Manchester City finally conceded the Premier League title to Liverpool after holding it for over 800 days, courtesy of a disappointing 1-2 defeat away to Chelsea. It sparked off delirium in the red half of Merseyside as Liverpool fans celebrated the end of their 30 year-long wait for a league title.
Liverpool have had a season to remember. Their defense was resolute, their midfielders worked ever-so-hard, and the forwards were clinical more often than not. They have one of the strongest squads in all of Europe and will look to win back-to-back league titles next season.
However, Liverpool's biggest roadblock in securing that feat would be Manchester City again, who will have a point to prove come next season. Much like Liverpool, Manchester City too have one of the best rosters and have extremely good squad depth. It's their defence that let them down far too often this season - something Manchester City need to work on.
On that note, here are five reasons to suggest why Manchester City could reclaim top spot in the 2020-21 Premier League season and win their fifth EPL title in the process.
Five reasons why Manchester City could win the 2020-21 EPL title
#5 Potential lack of European duties
Owing to the two-year ban handed to Manchester City by UEFA on grounds of FFP breaches, Manchester City could well head into the next season with no European football on their calendar. Although they will do everything in their power to avoid a ban, there have been rumours suggesting that a reduction of ban from two years to one is as good as it may get for Manchester City.
In such a case, Manchester City will have significantly lesser fixtures to worry about, especially in a season that is already about to be jam-packed owing to the delayed start due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
It is a well-known fact that juggling between domestic and European duties is an extremely difficult job, which is why only a handful of teams have managed to win the treble in recent history.
Although there is no doubt that a European ban is undesirable, there is a silver lining to it, as it would allow Pep Guardiola's men to focus solely on regaining the Premier League title. With a fresh and hungry batch of players to choose from every week, Manchester City would feel they have an edge on Liverpool who will also be involved in Champions League once again.
#4 Strengthening the squad
There is no doubt that Manchester City need to plug some holes this off-season, especially in defence.
Their defence has been underwhelming and inconsistent throughout the campaign, resulting in eight defeats this season already - more than the previous two seasons combined. The leadership and quality of long-time club captain Vincent Kompany was sorely missed, and the absence of Aymeric Laporte through injury made matters worse beyond repair for Manchester City.
To add insult to injury, the massive dip in form of Nicolas Otamendi coincided with John Stones' drop in confidence, while Benjamin Mendy continued to miss many games through recurring knee and thigh issues. Truth be told, it might be time for Manchester City to wave goodbye to these three as they have failed to capitalise on their chances.
A lot of rumours have been doing the rounds regarding transfers that Manchester City's director of football, Txiki Begiristain, is hoping to pull-off. Many centre-backs have been linked with Manchester City of late, none more prominently than 29-year-old Senegalese international Kalidou Koulibaly.
If the Cityzens do manage to secure Koulibaly's services, Manchester City would have one of the best centre-back pairings across Europe, if not the best, in Koulibaly and Laporte. Other alternatives are thought to be Milan Skriniar, Dayot Upamecano, Ruben Dias and Caglar Soyuncu. Regardless of whom they pick, Manchester City need a top quality defender to pair alongside Laporte if they are to stand any chance of claiming back their Premier League title.
Manchester City also need to strengthen their left-back spot and need to replace the departing Leroy Sane. Reports suggest players like Alex Telles and Ben Chilwell are being considered for the left-back spot whereas Ferran Torres and Leon Bailey have been doing the rounds for the left-wing position.
If Manchester City manage to pull-off a few of these signings, they will be in with a decent shout for the Premier League title next season.
#3 Youngsters better prepared to contribute
Manchester City faithful have been calling on manager Pep Guardiola to play Phil Foden more frequently for a long time now. After all, the 20-year-old midfielder never ceased to impress when he took on the pitch, even if it was for the final 15 minutes of match whose outcome had become a foregone conclusion.
Guardiola did bestow more responsibility on the youngster, especially in the Champions League. Foden played four games in the Champions League this season, directly contributing to four goals, which translates to a goal every 46 minutes.
Foden also started a few important domestic games for Manchester City this season, including the most recent Manchester derby and the League Cup final. He was named the Man of the Match in the latter game.
The young Englishman has shown that he has the quality to play in any offensive position, including as a winger on either flank. He has been a much more regular sight in the Manchester City team since the Premier League's resumption post the COVID-19 lockdown.
After David Silva's departure, Foden is expected to play a more key role for Manchester City.
Another talent coming up the Manchester City ranks is former La Masia graduate Eric Garcia. Garcia plays a position where Manchester City are clearly depleted, and naturally, his growth is vital to City's future aspirations.
The Spaniard has shown plenty of promise in the games he has played, helping his team win 11 of the 12 matches he has featured across all competitions. Many believe that the 19-year-old will be the third choice centre-back at Manchester City, behind Aymeric Laporte and a new signing.
The potential that Garcia carries and the trust Guardiola has often shown on him means Manchester City may be able to move on from recent underachievers like Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones.
#2 History favours Pep Guardiola
This is not the first time Josep Guardiola has failed to win the league title, and certainly not the last time either. Despite being the serial winner that he is, Guardiola is only human. No presently active manager undergoes more scrutiny than he does, and Guardiola knows better than anyone else that respond, he must.
The Spaniard, who is about to turn 50 next year, has a knack of bouncing back. He often reinstates how important it is in football to keep going, as only the present matters. The first time Guardiola missed out on a league title was back in 2011-12, when Real Madrid got the better of Barcelona by nine points.
Not winning was such a demoralising shock for Guardiola that he took a year-long sabbatical to clear his head. He returned to coaching with Bayern Munich and won three league titles in a row while breaking a number of records.
The next time a league title drought happened was in his debut season (2016-17) at Manchester City, where his team could only muster a fourth place finish despite starting strong. The jury was out against him. Many journalists and football writers claimed Guardiola's style wouldn't cut it in England.
However, the very next season, Guardiola not only proved the media wrong by winning the Premier League title, but he left them red-faced by again shattering multiple records in the process.
Therefore, it is only natural to expect Guardiola to come out all guns blazing next season, now that he has endured his third league title failure as a manager. He will be hungry to prove the world his mettle all over again, because even though Guardiola makes mistakes, he doesn't make them twice in a row. That can only augur well for Manchester City's Premier League title prospects in 2020-21.
#1 AFCON 2021
It is strange to think that a tournament that has no association with the Premier League whatsoever could play such a huge role in determining who is crowned the champions of England in 2020-21. That being said, it would certainly not be the first time that the Africa Cup of Nations would impact proceedings in England's top division.
The biennial tournament to determine Africa's finest is typically played in January and February, before CAF decided to shift it to the months June and July for the 2019 edition. However, the 2021 edition of the same is supposed to be held in the first two months of the year like it has been before. Unless it gets postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting schedules, it would mean that the Premier League would lose its African stars for a month-long period.
In this respect, no club in the English top-division would have to bear a greater brunt than Liverpool, as they will be missing their wing pair of Sadio Mane and Mohammed Salah. Responsible for a huge chunk of Liverpool's goals, Mane and Salah will be dearly missed by Liverpool.
It would mean that unless Liverpool significantly improve their squad depth this summer, they would need to partner Roberto Firmino up front with players like Divock Origi, Takumi Minamino and Harvey Elliott as Xherdan Shaqiri is expected to be shipped this off-season.
Liverpool would need to make-do with the aforementioned options for about four matches, and if they come up against a couple of top teams during this period, they could be asking for trouble.
Manchester City too would miss the current AFCON winning captain - Riyad Mahrez. However, his absence would be a much softer blow given Manchester City's squad depth, and there is no question that they are better prepared to cope with the AFCON if it is indeed held as per schedule.
Clearly, AFCON 2021 could potentially be a humongous factor in handing Manchester City the edge in the Premier League title race next season.Published 30 Jun 2020, 02:41 IST