Would Manchester City get the Tri Championship?
Man City maintained their strong start to the season by thrashing Brighton 4-0 at the weekend and they look set for another season of domestic dominance. They became the first team in English football history to secure a league, FA Cup and league cup treble last term, and they could repeat the feat in 2019/20. They have banged in 14 goals in their opening four league matches and they look positively devastating going forwards. But Pep Guardiola’s biggest headache is in defence and that could ultimately detail Man City’s title charge. Aymeric Laporte went down with what looked like a bad injury in the victory over Man City and he could be out for some time. Captain Vincent Kompany retired in the summer and the club decided not to replace him, thanks largely to the superb form displayed by Laporte. Yet his injury leaves Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones as the only centre-backs left standing. Stones has been out with a thigh strain, so holding midfielder Fernandinho had to play at the back against Brighton after Laporte limped off early on. Man City are still the clear favourites to win the Premier League title, the FA Cup and the Carabao Cup, according to the best betting sites in the business. However, Guardiola must be feeling a little nervous when he contemplates his team’s defensive resources. Laporte is easily their best defender, as Otamendi has regressed since the manager branded him “superman” in extremely hyperbolic fashion a couple of years ago, while Stones is good on the ball but often found wanting with his positioning. The onus will simply be on Man City’s forwards to blow the opposition away. They have showed plenty of promise in that department thus far.
Sergio Aguero has banged in six goals alreadyat a rate of one every 45 minutes. That sees him leading the goalscoring charts, despite missing the first match of the season. Teammate Raheem Sterling is just one behind on five. Leroy Sané is also out with a season ending injury but the man they really need to wrap in cotton wool is Kevin De Bruyne. He has already racked up five assists in four games this season, and he can lead his team to glory if he stays fit. De Bruyne missed large chunks of the 2018/19 campaign and City still triumphed, but they look a much better team with him pulling the strings. His vision, dynamism and flair are a joy to behold. David Silva, installed as captain in his final season at The Etihad, is just one behind De Bruyne on four assists. No other player in the top flight has managed more than two. Man City also have Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez in the creative departmentand Gabriel Jesus can relieve the burden somewhat on Aguero. It may be that Guardiola decides to dip into the transfer market in January. He missed out on Harry Maguire in the summer, as Man Utd outbid their city rivals, but it is easy to imagine the champions splashing out £60 million on a new centre-back when the transfer window reopens. They just need to keep pace with Liverpool and progress in the cups until then. Fernandinho is a very astute player and he could certainly do a job at the back, while Man City enjoy so much possession that they are rarely troubled defensively anyway. The big question is whether they really go for it in the Champions League this season. They have crashed out at the hands of English opposition in the last two seasons, and it remains the one competition Man City have not won since Sheikh Mansour took over the club. Guardiola has not lifted the famous trophy since his Barcelona days but he insists that his main priority is the Premier League. He is desperate to win it three times in a row, ensuring the sort of domestic dominance we have not seen since Sir Alex Ferguson’s great Man Utd side of 2007 to 2009. If Man City continue to dedicate their resources to domestic dominance, there is every reason to think they can secure yet another domestic treble, although it will be fascinating to see how they fare defensively in Laporte’s absence.