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Might of Manchester City may again prove insurmountable for Premier League’s top flight

Might of Manchester City may again prove insurmountable for Premier League’s top flight
Rodri (centre-left) of Manchester City in action against Gabriel (centre-right) of Arsenal during the FA Community Shield in London, Britain on 6 August, 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Tolga Akmen)

Manchester City seem to be both the immovable object as well as the unstoppable force. It will take a colossal effort to usurp the champions this Premier League season.

Chasing down last season’s treble-winning Manchester City seems an ever-increasing exercise in futility for the chasing pack in the English Premier League.

The Citizens have won five of the last six Premier League titles. The one title they failed to win over this period — during the 2019/2020 season — was clinched by Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool side, which had one of the best seasons in the club’s rich history while collecting a gargantuan 99 points across the 38-match campaign.

That is the type of effort needed to usurp the seemingly unstoppable freight train that is Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side.

This is a lesson Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta learned last season. The Gunners were in inspired form, with both a young squad and manager, spending an incredible 248 days at the top of the table.

But a drop in form late in the season, meant that despite finishing with an often title-winning 84-point tally, the blue side of Manchester was able to overhaul the inexperienced Gunners and clinch the esteemed trophy by five points.

It’s clear that it takes a near-flawless season to strip the Premier League title from the firm clutches of Guardiola and his men. As fruitless as it may seem, there are a few English sides who are expected to put up a brave fight over the course of the next season.

Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool

Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp, on 6 May 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Peter Powell)

Besides their stunning run in the Premier League last season, Manchester City also collected the FA Cup and Champions League on their way to a record season — a feat only achieved by Manchester rivals, United, in 1999. 

Guardiola, however, believes replicating the achievement is unlikely.

“It is once in a lifetime,” the decorated manager said. “It will not be possible to do what we did last season.

“We climbed the highest mountain last season, but in the last two days we came down from it and now we start again.

“Everyone has the same intention and there will be a lot of difficulties to climb the mountain as high as possible. Our football, our level, our mentality will dictate how the season will be.”

Manchester City kick-off the new Premier League season against Burnley at Turf Moor on Friday evening at 9pm.

Phil Foden, Manchester City

Phil Foden (right) of Manchester City in action during the FA Community Shield soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester City in London on 6 August, 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE/Tolga Akmen)

London challenge

Arsenal are expected to put up the bravest fight again this season. Despite having the youngest combined age in the league last season, they still pushed Manchester City to the second last match day of the league.

And after beating their rivals, 4-1 on penalties in the Community Shield a few days ago, there will be a reasonable amount of confidence flowing through the North London club.

Arteta has made a few reinforcements, including that long-awaited and much-anticipated addition of Declan Rice in midfield. The England international will fill the role of former captain and stalwart Granit Xhaka who signed for Bayer Leverkusen in the off season.

After an incredible season by wingers Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka, who scored 15 and 14 goals respectively, much will be expected from the youngsters again this season.

Arsenal will have the added workload of playing in the Champions League after a six-year absence from the European competition. It remains to be seen if the Gunners can sustain their form — unlike last season — with the addition of at least six more highly competitive midweek matches.

Arsenal kick-off their title challenge with a clash against Nottingham Forest at Emirates Stadium at 1:30pm on Saturday.

Red rivals

Less than seven kilometres away, there is another Manchester side with great title-hogging history laying in wait. United, under the tutelage of Erik ten Hag for the first time last season, showed great enterprise and potential in their third-place finish.

With his philosophy and style of play now a year older and having acquired favourable recruits in important positions such as striker Rasmus Højlund, goalkeeper André Onana and midfielder Mason Mount, Manchester United are expected to be even better this season.

“When you first come in you have to learn what the club is and what the people are because you don’t have much background. Now I have more background and feel settled in,” Ten Hag said about the new Premier League season.

“Then you can make the next step, especially when you construct the foundation, like we did last season.”

Chasing pack

Perennial Premier League runners-up Liverpool fell off the wagon last season before fighting back in the final quarter to finish in fifth place.

The Merseyside team has since ejected their entire midfield, including Jordan Henderson, Fabinho, James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

While they have found replacements in Dominik Szoboszlai and World Cup winner, Alexis MacAllister, the side still look light in those key roles.

Liverpool kick-off their campaign with a tasty meeting against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday at 5:30pm.

Chelsea, meanwhile, enter the new season with a clean slate having completed their worst season in the Premier League era — having finished 12th with 44 points.

The Blues have a new manager in Mauricio Pochettino after Frank Lampard took over on an interim basis at the back end of the previous campaign.

There has been a cleanout at the Bridge in the off season. Kalidou Koulibaly, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic, Edouard Mendy, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic are amongst a host of players who have been allowed to find a new club as the London club attempt to balance their squad without any European soccer.

Chelsea at least have the opportunity to focus solely on the league with a fresh look at the club. DM

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