The novice in charge has had a tough time in recent weeks, picking up four points from 18 and leaking plenty of goals, putting Frank Lampard’s job at major risk.
The new English Premier League season is just days away, so let’s have a look at the sides that have a shot at lifting the trophy in 2020-21.
Coming off a reasonably strong 2019-20 campaign, Pep Guardiola’s men will be hoping to make it one better this time around and claim their fifth Premier League crown.
To this point Guardiola has refrained from splashing the cash. His only major signing of the summer so far is Nathan Ake – the transfer fee of £41 million (A$74 million) was a touch on the high side, but City have long needed to improve their defence. The manager’s compatriot Ferran Torres joins from Valencia but will be up against it to make a home in the starting XI as it’s difficult to see him usurping any of Riyad Mahrez, Raheem Sterling or Bernardo Silva in the wide spots.
But the City side was never really in need of many offensive reinforcements – it’s their defence that still looks uninspiring and is missing one or possibly two world-class centre-backs. Although, apart from champions Liverpool, the rest of the big six don’t exactly boast top-quality defenders either.
They boast a solid midfield corps and the best central attacking midfielder in England in Kevin De Bruyne, so they’ll continue to have little trouble managing games, dominating possession and creating chances.
City are poised for another title challenge in what is quite possibly Guardiola’s last season at the helm at the Etihad, but they are a Virgil van Dijk away from making a fifth EPL title a reality.
The reigning champions will be looking to make it back-to-back top-flight titles for the first time since their 1983 and 1984 first division triumphs, and I see them as a big chance of doing so.
Even more so than his counterpart at Manchester City, Jurgen Klopp has had a very quiet summer so far. Greek left-back Konstantinos Tsimikas is the only arrival of note and is definitely no chance of supplanting incumbent Scotsman Andrew Robertson in Klopp’s starting team, initially at least.
But under Klopp’s steady hand the Scousers have already claimed a Premier League and Champions League title with virtually the same starting XI that will run out against new boys Leeds United at Anfield on Sunday morning (AEST).
It’s been said that if you look at Liverpool’s squad overall, they lack depth in key positions, and I tend to agree with this assessment. They’ve been lucky to avoid many major injuries in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 campaigns when they finished with 97 and 99 points respectively.
But if they can avoid injuries to their star-studded front three – and of course the world’s best centre back Van Dijk – there’s no reason to think they can’t go all the way once again.
Perhaps the most intriguing storyline of the 2020-21 season, the Londoners have certainly been busy in the transfer market. Club legend Frank Lampard has made six signings so far, spending over €200 million (A$324.6 million) in the process.
Tammy Abraham did a commendable job leading Chelsea’s line in 2019-20 but will likely see his role reduced in the coming campaign. Joining from Red Bull Leipzig, 24-year-old German Timo Werner will lead the line and the trajectory of their season may well depend on how many goals he’s able to produce.
If Werner can compete with the likes of Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy for golden boot honours, Chelsea will be in with a shot of winning their first title since 2016-17.
Werner getting enough chances to score will depend on service from midfield, but thanks to Lampard’s shrewd transfer business, that really shouldn’t be a problem. Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech know all about creating chances for their forwards and whether N’Golo Kante or Jorginho get the nod in defensive midfield, the two new recruits can expect to see plenty of the ball.
The additions of Thiago Silva and Malang Sarr, both on free transfers, will help, but there are still frailties when it comes to Chelsea’s defensive stocks.
Lampard’s men should be able to outscore their opponents most weeks, but if for some reason their new attacking weapons fail to fire, they may be exposed defensively.
“Where are Arsenal, Spurs or United in this piece?” you may ask. Answer: toughing it out for fourth and the Europa League spots. Barring a miracle run, none of these sides are even close to making a title challenge.
Despite the even shorter than usual off-season, I can’t wait to watch the battle for the 2020-21 EPL title.