Three challenges Manchester City might face in upcoming season

Kevin De Bruyne is the acknowledged midfield quarterback for Manchester City (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images)
Kevin De Bruyne is the acknowledged midfield quarterback for Manchester City (Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images) /
Manchester City
Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City reacts during the UEFA Champions League group A match between Manchester City and RB Leipzig at Etihad Stadium on September 15, 2021 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images) /

Premier League winners Manchester City aim to start another successful season with Saturday’s FA Community Shield match against Liverpool.

City have won four Premier League titles in the last five seasons and they’ll be in the mix for the title once again with the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United.

Moreover, the Citizens will be eyeing the Champions League title that has eluded them thus far. Coach Pep Guardiola is desperate to win the continental crown that he last won in 2011.

So here are three of the principle challenges Pep and his squad might wrestle with throughout the 2022-23 season.

Keys for Manchester City: Defense, midfield creativity, scoring

1. Making sure there are enough options in defense

It is said that good defenses win tournaments and Guardiola’s side should be no exception.

Ruben Dias’ struggled with injury last season and veteran midfielder Fernandinho had to fill in at centre-back down the stretch, with undesirable results.

Dias was not on the pitch when the team lost to Real Madrid, conceding late goals in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal. The Portuguese centre-back should be raring to go and will be one of the pillars of City’s defense along with John Stones.

Guardiola knows the likely implications of a depleted defense all too well. One bit of good news is that Nathan Ake, the Dutch centre-back who filled in as left-back a few times last season, is staying with the club and, hence, might play a crucial role in filling gaps in the defensive set-up for the English champions.

With the departure of Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal, Joao Cancelo should start as the left-back against Liverpool, with Kyle Walker at right-back. However, City should ensure that there are enough options for the left side as regulars can sustain injuries over a long season. Youngster Josh Wilson-Esbrand might claim a role in the senior squad and the club is also contemplating signing Mark Cucurella from Brighton.

2. Dearth of back-up creative options in the midfield

Ilkay Gundogan won the title for City with his wonderful final day heroics, but he has left the club and with him goes a player capable of scoring double digit goals. City have signed Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United, but the 26-year-old Englishman is more comfortable playing in a deeper role and is unlikely to offer much offensively.

Rodri could play an important role in this regard as the Spanish defensive midfielder is capable of delivering probing balls into the penalty box and scoring goals with powerful shots from distance.

Manchester City boast two fine central attacking midfielders in the form of Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva and those two are capable of cutting through any defense in the world. Still, attacking options behind them are a bit sparse and it would be interesting to see how Guardiola tackles this puzzle.

3. Lack of genuine goal-scorers upfront

Manchester City have lost Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus to Chelsea and Arsenal, respectively, so Guardiola’s side might be lacking genuine goal-scorers upfront.

They have signed Norwegian Erling Haaland, who scored 86 goals in 89 matches over three seasons for Borussia Dortmund and should be a cause for concern for opposition defenders next season.

Still, one has to keep in mind that neither Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish are genuine goal-getters and it remains to be seen whether City come up with another offensive signing. Mahrez did score 24 goals last season, but those stats have been somewhat inflated as he scored several penalties.

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Manchester City tried to get Serge Gnabry from Bayern Munich, but that deal could not materialize somehow. Guardiola would have to deal with it, just like he did with not having a genuine centre-forward last season. However, knowing Guardiola’s track record, it is easy to assume he’ll find a way out.