On Sunday, Manchester City displayed their three trophies in Tokyo and then secured a 5-3 victory against Yokohama Marinos in a friendly match. Erling Haaland made a comeback with goal contributions, and Rodri, the hero of Istanbul, also found the net. Overall, their performance was quite commendable, especially considering they had only four training sessions after winning the treble. However, as they gear up for a potential record-breaking fourth consecutive Premier League title, they are facing a tumultuous summer.
City bid farewell to Ilkay Gundogan as his contract expired, and Riyad Mahrez moved to Saudi Arabia. These departures leave the team without two of its most dependable players during Pep Guardiola’s tenure. Additionally, there are uncertainties surrounding the future of two more key players – Kyle Walker and Bernardo Silva.
So far, only Mateo Kovacic has joined the squad, but the club is still in negotiations with RB Leipzig for Yosko Guardiola. Meanwhile, City’s rivals are strengthening their squads. While Pep’s team has been the dominant force in English football for the last six years, their status is now threatened, and Guardiola faces a significant challenge to maintain their winning streak.
Gundogan’s move to Barcelona was expected, as his contract was expiring, and he had expressed his desire for a change. The German midfielder also demanded a high salary to stay in Manchester, which conflicted with the club’s policy for players over 30 years old. Nevertheless, his departure leaves a considerable void that won’t be easy to fill. Gundogan was versatile, contributing both defensively and offensively from the midfield. As Kyle Walker aptly put it, “Ilkay becomes a top-class Zinedine Zidane in crucial matches.”
His pivotal goals on the last day of the 2021/22 season secured the title against Liverpool. In the previous campaign, his goal against Everton practically sealed the crown. He also scored the fastest goal in the history of the FA Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley. For the last three seasons, Gundogan has consistently scored at least 10 goals and provided at least 5 assists. On the other hand, Kovacic, the most likely replacement, has scored only 6 goals in 5 seasons and 221 matches for Chelsea.
Marez’s move to Al Ahli presents another challenge for Manchester City. The £30 million transfer fee for a 32-year-old player who usually doesn’t feature in major matches is significant. He started only one of City’s seven knockout games in the Champions League last season and wasn’t used in the FA Cup final. However, whenever Guardiola played him, the Algerian delivered. In the Premier League last season, he finished with 5 goals and 10 assists. Marez was a reliable player against weaker opponents, allowing Pep to rotate and rest key players. Losing him means the team will miss his consistency and reliability.
Walker is another veteran who might leave, as he desires a move to Bayern and has only one year left on his contract with City. Despite occasional criticism from Guardiola, Walker’s actions on the pitch prove his worth. In the final weeks of the previous season, he played a crucial role in important matches, performing excellently against Vinicius in the Champions League semifinals and neutralizing Marcus Rashford in the FA Cup final. Although an injury prevented him from playing against Inter, he still has a lot to offer the team, especially in one-on-one defending and crucial defensive situations.
Bernardo Silva is also the subject of transfer speculation every summer, and this time is no different. PSG and Barcelona are interested in him, and there is also interest from Saudi Arabia. City is eager to retain him and has offered a lucrative contract with a weekly wage of £300,000. His price tag is set at £70 million, and it’s evident why. Silva plays a crucial role in connecting City’s midfield and possesses the ability to carry the ball across the field without losing possession. Since joining the team in 2017 from Monaco, he has been fundamental to their success, and City simply cannot afford to lose him.
Arsenal, after spending 248 days at the top of the Premier League last season, invested over £200 million to strengthen their already impressive squad. Notably, they secured the signature of Declan Rice, one of the best midfielders in the world, who can potentially elevate them from contenders to title contenders. Timber, a defender, and the versatile Kai Havertz are other valuable additions that provide depth.
Chelsea has also bolstered its squad with Nkunku, and additional new signings are expected before the end of the transfer window. Liverpool acquired two world-class midfielders – McAllister and Soboslai, while United finally has a goalkeeper who excels with the ball at his feet (Andre Onana). The Red Devils also secured Mason Mount, and Newcastle spent approximately £100 million on Sandro Tonali and Harvey Barnes.
Guardiola is well aware of the challenges that the Premier League presents, and he will spend the entire season strategizing to ensure that his team remains at the top. Nevertheless, with the departure of some of their most loyal and reliable players, he faces a substantial challenge. And there might be further challenges ahead.