Football Features

Five things to expect from Man City in Premier League 2021/22

By CJ Smith

Published: 10:44, 19 August 2021

Manchester City will look to hold off the challenges of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United to retain their Premier League title this season.

Pep Guardiola’s men cruised over the line in 2020/21, finishing 12 points clear of the Red Devils and 17 ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s side.

City have strengthened considerably with the British-record signing of Jack Grealish and let’s face it, it doesn’t look like Guardiola is done in the market yet.

But Man Utd have added Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, Liverpool have bolstered their defence with Ibrahima Konate, and Chelsea have (finally) re-signed Romelu Lukaku. Guardiola is going to have his work cut out, that’s for sure.

So, how will the new Premier League season go down for the reigning champions? Read on for five Man City predictions.

1. Man City will line up like…

As we go further into the season, City’s starting XI is expected to largely resemble the same as last term, with Ederson manning the sticks behind the blossoming centre-back partnership of John Stones and Ruben Dias. Kyle Walker and Oleksandr Zinchenko enjoyed good Euro 2020 campaigns and were the preferred full-backs at the end of last season, but Joao Cancelo and Benjamin Mendy could, of course, come in.

When fully fit, Kevin De Bruyne will provide the creative genius in midfield, shielded by Rodri and supported by the box-to-box engine of Ilkay Gundogan.

And up front, Grealish will take his place on the left, looking to cut inside and cause defenders nightmares with his dribbling, passing and habit of winning fouls in dangerous areas. After a wonderful Euro 2020 campaign, don’t be surprised to see Raheem Sterling earn Guardiola’s trust back. Gabriel Jesus is City’s obvious striking option for the time being.

2. Man City to break the 100-goal mark

Though they breezed their way to the title, City only managed 83 goals last season. That was by far and away the highest in the English top-flight but it was their lowest total since netting 80 times in the 2016/17 campaign when they finished third.

But the addition of Grealish opens up all sorts of possibilities, with the 25-year-old’s ability to glide past defenders and play defence-splitting passes making him a dream for City’s existing attacking talent, let alone his own goalscoring ability. Grealish netted 17 goals in all competitions during his last two seasons at Aston Villa.

“It was the first time I saw him playing,” Guardiola responded as he was asked when he first wanted to sign Grealish. “Years ago, when I saw him for the first time.

“Sometimes it’s not possible, you have the squad, you have to invest in other parts of the team which are weaker but especially when I saw him on TV, I said this guy controls the tempo I love when he has the ball he stops before the dribble and the opponent stops as well.

“He controls the tempo when he accelerates and decelerates. Especially when I saw him when we played Aston Villa, the physicality, the mentality.

“I liked many things we saw, that’s why we tried, especially Txiki, Txiki was completely in love with him so that’s why we decided to try.”

Well, City now have their man. And they already have Raheem Sterling (hot off the press from Euro 2020), Kevin De Bruyne, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus and Co to play alongside him. And, as we mentioned, they’re likely not done with signings yet.

You can back Guardiola’s men to break the 100-goal barrier for the third time in five years this season, especially if they do manage to sign Kane.

William Hill‘s highest-scoring Premier League team odds…

  • Man City – 8/11
  • Man United – 3/1
  • Liverpool – 9/2
  • Chelsea – 8/1
  • Tottenham – 66/1

18+ only. BeGambleAware. Odds in this article correct at the time of publication (19/08/21, 10.30AM).

3. Sterling to harness Euro 2020 form and win back his place

Although Harry Kane ultimately scored more goals (4), Raheem Sterling netted three times and set up another at Euro 2020 and was England’s best player, spearheading Gareth Southgate’s attack superbly, especially in round-of-16 and semi-final clashes against Germany and Denmark, respectively.

That was quite the surprise given Sterling had been limited to 28 Premier League starts last season, while his involvement in the Champions League during Man City’s run to the final was fleeting. He ultimately started the final, but disappointed, leading to many questioning why Southgate would start him at all.

But Sterling should now be brimming with confidence after his tournament-defining performance for England. What’s more, though City won the league, Sterling experienced Champions League and Euro 2020 final defeats in quick succession and that sort of disappointment can do incredible things to elite talents.

Guardiola will have had a close on Sterling this summer and there’s no doubt the former Liverpool man will be at the forefront of his thoughts. Not only could he win his starting place back, he could also become a contender for PFA Player of the Year, such was his form for the Three Lions.

William Hill‘s PFA Player of the Year odds…

Raheem Sterling is priced at 14/1 by William Hill to win the PFA Player of the Year this season, but who are the favourites?

  • Kevin De Bruyne – 6/1
  • Bruno Fernandes – 7/1
  • Harry Kane – 8/1
  • Jack Grealish – 8/1
  • Romelu Lukaku – 9/1

18+ only. BeGambleAware. Odds in this article correct at the time of publication (19/08/21, 10.30AM).

4. City to end Manchester derby misery

“In football, anything can happen, everything can happen,” said Guardiola following City’s 2-0 Manchester derby defeat back in March. The thing is, when City face Man Utd in the league, one specific thing seems to happen: the Red Devils win.

That 2-0 triumph at the Etihad made it four games without defeat in Premier League Manchester derbies for United, winning three and drawing once during that time. Sure, Guardiola’s side have tasted success in the cups, but it’s these twice-per-season meetings that fans look forward to in the battle for bragging rights.

But in Grealish, City have bought a derby specialist. In five games against Birmingham City during his Aston Villa days, the England international enjoyed a 100% win rate, contributing heavily to those successes with two goals and an assist. Grealish also lost just one of his three meetings with West Brom, winning the other two and scoring once.

And what if Kane also comes through the door? Well, he’s scored more goals (11) than any other player in north London derby history, while only Everton (12) and Leicester (17) have felt his wrath more.

City have one derby expert through the door and they seem to be edging toward another. Perhaps this is the year they restore Mancunian supremacy, doing the double over United for the first time since 2018/19.

5. City to retain the title

City’s opening-day loss to Spurs left the reigning champions looking vulnerable, but their last league visit to the north London club resulted in the same outcome and it didn’t stop them finishing top comfortably. That said, it’s going to be close this season. Much closer than last season. Liverpool getting Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez back fit, alongside signing Konate, is huge. Sancho and Varane will undoubtedly lift United’s level, as will Lukaku at Chelsea should he sign.

Ultimately, though, City are defending champions for a reason. From the creative wizardry of De Bruyne to the slick yet solid combination of Stones and Dias, Guardiola’s side are a formidable force.

Put Grealish into the mix and that attack looks almost unstoppable, notwithstanding any future business the club may conduct.

Don’t expect City to maintain the 12-point gap they enjoyed last season, but do expect them to retain their status as kings of England all the same.

William Hill‘s 2021/22 Premier League title odds…

  • Man City – 11/10
  • Chelsea – 7/2
  • Liverpool – 4/1
  • Man Utd – 6/1
  • Spurs – 40/1

18+ only. BeGambleAware. Odds in this article correct at the time of publication (19/08/21, 10.30AM).