Manchester City has been the most in-form team in the Premier League for the last decade. Under the Spanish manager Pep Guardiola, the blue half of Manchester has seen unprecedented success. The Citizens have won nine major trophies, including four Premier League titles. Although they are yet to win the Champions League, the success Manchester City has achieved under Pep Guardiola has been truly remarkable. Before the start of this current Premier League season, Manchester City was considered the hot favourite to win another English Premier League title.
A memorable 6-3 thrashing of rival Manchester United warned of another dominant City season. With Haaland firing on all cylinders, the chemistry between the Norwegian striker and the midfield maestro, Kevin De Bruyne, was almost telepathic. Manchester City's tickets were in high demand during this period.
After Liverpool‘s struggles and Manchester City’s dominant start to the season, most of the Premier League experts and pundits were writing City's name on the Premier League trophy. But recent performances by the Blueshave told us that something is not right at the Etihad. City are not playing their typical free-flowing football, in which multiple players score goals. This season, the burden of goal-scoring is mainly on Erling Haaland’s shoulders. The current team is lacking something; it is not up there with Pep’s great teams of the past. City aren't playing the usual flamboyant football and thrashing teams. It's incredible to say, but some pundits are pointing the finger at Earling Haaland.
Haaland - part of the problem?!
Erling Haaland, who has already scored 25 goals in the league and is on pace to set a Premier League record for most goals in a single season and win the Golden Boot, was the standout acquisition for Manchester City during this transfer window.
But everything is not hunky-dory at City. Some fans and pundits are pointing fingers at Haaland for City’s lack of cohesion and their usual style of play. Gary Neville and other experts say that Guardiola's side changed the way they play to make room for Haaland, hence the absence of the customary fluid tiki-taka football.
Parallels are being drawn to Ruud van Nistelrooy’s time at Manchester United. During his spell at Old Trafford, the Dutchman had been a prolific goal scorer, but it usually did not end with him winning the English Premier League with his side.
The same could happen this season with Manchester City. Erling Haaland could go on to break record after record, but ultimately, his team could miss out on the Premier League trophy.
Reports are now, absurdly, linking him with a move away. Haaland’s contract has a release clause for $200 million that can be used in 2024 or later. This release clause can only be activated by non-Premier League sides. So putting two and two together, some of the Spanish outlets, including the National, are linking Haaland with a move to Real Madrid. The bosses at Real Madrid see Erling Haaland as an ideal replacement for Karim Benzema. It's all well and good in theory, but Real Madrid will have to pay over 200 million pounds to purchase Haaland from Manchester City.
Joao Cancelo moves to Bayern Munich
The Portuguese full-back has been brilliant for City, helping them win two Premier League titles during his stay at the club. His stay in Manchester has been cut short, mainly due to a breakdown in his relationship with Manchester City's manager, Pep Guardiola. Following the World Cup, the twenty-eight-year-old became dissatisfied with his lack of playing time and forced his way out of the club on deadline day.
With Pep Guardiola admitting that his side is light on defensive players, this could spell a major blow in Manchester City's hopes of catching Arsenal. After Cancelo left, the team suffered another setback when central defender John Stones got hurt. He injured his hamstring in the FA Cup game and won't be able to play for almost a month. The Englishman has been brilliant for Manchester City at the heart of the defense. Pep will have to find a new pairing at central defense, which is not ideal, especially since Manchester City is about to play Arsenal, the team that leads the league.
Something isn’t right with City's playing style
Manchester City is currently lagging behind Arsenal in the title race. This season, they have won quite a few games in a commanding fashion, but largely, there is a sense that something is not right at the Etihad Stadium.
There is news of unrest in Manchester City's camp, and some are pointing fingers at Pep Guardiola's treatment of his players.
When Joao Cancelo was sent to Bayern Munich during the January transfer window, this was a clear example of unrest at Manchester City's camp. The main reason for the Portuguese full-back’s exit was his broken relationship with Manchester City's manager, Pep Guardiola.
Premier League Charges
Manchester City has been hit by a major financial scandal. They have been charged by the Premier League with breaching financial rules on account of more than 100 misdemeanors, between 2009 and 2018. This is perhaps the greatest financial scandal a Premier League team has been hit with, and could result in a points deduction or even relegation if City were found guilty. The club maintain their innocence and claim they have "irrefutable evidence" that will clear them.
Manchester City has been accused of not giving the Premier League accurate financial information. The Premier League needs this information to figure out how much the club is worth and what its financial situation is like. It includes details about the club’s revenue, sponsorship income, and operating costs. According to the Premier League statement, Manchester City has also been found in violation of the rules related to the UEFA Financial Fair Play regulations from the years 2013–14 and 2017–18. The statement also claimed that Manchester City provided misinformation regarding their profitability and sustainability from 2015-16 to 2017-18.
These allegations are nothing new; Manchester City has been under investigation for more than four years. In 2020, European football's governing body UEFA found Manchester City in serious breach of Financial Fair Play regulations between 2012 and 2016. Manchester City was banned for two years from all European competitions, including the Champions League and Europa League. But later on, the ban was overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) after the club appealed succesfully against the charges.
This saga started when the German newspaper Der Spiegel published Manchester City's leaked documents, which showed that the club had inflated the value of sponsorship deals, in November 2018. Although City strongly denied these allegations, claiming that the information was obtained through illegal hacking and context publication of City's emails.
According to experts, this case can drag on further. The Premier League investigation committee took several years to reach these conclusions. Manchester City has always denied any financial wrongdoing. They are equipped with an army of the very best lawyers and have every intention of following up with this investigation and challenging the Premier League’s ruling in front of an independent commission.
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what this Manchester City squad is lacking, but there is something amiss. They are not playing their trademark style of free-flowing, attacking football. Pep will have a difficult time determining the problem and returning City to the top of the EPL.