Manchester: There will be a new look to Manchester City this season but don’t expect the transfer movement to disrupt their domination of the Premier League as they defend their crown.
Having won four of the last five league titles, Pep Guardiola’s side have allowed four first team players to leave the Etihad Stadium but have replaced them with new talent that should maintain their status as favourites for silverware again.
It is a sign of City’s confidence that the three key players they have sold have been allowed to go to ‘Big Six’ rivals in England.
Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus and Ukrainian midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko have been handed to Guardiola’s former assistant Mikel Arteta at Arsenal while Raheem Sterling has moved to Thomas Tuchel’s title-chasing Chelsea.
That relaxed approach came after City had already secured major additions to their strike force.
The biggest signing was the addition of Europe’s most prolific young forward in 22-year-old Norwegian Erling Haaland who has averaged around a goal a game for Red Bull Salzburg, Borussia Dortmund and the Norway national side.
Argentine striker Julian Alvarez, also 22, was signed from River Plate in January but then loaned back until the end of the season but is now a full part of Guardiola’s squad.
Haaland is a classic ‘number nine’, a clear focal point for an attack who is a physical presence and strong in the air, but Guardiola is not planning on going too far away from his well-established approach.
“We are not going to change the way we play, we are going to adapt to the quality these players have to involve (them) in the way we play. But we are not going to change... we did really quite well in these seasons,” said the Spaniard.
The change is less radical in midfield.
The Brazilian 37-year-old defensive midfielder Fernandinho has returned to end his career in his homeland and City have brought in England’s Kalvin Phillips from Leeds United.
Base of midfield
Like Fernandinho, Phillips could be part of a pairing with Spanish regular Rodri at the base of midfield in certain games or take those duties on his own when the former Atletico Madrid player is absent.
While City have the option of playing more aerial crosses into the box, giving them an additional way of testing their opponents, at the back it should be business as usual with Kyle Walker and Ruben Dias ensuring minimal work for keeper Ederson.
But it is the creative presences of Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden which should ensure that City are once again, despite their rivals’ best efforts in the transfer market, the team to beat in the title race.