Man City will gain unexpected advantage from Erling Haaland transfer – Alex Brotherton
Manchester City just about came out on top in an incredibly tight Premier League title race this season, but next season the competition could be even tougher.
After Chelsea fell away following a strong start, the 2021/22 campaign became a two-horse race between City and Liverpool; once City had let a sizeable lead slip anyway.
Next season there could be more protagonists in the title picture. Chelsea will no doubt come back stronger, while Antonio Conte is building a formidable side at Tottenham. If things go well, even Arsenal could compete up at the top.
City are already well into the process of reinforcing the team before attempting to win a third consecutive title, with Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez adding attacking firepower.
Everyone is well aware of what Haaland will bring to an already brilliant City side; goals, and lots of them. But there is another less obvious element to his transfer that could give City an advantage over their rivals.
City went into last season with a squad that had barely had a proper pre-season to train together, and not much of summer break to recuperate. City stars like Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling were busy representing their countries at Euro 2020, meaning that for the first few weeks of the season City were not at their freshest.
In the case of De Bruyne, the amount of football he played could have cost City. An ankle injury sustained while playing for Belgium and general fatigue meant that it wasn’t until January that he rediscovered his best form for City. Had his dip continued, the Blues might not have been able to fend off Liverpool’s title assault.
One of the drawbacks of having such talented players is that most of the squad don’t get much of an off-season break. That can cause difficulties later in the season, as fatigue causes niggling injuries.
However, next season City will have a unique advantage. While, of course, all teams will benefit from the lack of a World Cup this summer, many Premier League stars will jet off to Qatar in November for the tournament. The season will then resume on Boxing Day, eight days after the World Cup final.
Handily for City, two of their most talented attackers will not be playing at the tournament, meaning that they will be fully recharged and fresh for when the Premier League resumes after a month-long break.
Neither Erling Haaland nor Riyad Mahrez will be in Qatar, as Norway and Algeria did not qualify for the competition.
Haaland will no doubt score plenty of goals in a sky blue shirt, but it could take a while for him to fully adapt to Pep Guardiola’s system. That process would be hindered if he were to pick up an injury at an international tournament, or started suffering from fatigue.
Mahrez was City’s top scorer in all competitions in 2021/22, and with Gabriel Jesus looking likely to depart, he could play even more minutes on the right flank next season. Keeping him in top condition could be key to City’s success, and a mid-season break will help with that.