Guardiola's side odds-on favourites to retain Premier League crown
Manchester City hold the rare distinction of being so feared by bookmakers that they are odds-on to win the Premier League title again in 2018-19.
This isn’t simply because Pep Guardiola’s side are the reigning champions of England but due to the manner in which they won at a canter last season.
City were 19 points – more than six wins – clear of the field racking up a record points tally of 100 and an unparalleled 106 goals. They simply surpassed all previous margins and achievements in their march to the title.
That is why Karamba make Man City 20/31 favourites in their football betting for an outright Premier League win. By comparison, Liverpool are given odds of 11/2, United are 13/2. Chelsea are 11/1 and Spurs 13/1. Despite Unai Emery’s arrival, Arsenal are 28/1. It’s clear bookmakers think this is a one horse race.
"Pep Guardiola" (Public Domain) by milos10r
Although Guardiola’s success wasn’t immediate upon his arrival in English football, pretty much everything clicked in his second season at the Etihad. And yet, City didn’t have it all their own way.
Overhauling ageing full back options was a key part of the transfer strategy for Guardiola and the owners, who were happy as ever to invest in the squad, but £52,000,000 left back Benjamin Mendy missed the majority of the campaign with a serious knee injury.
For Man City to have won the title so easily with makeshift option Fabian Delph – a central midfielder by trade, albeit a left-footed one – playing down that side of defence is quite remarkable. With Mendy to come back in next season, that only increases Guardiola’s options for the rearguard.
Will World Cup be a factor in title defence?
Most City players who performed well have been to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, but crucially not all of them. Germany winger Leroy Sane, for example, was an eye-catching omission for Joachim Low’s squad for the tournament, but their loss is to Guardiola’s benefit.
January transfer window recruit Aymeric Laporte – an even bigger defensive purchase at £57,000,000 – is another who missed the World Cup because he seemingly remains at the centre of a tug-of-war between France, who he played youth internationals for, and Spain.
Four of the England squad selected by Gareth Southgate (the aforementioned Delph, Raheem Sterling, John Stones and Kyle Walker) were in Russia too, plus a whole host of foreign players, so fatigue is an issue Guardiola must factor into his pre-season plans.
Some of the more senior players at the Etihad have decisions to make about their international futures following the World Cup. David Silva has been a magnificent servant for club and country but may need to think about calling time on his Spain career.
"Vincent Kompany" (CC BY 2.0) by Mike Serigrapher
It’s the same for Belgium’s somewhat injury-prone Vincent Kompany and Fernandinho of Brazil is now 33. If these figures do quit international football, then that may strengthen City further.
With no immediate evidence of further renewal needed to his squad, Guardiola is sitting pretty in the driver’s seat domestically. What Man City’s rich and powerful owners crave, however, is Champions League glory.
Sides from Spain – specifically El Clasico duo Barcelona and Real Madrid have dominated Europe’s elite club competition this decade, winning five in a row between them and six of the last eight editions. City are 19/4 joint-favourites to end that La Liga monopoly in 2018-19, however, and that is the next logical step for Guardiola and the hugely gifted crop of players at his disposal.