Can champions Manchester City improve next season?
What next for Manchester City?
Manchester City are celebrating their fourth Premier League title in five seasons after a nerve-wracking final day in which they trailed Aston Villa 2-0 only to fight back with three goals in the last 15 minutes.
That meant they finished a point clear of Liverpool, who are expected to be their main rivals next season, even with Erik ten Hag taking over as Manchester United boss.
Here, we examine how the club will hope to stay ahead of the pack.
Will City start next season as favourites?
Undoubtedly so. City may have been taken to the wire this season by Liverpool but, while the Merseysiders will hope to regroup and challenge again, they already seem well ahead of the rest of the competition.
City failed to land their top transfer target in Harry Kane last summer but still went on to clock up 93 points and score 99 goals. Having already announced the signing of Erling Haaland for next season, there will be an expectation they can better those figures.
How will Haaland improve the team?
The prolific Norway forward is one of the hottest properties in the game and will be expected to bring plenty of goals. City have effectively played without a specialist centre-forward for two seasons now, with Sergio Aguero’s final campaign in 2020-21 being marred by injuries before he left the club without being replaced last summer.
They won two titles in that time and with an out-and-out striker in the team they should be even more potent.
Do they need to strengthen anywhere else?
Manager Pep Guardiola likes to run a tight squad but, with Fernandinho leaving, there could be room for another addition. In terms of areas to bolster, another full-back would be welcomed.
Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo have excelled but they have had no specialist cover. Another forward is also due to arrive in Argentina’s Julian Alvarez from River Plate.
Who else could leave?
It remains to be seen but there has been speculation about the futures of a number of players including Ilkay Gundogan, Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling. It seems unlikely Sunday’s two-goal super sub Gundogan will move, with reports he could do so apparently fuelled by people jumping to the wrong conclusions about a recent trip abroad.
It was claimed he was discussing a move elsewhere, when he was actually travelling to Denmark to get married. Guardiola has since stated his hope the German stays. Jesus and Sterling also remain Guardiola favourites but much may depend on how they see their futures in a star-studded squad about to be bolstered by Haaland and Alvarez.
What about Guardiola himself?
City’s inspirational manager has just one year left on his contract and speculation about his future will persist until he agrees to a new one. Yet while this may worry some fans – particularly as he continues to be linked with other jobs, the Brazil national team being one recent example – the club are not concerned.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) May 23, 2022
Guardiola prefers to deal in short-term contracts and has stressed repeatedly he is perfectly happy. His last two contract extensions were signed in the final year and that may well happen again.
Will the Premier League or Champions League be top priority?
Guardiola would love to guide City to European glory and there is little doubt this is a prize the club are now desperate to win. He has shown time after time, however, that he will not compromise the Premier League to achieve it.
He maintains the domestic title is the most important. That thinking may change if City happen to be out of contention for some reason come next spring, but it seems unlikely he would focus on the Champions League at the expense of the Premier League.