Even if competition will be stiffer, champions Manchester City are tooled to become the first side to retain the English Premier League title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s cross town rivals won three in a row between 2007-9.
Pep Guardiola’s trailblazers, who won last season’s title at a canter, have so many pluses going for them, it’s hard to imagine Top Six rivals pegging them back.
Guardiola’s insatiable appetite for success is undiminished, as evidenced by a foray into the transfer market to acquire the services of former Footballer Of The Year Riyad Mahrez for a club record £60m.
The Algerian step over maestro is a game changer in the mould of several stars already at the Catalan’s disposal. His stats for goal involvement over the last three seasons put him among the league’s most consistently effective offensive players.
The acrimonious nature of his departure from the Etihad Stadium notwithstanding, former multiple club player of the year Yaya Toure’s exit won’t hurt.
And although Chelsea beat City to preferred target Jorginho, we all expect Guardiola to get the necessary backing to find a top notch replacement.
Skipper Vincent Kompany’s satisfactory World Cup expedition, together with Benjamin Mendy’s inclusion in Les Bleus’ successful Copa Mundial campaign means two defensive lynchpins that were unavailable for much of last season, will be available to augment a defence boasting Nicolas Otamendi, John Stones and Kyle Walker. In truth, City’s back line reads like Russia 2018’s who is who.
Upfront, I have seen nothing to suggest the team that became only the second side to break the 100-goal barrier will slow down. Of the six forwards Guardiola can call on, only Sergio Aguero has celebrated his 30th birthday. The rest – Kevin de Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Raheem Sterling, Mahrez, and Leroy Sane are in their early or mid-twenties. Put another way, City are yet to peak. They could score up to 110 goals this time round.
With José Mourinho’s Red Devils yet to procure the marquee signings to worry Guardiola, only Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool – backed by world record fees defensive acquisitions Virgil van Dirk and Alisson Becker, are truly capable of running the champions close.
Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur are trapped in perpetual transition.