Manchester City 2023/24 Premier League Season Preview | The Hard Tackle

Before the 2023/24 Premier League season kicks off next weekend, The Hard Tackle assesses the prospects of last season’s treble winners Manchester City.

The 2023/24 season has not started in the best possible manner for Manchester City, with Pep Guardiola’s team suffering a defeat at the hands of Arsenal in the FA Community Shield. Despite dominating the game throughout, they ended up conceding an equaliser late into added time and ended up losing the game on penalties.

While they might have lost the season opener, City fans will be hoping for yet another dominating season given that they have been the best team in England over the last six years. The Manchester-based club have won the Premier League five times in the last six seasons and completed a hattrick of league titles last season.

Manchester City were never really a top dog in the Premier League back in the day. But, the arrival of Sheikh Mansour has changed things significantly. The Emirati royal bought the club in the summer of 2008 and slowly they started climbing the ladder.

In the 2011/12 season, City won their first team title on the final day of the season. And, post that they have always finished inside the top four. While Mansour’s arrival brought in a lot of financial power and they were always in the race for titles, the City’s real dominance began after the arrival of Pep Guardiola.

The Spanish manager took charge of Manchester City in the summer of 2016 and since then, they have won the league five times. Last season, the English club fulfilled their desire of winning the Champions League and ended up becoming the second English team to win the treble.

The Prelude

Reaching the promised land. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

The 2022/23 season might not have been Manchester City’s best season in the Premier League. But they did manage to get the job done at the end. Pep Guardiola’s men also managed to win the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League making it yet another treble for the Spanish manager. City managed to fulfil all their ambitions at the end of the day and their fans will be hoping for something similar next season.

The first half of the 2022/23 Premier League season did not go according to plan for Pep Guardiola’s team. They were behind Arsenal in the race for the league title. The Gunners managed to accumulate a decent lead and maintained their dominance heading into the final few weeks of the season.

But, in the final phase, Arsenal slipped and Manchester City managed to pounce on the opportunity. They ended up winning the title with 89 points to their name. Guardiola’s team had the best defence as well as attack in the league. They scored a total of 94 goals and conceded just 33.

While some might consider that Arsenal bottled the league, Manchester City surely did their bit. They went on a winning dominating run in the second half of the season after a change in formation. The Spanish manager decided to shift from the conventional 4-3-3 to a 3-2-4-1.

It was a gamble for sure, but Guardiola knew what he wanted to do and executed it to perfection as City became a force to reckon with by the time the business end of the season came. His tactic is to have 5 players defend and 5 players attack.

The 3-2-4-1 system had three centre-backs, and the double pivot in the centre of the park was made up of John Stones (another centre-back) along with Rodri (defensive midfielder). He played two wingers out wide along with two attacking midfielders in the centre and up top was the deadly Erling Haaland who shattered all records in his very first season in England.

Squad Update

Manchester City have a well-balanced squad capable enough to push for all major titles. With almost everything already sorted, they have not really done much in the ongoing transfer window. They have already done the major part of business for the summer and are not expected to go big on any more players in the summer. However, there could still be a few departures, with Aymeric Laporte and Joao Cancelo expected to leave the club.

Major Departures

Riyad Mahrez (Winger)
Ilkay Gundogan (Midfielder)

The departures of Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan have surely left a void at the club. But they have already sorted out a replacement for the duo. Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic has been signed to replace Gundogan, who has left for Barcelona after guiding City to the treble.

As far as Mahrez’s replacement is concerned, they are unlikely to sign a new winger. Bernardo Silva is the preferred choice on the right flank, and they have the 21-year-old Cole Palmer to cover for the Portuguese international.

Palmer has already proven himself with a wonder goal in the Community Shield and is ready to get more game time next season. Even Phil Foden can featured on the right flank if needed. As a result, there is no real need to go big on another winger.

Major Arrivals

Josko Gvardiol (Defender)
Mateo Kovacic (Midfielder)

While Kovacic has been signed to replace Gundogan, Gvardiol is not a replacement signing. They have gone big on the 21-year-old defender to further bolster their defence. City already have a star-studded defence. But with John Stones playing in a double pivot role, they needed more depth. And, on top of that, Laporte’s uncertain future meant they needed another centre-back. So, they went in and bought one of the best young talent out there.

Key Fixtures

Manchester City were squared up against Newcastle United at home in Gameweek 2 of the new season. It will be a good test for Pep Guardiola’s team given that the Magpies have been on the up of late. They finished inside the top four last season and have further bolstered their squad.

In October, City have two important away fixtures in Arsenal and Manchester United whom they will face on Gameweeks 8 and 10, respectively. Both the opponents are expected to challenge them for the league titles. As a result, these fixtures might give the football fans a fair idea about whether the City’s dominance will continue or not.

In Gameweek 12 they will hit the road to square up against Chelsea and on the very next matchday, they will host Liverpool. While both teams struggled last season, they could still be a threat for Guardiola’s team given the quality of their squads.

December will be hectic for Manchester City as they will be involved in a total of seven matches. While they don’t really have a big game apart from Tottenham at home, playing twice every week does ask a lot out of the players.

If one of the top teams manages to challenge City for the league title right until the end then March might end up deciding things as they will face Manchester United (Home), Liverpool (Away) and Arsenal (Home).

Gameweek 34 will be the most difficult fixture for City as they will hit the road to square up against Tottenham Hotspur. Their recent record against Spurs away from home in the Premier League is not that great and they will look to set that straight this time out.

Key Players

Erling Haaland

Haaland arrived in England last summer from Borussia Dortmund. While he was expected to have a significant impact on Guardiola’s team, no one could have predicted what he ended up achieving. The 23-year-old was one of the major reasons for their historic treble.

In total, he scored 52 goals and even contributed with nine assists last season. The former Dortmund forward featured in a total of 35 league matches and was on the pitch for over 2,700 minutes. He ended up scoring 37 goals and even registered eight assists. After a sensational first season at the club, the 23-year-old is expected to put on a similar show in the 2023/24 season.

Kevin De Bruyne

De Bruyne has arguably been the best player in the Premier League over the last five seasons. He is the man to makes Manchester City tick. He is exceptional on the ball and his ability to find the killer pass is second to none in the world of football.

The 32-year-old’s creativity and ability to find his forwards are one of the major reasons for Haaland’s destructive run last season. The Belgian international was involved in a total of 41 goals last season. He featured in a total of 32 Premier League matches and was on the pitch for less than 2,500 minutes.

De Bruyne ended up contributing towards 25 goals. He found the back of the net on seven occasions and managed to bag a total of 18 assists. The 32-year-old has been putting in such performances throughout the last five seasons and he is going to be a deciding factor once again next season.

Season Expectations

Manchester City are expected to be a force to reckon with yet again in the 2023/24 season. They have a well-balanced squad with multiple options in each position. Despite a couple of departures, they don’t really have anything to worry about.

The squad looks stronger than last season thanks to the arrival of Josko Gvardiol, and the expectations remain the same. While everyone expects something similar from Manchester City, Pep Guardiola is someone who keeps changing things.

He wants to keep evolving. And as a result, there could be a few tactical changes in their approach. Those changes could be something that might take time to reflect. But, if they end up going ahead with the 3-2-4-1 formation as well as the 4-3-3, they are expected to dominate the league.

While the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United have strengthened themselves with impressive signings, they still might not have enough in their tanks. As a result, The Hard Tackles predicts yet another Premier League title for Manchester City.

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