Ahead of the 2021-22 Premier League season Tom Victor takes a close look at the reigning champions, who are odds-on to land another title.
“City are strong favourites to retain their title after finishing a healthy 12 points clear last term, with Betfair Exchange odds of 1.76, and last season’s league-leading xGA and close-to-best xGF emphasises their quality.”
Last season’s champions won the Premier League title with time to spare, but with rivals strengthening it might not be quite as straightforward.
City had a number of players involved in the knockout stages of the European Championships and Copa América, and their pre-season preparations began later than most of their rivals, perhaps to make up for this. They kicked things off with a relatively comfortable victory over Preston North End, with one of the senior names – Riyad Mahrez – opening the scoring. The Algerian is the only player to find the net in three straight friendlies, also getting in on the act in wins over Barnsley and Blackpool.
Another notable development is the form of teenage forward Sam Edozie, who Pep Guardiola has called “an incredible young player”. Guardiola has spoken of the need for time and space as he welcomes players back into his squad after their international efforts, with Kyle Walker, John Stones and Raheem Sterling all starting the Euro 2020 final and Ederson doing the same for Brazil at the Copa América.
We should get more of an idea of who will feature in the early part of the season when the champions take on FA Cup holders Leicester City in the Community Shield, and there’s plenty of curiosity around the formation as much as the line-up, as is often the case with Guardiola teams: will Gabriel Jesus be used as an orthodox striker, or will Guardiola opt for a more creative set-up with a Raheem Sterling or a Ferran Torres through the middle?
This summer is more about exits than entries for Pep Guardiola’s men, with Sergio Agüero and Eric García both moving to Barcelona after the expiry of their contracts. That frees up a bit of space in the squad, of course, though Guardiola’s side were able to cope pretty well without the pair for large parts of last season. There’s plenty of excitement about the impending arrival of Brazilian wonderkid Kayky in January, but it’s been a quiet summer so far.
Not that it will necessarily stay that way, though, with Jack Grealish and Harry Kane both linked with marquee moves to the Etihad Stadium. Kane finished last season as the Premier League’s top scorer, with his xG also putting him among the league’s best performers, but he also led the top-flight in assists with 14 – two more than City’s assist leader Kevin De Bruyne. Will they end the window with one, both or neither? And will a change of scenery, with different opportunities and an expectation to fight on four fronts, have an impact on the output of the England duo?
City might have one of the strongest squads in the division, if not the strongest, but the longer the Champions League trophy eludes them, the more they might feel they need to strengthen.
What the odds tell us
City are strong favourites to retain their title after finishing a healthy 12 points clear last term, with Betfair Exchange odds of 1.76, and last season’s league-leading xGA and close-to-best xGF emphasises their quality. They’re 1.06 to finish in the top four – the last time they failed to do so was back in 2009/10 – while a top-10 finish is 1.01.
If you fancy backing the unthinkable you can get a huge 500/1 on City to be relegated. A repeat of last season’s Premier League and EFL Cup double is 7/2 on the sportsbook, while you can get 45/1 on Guardiola’s men finally doing what they’ve threatened to do for a while and picking up the Premier League, both domestic cups and the Champions League. No one has done it before, but if anyone can then it’s this group.
Source: Betfair Premier League