The Premier League landscape is in for a significant shift this season, as Manchester City hunts another Premier League with the unexpected hurdle of Kevin De Bruyne picking up a major injury. The Belgian is out for roughly four months. This casts considerable doubt on Manchester City’s bid to win a third straight Premier League crown.
Last season, the presence of İlkay Gündoğan cushioned any absence of Kevin De Bruyne. The German showcased his mastery on the field and adeptly orchestrated the team’s play. However, Gündoğan departed to Barcelona and Riyad Mahrez moved to Al-Ahli. Now, the midfield options at City have undergone a substantial transformation. The anticipated Lucas Paquetá deal appears to be faltering. Consequently, City faces the question of who can step in to fill De Bruyne’s sizeable void.
A changing City side
Turning our attention to the bench during City’s inaugural match of the 2023/24 season against Burnley, the options to replace De Bruyne become a point of concern. Mateo Kovačić, though a capable player, possesses a distinct playing style from De Bruyne and was not acquired with such contingency in mind. The departure of Aymeric Laporte, a dependable defender, further diminishes the team’s defensive options.
The likes of Cole Palmer, James McAtee and Kalvin Phillips offer potential. Each is yet to establish themselves as impactful substitutes. Despite Phillips’ acquisition last season, he remained on the periphery due to injuries. His role is limited by the presence of the exceptional Rodri.
Manchester City must replace Kevin De Bruyne
The ongoing rotation between Jack Grealish and Phil Foden in the midfield adds a layer of unpredictability. One of them potentially steps into the void left by De Bruyne.
This year, City contends across various competitions. The strains of participating in an extensive number of matches are palpable. The team played a staggering 61 games in the previous season. With the Club World Cup adding to those competitions, City requires more commitment. Even with the best physical condition, the rigors of such a schedule necessitate a deep bench to sustain performance levels.
Rodri’s candid admission about the physical toll of consistently playing numerous matches reinforces the importance of rotation and adequate rest.
“I don’t remember exactly the games I played but I think I have to have a talk with the club and with the coach because starting 57, 59 games and playing 60-something in general is not healthy,” he said.
“You can do it one season but two or three in a row it could be worse for the team in the sense that the physicality can drop, so we have to watch out for these kinds of things and, for sure, with my people we have already spoken and said it cannot be like this…On the other hand, last year I had the feeling that we were fighting for everything so I had to push my body to the limit — that’s why sometimes I feel like this at the end of the season, but for me it was great.”
Undoubtedly, Pep Guardiola earned his acclaim for managerial prowess. But City faces a weakened bench compared to last season. De Bruyne’s absence casts a further shadow over City’s title prospects. Guardiola’s strategic acumen faces another test as he navigates the challenges of new circumstances.
The road to retaining the Premier League crown has become substantially more challenging for Manchester City this season. Now, the reigning champions confront an altered landscape. The club’s ability to overcome obstacles and maintain its high standards is an intriguing narrative to follow throughout the campaign.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Propaganda Photo
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