The question on everyone’s lips is whether City can be stopped from continuing their reign of excellence. As potential departures and arrivals loom on the horizon, the club faces an intriguing summer of transformation.
Will their rivals find the means to exploit any weaknesses, or could City’s formidable core of players, along with potential new signings, elevate them to even greater heights next season?
Here are five burning questions ahead of Manchester City’s 2023-34 season:
Can Man City be stopped?
It’s the question being asked in boardrooms and manager’s offices all over Europe. How do you catch them, and how do you beat them? After winning the Treble last season, Pep Guardiola’s team have a target on their back.
Chairman Khaldoon Al-Mubarak used his traditional end-of-season interview to say that their aim is to do it all over again — an ominous warning to the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Despite coming off the most successful campaign in Manchester City history, there will be changes at the Etihad Stadium this summer. But does that mean there is an opportunity for their rivals, or could they be even stronger?
What will be different next season?
Ilkay Gundogan has joined Barcelona on a free transfer, and he might not be the only significant departure. There is interest in Bernardo Silva, Riyad Mahrez, Aymeric Laporte and Kalvin Phillips, and City will listen to realistic offers. Silva and Laporte are keen to move on but, with two years on their contracts, will only be allowed to leave for significant fees.
Bayern Munich are monitoring Kyle Walker, but the England defender could yet sign a new contract at City. Joao Cancelo‘s prospects of reintegrating himself following his January loan move to Bayern are slim but, again, City want a big fee for the Portugal full-back.
Are there problems to solve this summer?
Gundogan will be a big miss. He was a leader in the dressing room and on the pitch and so often popped up in vital moments with a key contribution. Kovacic is a good player but a different kind of midfielder. With Gundogan gone, it’s imperative that Phillips — if he stays — gets up to speed quickly. Rodri barely got a break last season and when he did, Gundogan filled in as the No. 6. Phillips struggled with form and fitness last season, but he will need to play a bigger role and share Rodri’s workload.
Guardiola will also have to rebuild his backroom staff over the summer. Coach Enzo Maresca has left to become Leicester City‘s new manager while Guardiola’s assistant, Rodolfo Borrell, has been named as sporting director of MLS side Austin FC. Borrell’s departure, in particular, will be a blow to Guardiola after seven years together at the Etihad.
Gab & Juls clash on Grealish’s top 3 winger spot on the ESPN FC 100
Rob Dawson joins Gab & Juls to debate whether Jack Grealish is worthy of third place on the ESPN FC 100 winger list.
Could City be even better next season?
Guardiola will know exactly what he’s getting with Kovacic — experienced and tidy in possession — but it’s the potential signing of Gvardiol that is most exciting. Only 21, he’s already one of the best left-footed centre-backs in the world and can also do a job at left-back, which will be a big bonus if Cancelo isn’t coming back.
City showed interest in Declan Rice before backing off once Arsenal had lodged a bid of £105m, and it’s possible they could go back into the market for another midfielder.
City expect Haaland to eventually leave for Real Madrid but, until then, the aim is to make him better and better. He scored 52 goals in his first season in England and, at 22, he has not yet reached his peak. It’s worrying for the rest of the Premier League that Guardiola didn’t think his team were able to get the best out of Haaland until late in the season.
Who can stop them?
City’s Treble was historic, but it has been coming for a while. It’s now five titles in the past six years while also reaching two out of the past three Champions League finals.
In 2021, they came close to an unprecedented quadruple, winning the Premier League and the Carabao Cup and reaching the final of the Champions League and the semifinal of the FA Cup.
It just goes to show what their rivals, domestically and in Europe, are up against.
Liverpool are the only team to get close to City domestically and, after finishing fifth last season, have strengthened their problem area in midfield with the addition of Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton and Dominik Szoboszlai from RB Leipzig.
In Europe, the favourites behind City to lift the Champions League in 2024 are Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. Real Madrid have signed City target Jude Bellingham but have lost talismanic striker Karim Benzema to Saudi Arabia. Bayern, meanwhile, are close to strengthening their squad with Napoli centre-back Kim Min-Jae and are pushing to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham Hotspur.