Indisputably, Manchester City enter the 2022/23 Premier League campaign as the overwhelming favorites. According to Vegas Insider, Manchester City open as the betting favorites to win the league at -175. Other opinions and predictions have the Citizens winning a fifth Premier League in the last six attempts. 

An already stacked side had one hole in its lineup a season ago. City’s expensively assembled squad missed a world-class striker.

Erling Haaland now enters the fray at the Etihad to make Manchester City seem too strong for its rivals, yet again. Moreover, it looks as if City will be in this position for the next decade or more with ample young talent.

However, some key, recent departures could damage that relatively comfortable positioning in English soccer. Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus departed to league rivals Chelsea and Arsenal, respectively. Now, Bernardo Silva is a rumored name to be exiting with Barcelona emerging as the lead suitor. Therefore, it appears that City are going through something of a transition. 

Consequently, 2022/23 title race should be a lot closer than people are predicting. All this in spite of Haaland’s arrival in Manchester.

Manchester City ‘retool’ in 2022/23

Haaland is a super talent. His output at Borussia Dortmund established him as one of the best finishers in world soccer. That being said, it will be challenging to recreate his goal-per-game tally from the Bundesliga in the English premier League. Even then, it may not be enough to secure City the title for the third year running.

This season’s priority is the UEFA Champions League. Pep Guardiola and the Manchester City owners look to end the curse set upon them by former player Yaya Touré. Because of this, Erling Haaland’s game time faces scrutiny to ensure he is match fit for the biggest games, particularly later in the season. With that reasoning, expect Haaland to start a maximum of 30 Premier League games. Given his current, and outrageous, strike rate, that yields around 30 league goals. 

On paper, that is a title-winning haul. Yet, take away the 29 goals from Sterling, Jesus and Silva, and that math is not as pleasing on the eye. Plus, those three combined for 19 assists this past season alone in Premier League play. During his time at Borussia Dortmund, Haaland was an out-and-out goal scorer. His 18 assists in two and a half seasons of league play is not bad, particularly given his goal tally. Yet, he cannot be a catalyst for opportunity like some of the former City players. 

Reliance on other players

Yes, the Haaland goals balance this loss. But, Pep now depends on less reliable options. Jack Grealish underperformed after his big-money move to Manchester. Riyad Mahrez shows flashes of greatness, but he can be somewhat inconsistent. Then, there is considerable potential regarding both Phil Foden and Julian Alvarez. However, they now face the brunt of the pressure without the aforementioned three options there as well. Even then, the Bernardo Silva departure is just a rumor for the time being. 

Fortunately for City, Liverpool, the clearest rivals for the title race, are in a similar situation. Sadio Mané is off to Bayern Munich, and Darwin Núñez surely needs time to adjust to Premier League play and Jurgen Klopp’s system. Few argue Liverpool and City are the frontrunners to win the league.

However, both enter the season in something of a rebuild. The talk of City running away with the title is a little premature. Then, with the likes of Tottenham, Chelsea and Arsenal strengthening, we might find that this season is the most exciting title race we have had in years.

PHOTO: Tom Flathers/Manchester City FC via Getty Images