There’s an excellent chance Manchester City will capture the English Premier League title this season, but it’s still not a given. With just 11 contests played out of a 38-game schedule anything can still happen with City just eight points ahead of both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. An eight-point lead can disappear in just over a week no matter how dominant the Sky Blues have looked so far.
We’re not saying Manchester City won’t win the 2017/18 Premier League, but if they don’t capture the crown we believe it will be because of one or a combination of these 10 reasons listed below. These are the top 10 reasons somebody other than Manchester City will be crowned Premier League champions next May.
10. Involvement in Champions League
Man City has gotten off to a great start in the European Champions League as well as the Premier League. City has never been crowned kings of Europe and with Pep Guardiola in charge of the club you can bet it’s his top priority. This means the Premier League may end up taking a back seat on occasion this year when the squad is involved in the Champions League. With managers rotating squads in today’s era of football and babying players by often resting them before Champions League games, City could falter in the Premier League if their stars sit on the bench before European outings. Therefore, the further the club progresses in the Champions League, their chances of winning the Premier League could actually dwindle.
9. Lack Defensive Depth
It’s no secret Man City has one of the deepest offensive teams in the world, not to mention one of the most expensive, but the same thing can’t be said about their defensive depth. City simply isn’t as strong when defending as they are when attacking. Defenders such as John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi may be among the best in the league when in possession due to their accurate passing skills, but they’re not nearly as good when they don’t have the ball. Guardiola rightly believes the best defense is a good offense, but nobody can be in control of the ball 100 per cent of the time. City is vulnerable when it comes to good counterattacking teams and that could cost them. In addition, the team lacks depth at centre-back in case of injury and the likes of Eliaquim Mangala and Vincent Kompany aren’t getting any younger or better for that matter.
While mentioning Vincent Kompany above, it should be noted that he’s been injury prone lately and has sat out more than he’s played over the past year or so. It should also be noted that striker Sergio Aguero usually misses several games per season to to various reasons. City has the offensive depth to overcome injuries to attackers, but the club could be in trouble if key defenders and/or defensive midfielders are sidelined. Injuries to star players have derailed many teams’ title chances over the years and City isn’t immune to them. Anything can happen at anytime to any player, be it an injury suffered in training or during a game. In addition, the chances of players returning to the Etihad Stadium less than 100 per cent healthy could increase during the upcoming international break.
7. Several Title Challengers
Man City isn’t the only one of the 20 Premier League teams to have a legitimate shot at the title. As of November 6th, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur were both eight points behind the league leaders while reigning champions Chelsea were nine back. In addition, both Liverpool and Arsenal were within realistic striking distance as they were a dozen points adrift. These teams still have 27 games to go in the season to cut the deficit. That means there are 81 points up for grabs between now and the 38th round of games. All it takes is for one or more of these clubs to go on a winning streak while City drops a point here and there throughout the remaining weeks of the campaign.
6. The January Transfer Window
Man City and all of the club’s closest rivals will have the opportunity to strengthen their squads during the January transfer window. And while there is no salary cap in soccer and clubs can seemingly spend outrageous amounts of money on transfers, they still have to adhere to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules. Since City has already spent tons of cash on acquiring players over the past couple of years it’s unclear just how much they have left to spend before breaching these rules. In addition, with such a seemingly strong squad, City isn’t likely to be very active in the window. If one or more of the other title challengers acquires one or two difference-makers in January, the race for the title could become a lot tighter.
5. Hard to Keep Everybody Happy
With offensive stars such as Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero, Raheem Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, David Villa, Bernardo Silva and Leroy Sane in the squad, Guardiola can’t play them all at once. There are basically seven world-class attackers battling over four starting spots. This means Guardiola needs to rotate them or stick to his favorites while the others sit on the bench. Either way, it means some of his best players aren’t getting the playing time they should be. It’s hard to keep high-paid star players happy if they’re sitting on the bench. They all have big egos and it’s going to be a tough job keeping them happy. This could lead to problems down the road when it comes to team unity as the “all for one and one for all” attitude may eventually disappear.
4. Congested Schedule
The Premier League sees all 20 teams playing a 38-game schedule. So far, they’ve played just 11 times each. This means Man City still has to play Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur twice each and they have to face Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool once more. In addition, once the season enters the home stretch, they’ll be facing teams which are in the relegation zone and fighting for survival. These clubs are often very dangerous as they’re like cornered animals and will try to do what it takes to keep their heads above water. And let’s not forget how chaotic and congested the Premier League schedule can get during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday season. With City competing in the League and FA Cups, the team currently has eight games scheduled between December 10th and New Year’s Day.
3. The Numbers are Deceiving
As of November 6th, Man City was the only unbeaten team in the Premier League with 10 wins and a draw. They had 38 goals for and just seven against. However, 23 of those goals came in just four games. They walloped Stoke City 7-2, 10-man Liverpool 5-0, Watford 6-0 and last-placed Crystal Palace 5-0. City managed to beat Arsenal 3-1 with the aid of a controversial penalty while edging 16th-place West Bromwich Albion, fourth-place Chelsea, and 17th-place Bournemouth by just one goal each. They also beat newly-promoted Brighton & Hove Albion by just two goals and dropped a pair of points in a 1-1 draw against 15th-place Everton. They’ve obviously been playing well, but six of their 11 league contests and five of their of their six cup games (Champions League and League Cup) have been decided by two or fewer goals.
2. Questionable Goaltending
It looks like Man City did the right thing by sending English international goalkeeper Joe Hart out on loan again this season as he’s currently struggling with West Ham and England. However, City arguably has the weakest goaltending of the top six teams in the Premier League. Thirty-four-year-old Claudio Bravo was the worst keeper in the league last season according to stats and that’s why Guardiola has replaced him with 24-year-old Ederson Moraes of Brazil. Ederson cost City £35 million from Benfica this summer, making him the second-costliest keeper ever behind Gianluigi Buffon. He’s allowed 12 goals against in 18 games in all competitions this season, which is neither spectacular or horrendous, but he lacks experience and City lacks a good backup in Bravo should Moraes get injured.
Man City was also a favorite to win the Premier League last season, but didn’t live up to expectations. They led the league after nine games in 2016/17, but finished the schedule 15 points behind Chelsea and in third place. They even started the 2015/16 season quicker than last year, but ended up 15 points behind Leicester City and in fourth spot. In the last 10 years, just two teams have won the league when leading it after nine games. Therefore, this year’s squad and Pep Guardiola shouldn’t be overconfident and take the title for granted. They could end up with a record-setting season, but need to realize they have to work as hard as possible to achieve it. City needs to make sure they don’t suffer a meltdown along the way. Don’t forget, they won just two of eight outings after blowing their Champions League knockout tie against Monaco last season after winning the first game 5-3.