While City continue to mull over a formal offer for Brighton’s coveted left back Marc Cucurella, for now Pep Guardiola will retain the same back line that has served his side well in recent years.
To this end, Ederson will continue in goal, with Stefan Ortega arriving as back up on a free transfer and Zach Steffen likely to leave on loan.
The dependable Kyle Walker will continue as first-choice right back, with the talented (and roving) Joao Cancelo likely to play primarily from the left. The elegant John Stones is expected to start as Ruben Dias’ first choice partner at centre back, with Aymeric Laporte providing staunch competition for places.
Currently, City’s Dutch centre back Nathan Ake is being linked with a return to Chelsea, and if this move does materialise, Guardiola may look to bring in a little more depth in this position.
Preferred Starting Sections: Ederson, Walker, Stones, Dias, Cancelo
What About the Midfield?
While veteran midfielder Fernandinho has departed after nine years of loyal service, Kalvin Phillips has been signed as a capable replacement from Leeds for around £45 million.
However, Phillips is expected to serve as back-up to the composed and technically outstanding Rodri, with the 26-year-old defensive playmaker likely to start the majority of games.
With Guardiola continuing to deploy his preferred 4-3-3 formation, Rodri will often be flanked by the tenacious Bernado Silva (to the left) and Kevin De Bruyne (from the right). This affords City excellent balance, industry and no little quality, with these two players alone contributing a combined 23 goals and 12 assists in the EPL last season.
Of course, İlkay Gündoğan also offers excellent strength in depth in these positions, while Phillips is also capable of playing a little higher up the park.
Preferred Starting Sections: De Bruyne, Rodri, Bernado Silva
The Front Line
There’s little doubt that the talented Haaland (who scored 86 goals in just 89 appearances for Dortmund) will lead the forward line for much of next season, with fellow new signing Alvarez likely to operate primarily from the bench.
But what about either side of the prolific Norwegian? Well, the skilful Riyad Mahrez enjoyed his best ever season from the right flank last season, scoring 11 EPL goals and 24 overall in just 47 appearances (including seven in the UCL).
He’s likely to retain his place in the starting line up next season, with the precocious Phil Foden and record signing Jack Grealish expected to compete for the final spot on the left wing.
This competition will certainly heat up if Sterling completes his move to Chelsea, although Foden’s greater range of skills and the fact that recorded 14 Premier League goal involvements last season may give him an edge over his England colleague.
Final Starting Sections: Mahrez, Haaland, Foden
The Last Word
Ultimately, City will deploy much the same starting 11 as for much of last season in 2022/23, with the only significant change being the deployment of Haaland as a conventional number nine.
This means that Guardiola may largely do away with the false nine tactic that he has used so frequently in recent years, as he looks to create an effective focal point around which players like Foden, Mahrez and De Bruyne can build.
Even the losses of Fernandinho and Sterling won’t be too keenly felt, with both having seen their influences wane in recent seasons as they spent less time in the starting 11.
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