Manchester City will win the Premier League yet again if they just keep their momentum going at a steady pace between now and the end of the season.
Pep Guardiola’s team have made a habit in recent years of going on a lengthy winning run at a crucial moment in the season to open up what has proven more than once to be an unassailable lead…and the same thing looks as though it has happened again in 2021/22.
City need not rock the boat unnecessarily in order to preserve that, but the next few weeks will still provide opportunities that should be taken…
Guardiola has already confirmed that there is no plan to buy a striker in January to directly replace Ferran Torres, who has now completed his £46m transfer to Barcelona.
The reality is that while City do lack a ‘number nine’, Torres wasn’t a true striker anyway and had been sidelined since October with injury. His absence was unfortunate but results proved that he wasn’t missed.
City have the enviable squad depth to finish the season as is, without being drawn into overpaying for a replacement this month. January is notoriously difficult to find good buys for long-term improvement and City won’t achieve anything by throwing money at the only real hole in their squad.
That Torres money is better saved for the summer and the time now being spent on laying the groundwork for then, whether it be going back to Harry Kane or trying to persuade Erling Haaland to join the club.
Given that Torres’ departure has left a hole in the squad, albeit not a problematic one, combined with the likelihood already that City will make it four Premier League titles in the space of five years, there is potentially an opportunity for Guardiola to hand opportunities to youngsters.
Cole Palmer is the obvious example. The home-grown starlet made his senior debut last season and has split his time this season between the Under-23 squad and the first-team.
The 19-year-old has made nine first-team appearances so far in 2021/22, scoring in the Champions League and Carabao Cup. The natural next step is for him to have more opportunities in what promises to be a comfortable environment.
But Palmer isn’t the only emerging talent, with James teenager midfielder McAtee another rumoured to be on Guardiola’s immediate radar.
One way or another, a decision needs to be made regarding Raheem Sterling’s future at the club.
City first opened contract talks with Sterling months ago. His existing deal is due to expire in 2023 and so the window to sell for his full market value is only going to get smaller from now on.
In November, the player had gone as far as telling City he wanted to leave and join Barcelona. A January loan was mooted, although Torres beating him to Camp Nou likely closes off that avenue as a result of the ever-stretched financial resources in Catalonia.
Since then, Sterling has proven his value to the club all over again. He finished 2021 playing a major role in seven of City’s 10 consecutive Premier League wins and scored five goals in his last four games alone.
City have seen Bernardo Silva blow hot and cold from one season to the next and are fully reaping the rewards of the unplayable Portuguese still being around now. Sterling isn’t much different and is too good to let go.