Without doubt, Manchester City were by far the best team in the Premier League last season. Pep Guardiola’s men were relatively unchallenged by any other team all season, throughout which they broke numerous records. However, one team that did manage to ruffle their feathers somewhat were Liverpool. Despite losing 5-0 in early September, the Merseysiders beat City in a 4-3 thriller at Anfield, and twice in the Champions League quarter-finals on their way to the final. Jürgen Klopp also has a brilliant overall record against Pep Guardiola, stretching back to their time in Germany. Furthermore, last season, Klopp became the first manager to beat Guardiola three times in one season.
Last season may arguably signal the start of a period of dominance for Manchester City with Guardiola at the helm. Yet, Liverpool could provide the biggest threat to their title defence next season over the other top six rivals. They have proved they can match City in terms of playing style, countering their formation, and being clinical in attack. With a few signings, Klopp and his team might not be too far away from winning their first Premier League title.
With the transfer window open until the 9th of August, Liverpool have wasted no time so far in trying to get deals done. Guinean national team captain, Naby Keïta, will link up with the squad for pre-season as Liverpool and RB Leipzig agreed a deal back in August 2017. The box-to-box midfielder was instrumental in Leipzig’s surprise Bundesliga title challenge in 2016/17 and helped the club finish in a Europa League spot last season. Capable of a range of passing and having endless amounts of energy, Keïta has been touted to fill the huge void left by Gerrard a few years ago.
Just days after their Champions League final defeat, Fabinho was announced as Liverpool’s newest signing from AS Monaco for £40 million. He will replace the outgoing Emre Can, who is expected to complete a free transfer to Juventus this summer. A combative defensive midfielder, the 24-year-old Brazilian will add more steel and give another midfield option. He can also provide cover in the full back areas.
Furthermore, in recent weeks, speculation has increased about Liverpool signing Nabil Fekir from Lyon. The 24-year-old attacking midfielder scored 23 goals in 39 games last season and is a member of the French World Cup squad this summer. It looked likely Fekir would sign to add more creativity to Liverpool’s already very attacking front three of Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino, and Sadio Mane. However, in the last couple of days, Lyon have reportedly called off negotiations with Liverpool after the sides couldn’t agree a deal. There also may have been complications and delays in finalising a deal due to the World Cup. Lyon then confirmed that Fekir will remain at the club for their Champions League campaign next season. The Reds now look unlikely to get their man, but they could make another attempt after this summer’s tournament.
Manchester City’s window
Meanwhile, Manchester City haven’t been quite as active just yet in the market although they only need small tweaks to an already strong squad. There is apparent interest in Napoli’s Jorginho—a holding midfielder that would replace club legend, Yaya Toure. Currently 35-years young, Toure arrived at City from Barcelona in 2010 and went on to win three Premier League titles. Toure was a bit-part player last season which likely had a major influence on his decision to leave the Etihad. On the other hand, Jorginho was instrumental in helping Napoli finish second in Serie A last season. He has also won the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana in 2014.
Likewise, Guardiola is looking for another quality attacking player, with Leicester City’s winger Riyad Mahrez seemingly top of the list. The Blues tried to sign one-time Premier League winner Mahrez back in January as well as in the previous summer. Mahrez is likely to want a move after submitting a transfer request just six months ago. He later overturned his own decision, but the prospect of playing for the champions and under Guardiola’s stewardship may be too good to turn down.
Another attacking player that has fueled his own transfer speculation ever since leaving Barcelona for a world record fee in 2017 is Brazilian superstar Neymar. Now of Paris St. Germain, the 26-year-old has attracted interest from Real Madrid. He may possibly replace Cristiano Ronaldo who is rumoured to be weighing up his future at Los Blancos. Yet, Neymar recently revealed his desire to work under Guardiola after arriving at Barcelona a year after the City boss left. Although unlikely, if City could pull off this deal, it would surely put them in pole position to storm the Premier League again next season.
What can we expect?
Whatever else happens during this summer’s transfer window, it will be fascinating to see if both Manchester City and Liverpool can complete deals for their targets. Assuming both clubs keep their best players and add even more quality to their squad, next season could easily be a two-horse race for the title. This doesn’t entirely rule out the other title contenders, but it may prove too difficult for them.