Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola has confidence that Bernardo Silva will remain at the club, though he vowed not to keep any unhappy players.

Portugal international Silva has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona after a five-year stint at the Etihad Stadium, with Xavi keen on landing the 27-year-old.

Silva was said to have made his feelings on wanting to leave City clear last year, but the former Monaco playmaker stayed and played a key role as Guardiola's team went on to win the Premier League for a fourth time in five seasons.

However, Guardiola has poured cold water on the speculation that Silva will move before the start of the 2022-23 season when speaking following the announcement of City's pre-season friendly against his former club Barca.

"I think Bernardo Silva will stay with us, that’s my feeling as of today," he told a news conference.

"We don’t know what will happen in the transfer window and we have always said that we want players that want to be in our club.

"But we really appreciate Bernardo and count on him for next season."

City have brought in Erling Haaland already this transfer window, while they reportedly want to sign Brighton and Hove Albion left-back Marc Cucurella and Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips.

However, Raheem Sterling and Gabriel Jesus are both reportedly interested in leaving, with Chelsea and Arsenal the respective frontrunners.

The match between City and Barca will take place on August 24 in a charity game to raise funds for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) awareness and is in honour of former Barcelona player and assistant coach Juan Carlos Unzue.

It will fall between City's Premier League fixtures against Newcastle United and Crystal Palace.

Manchester City's Premier League title defence starts with a trip to West Ham, where Erling Haaland will be eyeing a fast start.

Pep Guardiola's side were in danger of throwing away the cherished prize when trailing 2-0 at the London Stadium in May before salvaging a draw and recovering from the same deficit to beat Aston Villa on a dramatic final day to edge out Liverpool.

Haaland's arrival from Borussia Dortmund is a stellar signing for a City side seeking a seventh Premier League crown. His first opportunity to wow the home faithful will come against Bournemouth, with the first Manchester derby taking place at the Etihad Stadium on October 1.

Anfield is the destination two weeks later for a showdown with Jurgen Klopp's charges, who visit the blue half of Manchester in April.

After the break in domestic action for the Qatar World Cup, City head to Leeds United on Boxing Day, host Everton on New Year's Eve and visit Chelsea in their opening game of 2023, while January also includes a trip to Old Trafford.

The reigning champions' final home game is against Chelsea and they wrap up the season by visiting Brentford.

Manchester City's 2022-223 fixtures in full:

07/08/2022 - West Ham (a)
13/08/2022 - Bournemouth (h)
20/08/2022 - Newcastle United (a)
27/08/2022 - Crystal Palace (h)
31/08/2022 - Nottingham Forest (h)
03/09/2022 - Aston Villa (a)
10/09/2022 - Tottenham (h)
17/09/2022 - Wolves (a)
01/10/2022 - Manchester United (h)
08/10/2022 - Southampton (h)
15/10/2022 - Liverpool (a)
18/10/2022 - Arsenal (a)
22/10/2022 - Brighton and Hove Albion (h)
29/10/2022 - Leicester City (a)
05/11/2022 - Fulham (h)
12/11/2022 - Brentford (h)
26/12/2022 - Leeds United (a)
31/12/2022 - Everton (h)
02/01/2023 - Chelsea (a)
14/01/2023 - Manchester United (a)
21/01/2023 - Wolves (h)
04/02/2023 - Tottenham (a)
11/02/2023 - Aston Villa (h)
18/02/2023 - Nottingham Forest (a)
25/02/2023 - Bournemouth (a)
04/03/2023 - Newcastle United (h)
11/03/2023 - Manchester City (a)
18/03/2023 - West Ham (h)
01/04/2023 - Liverpool (h)
08/04/2023 - Southampton (a)
15/04/2023 - Leicester City (h)
22/04/2023 - Brighton and Hove Albion (a)
26/04/2023 - Arsenal (h)
29/04/2023 - Fulham (a)
06/05/2023 - Leeds United (h)
13/05/2023 - Everton (a)
20/05/2023 - Chelsea (h)
28/05/2023 - Brentford (a)

Manchester City will start their Premier League title defence at West Ham, while Frank Lampard will host his former club Chelsea with Everton on the opening weekend.

City pipped Liverpool to their fourth English top-flight crown under Pep Guardiola and there will be significant interest around their August 7 opener at London Stadium, where new signing Erling Haaland could make his debut after arriving from Borussia Dortmund.

Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool will aim to mount another title charge in the 2022-23 campaign and they go to newly promoted Fulham for their first game.

Chelsea eased into third place last term and their first league game of the Todd Boehly era sees them travel to face Blues great Lampard at Everton, who narrowly avoided relegation to maintain their top-flight status.

Manchester United finished in a disappointing sixth last campaign, with a 4-0 thrashing at Brighton and Hove Albion a low point, and they host the Seagulls in what will be Erik ten Hag's first game in charge.

Arsenal will visit Crystal Palace on August 5 as the season's opening game, while promoted side Bournemouth are at home to Aston Villa.

Antonio Conte's Tottenham sneaked into the Champions League last season and open their campaign at home to Southampton, with Nottingham Forest playing their first top-flight fixture in 23 years away at Newcastle United, who climbed out the relegation zone under Eddie Howe in the previous term.

Testing opening for Liverpool, Guardiola faces late Blues clash

Liverpool were in the hunt for an unprecedented quadruple for much of the 2021-22 season, but fell short and ended up with just the EFL Cup and FA Cup crowns to their name.

Klopp's side will be tested in the opening weeks of the season, facing four – United, Chelsea, City and Arsenal – of the traditional 'big six' sides in the first 11 games, alongside a Merseyside derby at Everton on September 9.

The first clash between United and Liverpool will come just three matchdays into the season, with the Reds visiting Old Trafford on August 20.

Liverpool then head Chelsea and Arsenal either side of the late September international break, with champions City travelling to Anfield just a week after the Gunners trip.

Supporters in Manchester will eagerly await October 1 for the first meeting between United and City at Etihad Stadium, while the first north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal comes on the same day.

The Premier League title race went down to the wire last campaign, and City could face a tough task if it does so again as they host Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea in an enticing clash on the penultimate weekend.

Premier League opening weekend fixtures:

Crystal Palace v Arsenal
Bournemouth v Aston Villa
Everton v Chelsea
Fulham v Liverpool
Leeds United v Wolves
Leicester City v Brentford
Newcastle United v Nottingham Forest
Tottenham v Southampton
Manchester United v Brighton and Hove Albion
West Ham v Manchester City

Manchester City director of football Txiki Begiristain is confident that Erling Haaland can get "even better" working with Pep Guardiola following confirmation of his transfer to the Premier League champions. 

The 21-year-old has established himself among the best strikers in the world following exceptional displays at Salzburg and Borussia Dortmund, boasting a remarkable record of 86 goals in 89 appearances for the Bundesliga side. 

That provides a daunting task for opposition defenders in the Premier League, and Begiristain has issued a further warning by backing Norway international Haaland to continue to improve and develop under the guidance of Guardiola. 

"We have been monitoring Erling for several years now, so we are delighted to bring him here to Manchester City," he told the club’s official website. 

"He is a huge talent and has been one of the best strikers in Europe over the last few seasons.

"His goalscoring record is exceptional and his performances at Borussia Dortmund and in the Champions League in particular have proved he can succeed at the highest level. 

Pep Guardiola cannot foresee Bayern Munich letting Robert Lewandowski leave nor Barcelona having the financial power to sign the striker.

Lewandowski is contracted to Bayern until the end of next season, but he is attempting to engineer a move to Camp Nou a year earlier amid interest from the Catalan giants.

The Poland captain declared his story was over at Bayern at the end of May, as disputes over contract proposals between his agent and the Bundesliga champions continued.

While Lewandowski appears intent on joining Xavi's side, there remain questions as to the finances behind a deal, with LaLiga boss Javier Tebas stating Barca cannot afford the 33-year-old unless they sell at least one prized asset.

Blaugrana president Joan Laporta hit back at Tebas' comments, but Barca's economic vice president Eduard Romeu admitted the club must sell players before they would be in a position to land Lewandowski.

Manchester City boss and Blaugrana legend Guardiola, speaking at the Legends Golf Trophy event in Mallorca, expressed his doubts over whether Lewandowski will move to Spain.

"It seems that they have it difficult," he said on Monday. "His career speaks for itself. We are talking about Lewandowski, he adapts to any place.

"But I don't know, I don't know if the economic situation can allow him to join, I don't know if Bayern will let him go. I already have other problems!"

 

Guardiola guided City to their fourth Premier League title in five seasons last month and his side will be bolstered by the imminent arrival of Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund.

It has been reported Bernardo Silva is a target of Barca should Frenkie de Jong leave for Manchester United.

Guardiola would only comment on Barca's financial situation, though, as he detailed his hopes that the Blaugrana will return as a dominant force in his homeland.

"Looks like they're having it tough," he said when asked of Silva. "I hope everything goes well for them but with the situation they have they cannot do great things.

"There are moments in history, everyone has to accept it when the situation is the way it is and sometimes going with low expectations will help you to rise very quickly.

"The expectations can be low because of the situation not because of the lack of quality of the coaches, the players or the board of directors. 

"The perception I have is good, but you have to go calmly. Everyone knows that if the situation isn't good you can't make big signings. You have to think about winning the next game."

Manchester City are looking to add a "couple" more signings after already securing the signatures of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez, chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak has confirmed.

Having wrapped up their fourth Premier League title in six years with a dramatic final-day win over Aston Villa earlier this month, City are set to benefit from the acquisition of Norwegian star Haaland, who scored 86 goals in 89 appearances during a two-year spell at Borussia Dortmund.

Pep Guardiola's men also announced the signing of young River Plate forward Alvarez back in January, as City look to restructure their forward line one year on from the departure of club legend Sergio Aguero.

Having already made headlines with their transfer business, in particular the signing of Haaland – a player El Mubarak called "the best number nine in the world" on Monday –Guardiola's men are set to be strengthened by more new arrivals. 

"I can confirm that there will be more players coming in," El Mubarak told the club's website. "We are looking to strengthen the team in the areas that we need strengthening. 

"As you know, every season some players leave, and then we have to continuously refresh the team.

"Again, we will always look at improving and strengthening. I think we've made two very important additions already [Haaland and Alvarez], but I anticipate we'll be doing a couple more.

"We'll try to go as fast as we can, but you know how the market goes. It's not always entirely in our control."

City scored 99 goals as they stormed to a successful defence of their Premier League title despite often not fielding a recognised forward after missing out on the signing of Tottenham's Harry Kane last year.

Midfielder Kevin de Bruyne top-scored for Guardiola's men in their league campaign, finding the net 15 times, with Raheem Sterling (13), Riyad Mahrez (11), and Phil Foden (nine), all outscoring nominal centre-forward Gabriel Jesus (eight).

El Mubarak says Guardiola's extraordinary tactical nous means City can afford to be patient in the transfer market, remaining successful on the pitch while biding their time until the perfect targets become available.

"With Pep and with this team, it's not just about filling a position," he added. "We have reached a level of quality, a standard in which we cannot and will not compromise on quality.

"If we find the right player for that particular position, we will get that player and if not, Pep has shown us he will find solutions within the quality of the group we have, and within the quality of the academy.

"We're in a different position to the one we were in many years ago. We have so much talent available within the squad and the academy that when we need something, it's very specific and it's very deliberate.

"If we're able to bring that particular player, great, and if not, it doesn't mean anybody can fill it. We are in a different paradigm from that perspective."

Erling Haaland is "arguably the best number nine in the world", according to Manchester City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, who says the acquisition of the "phenomenal" Norwegian is a testament to the Premier League champions' work.

City announced they had reached a deal in principle to sign the striker from Borussia Dortmund earlier this month, with Haaland since completing his medical after ending his BVB career with a final-day goal against Hertha Berlin.

Haaland scored 29 goals in 30 appearances across all competitions in his final season with Dortmund, averaging one every 82.3 minutes as they finished second in the Bundesliga. 

Since joining the German club from Salzburg in January 2020, Haaland scored an incredible 86 goals in 89 games to earn his reported £51million move to Pep Guardiola's side.

And Al Mubarak, who revealed City had been monitoring Haaland for as long as five years, believes he could be the most exciting striker in world football.

"Haaland, from his early days in Norway and then moving on to Dortmund, has been on our radar for at least four or five years," he told the club's official media channels.

"We've been following his progression over the years and seen his transition from a very talented, high-quality, high-potential young player to one of the most, if not the most, exciting striker in the world.

"He is a very, very unique, incredibly talented striker that I think the whole world has been looking at.

"I would say every big team in the world wanted [him] to join and we're absolutely delighted that Haaland chose to join Manchester City." 

 

Haaland will join a City team that has won four Premier League titles in the last five seasons, with Guardiola's men pipping Liverpool by a single point this term after an incredible comeback victory over Aston Villa on the final day.

City scored 99 league goals as they powered to the title despite often fielding no recognised forward, and Al Mubarak believes the team's success, as well as the allure of working with Guardiola, was key to attracting Haaland.

"I think it's a testament to all the great work that's been happening at this club," he added. "It's testament to the quality of this team, and it's testament to Haaland not just being a great player, but I think a very smart player.

"[He] saw the potential of what he can do and how he can develop further professionally, being part of this team, being coached by Pep Guardiola and with the infrastructure that we have.

"I think for us, it's a super decision. We are getting truly, I think, a phenomenal player that will give us great memories."

After failing in their high-profile pursuit of Tottenham's Harry Kane following the legendary Sergio Aguero's departure last year, City made strengthening their forward line a priority in 2022, adding Haaland after agreeing the signing of River Plate attacker Julian Alvarez in January.

And the City chairman said he was delighted to see the club conduct their transfer business swiftly, as he labelled Haaland the world's best in his position.

 

"I think we can look back with a high level of confidence in the area we wanted to strengthen the most, which is that striker position," he added.

"We have, in Haaland, arguably the best number nine in the world at the right age. In Haaland we have invested in that striker for the future, and in Alvarez I think we’ve found one of the most talented young strikers in South America.

"Replacing Sergio is a big task. But it’s not something we've not been preparing for, for a couple of years. 

"You look at Julian Alvarez, I think this is an example of the hard work of our scouting team, a lot of weeks and months of follow-up analysis, and then ultimately making the right decision at the right time when the market opened in the way that it opened.

"I am absolutely delighted that in the case of both Julian and Haaland we were able to come in early, do our business early."

City Football Group chief executive Ferran Soriano says Erling Haaland could have gone anywhere, but chose to play under Pep Guardiola in Manchester.

The Norwegian forward landed in Manchester on Tuesday to finalise a £51million move from Borussia Dortmund, after completing his medical.

City essentially won the Premier League without a striker this season, with Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling and Riyad Mahrez the three players to break the 10-goal barrier.

Soriano believes Haaland will ultimately adapt and thrive at City and despite how Guardiola's side has counteracted the need for a centre forward like him this season, he is still required.

"Haaland has chosen us because we explained a project to him," Soriano told RAC 1. "What we pay him could be paid by PSG, [Manchester] United, Bayern [Munich] or Real Madrid. We put the focus on football.

"Haaland will need a period of adjustment and we will have to be patient, but he will succeed. Our focus is on football, playing well and winning, rather than star players, and we were missing a centre forward.

"We had someone spectacular like [Sergio] Aguero. We lost him because of his age, and we have been looking for a replacement for more than a year and Haaland is one."

Soriano also refuted suggestions City are state-owned like Paris Saint-Germain and pointed to their shareholder structure, with Chinese and American consortiums owning a 24 per cent stake.

Meanwhile, the ex-Barcelona vice president used examples within the Premier League like Manchester United and Chelsea to suggest City's dominance is not simply financially driven.

"We are not a state club, we are a club owned by three shareholders looking for profitability," he said.

"The French market is different because the gap between PSG and the rest of the French clubs is huge. City and PSG are not the same.

"City has less income than United or Chelsea, for example. The debate about state clubs is ridiculous, because United has spent much more than us."

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has pipped Manchester City's Pep Guardiola to the League Managers Association's (LMA) Manager of the Year award.

Klopp masterminded a superb second half to the Premier League season, yet it was not enough to overhaul City, who claimed the title on a dramatic final day of the campaign on Sunday.

The Reds went the entire season unbeaten at home, doing so for a joint-record fifth time in the Premier League. 

Liverpool have also excelled in cup competitions under Klopp this term, having won the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

They will complete a cup treble on Saturday if they overcome Real Madrid in the Champions League final in Paris.

Reflecting on the dramatic final day, which saw City score three goals in the space of five minutes to beat Aston Villa 3-2, Klopp said: "It was a bit nervy, it wasn't the best outcome for us, but we are already over it.

"And when you win a prize like this you are either a genius or you have the best coaching staff in the world. I am here with four of my coaching staff, and they know how much I appreciate them."

It is the second time Klopp has claimed the award, which is combined with the Premier League Manager of the Year award, after the German was recognised in 2020 for leading Liverpool to the title.

Eddie Howe, Patrick Vieira and Thomas Frank, of Newcastle United, Crystal Palace and Brentford respectively, were also up for the award.

Pep Guardiola allowed himself a joke at Manchester City's expense after a thrilling comeback against Aston Villa clinched the Premier League title, claiming he asked Real Madrid how to rescue a seemingly lost cause.

It was Madrid who broke City's hearts in the Champions League semi-finals this season, recovering from 5-3 down on aggregate heading into the 90th minute of the second leg to remarkably pull off a 6-5 win after extra time.

That trophy remains frustratingly out of reach, but the Premier League is City's yet again, won by the mighty Etihad Stadium outfit for a fourth time in five seasons.

A stunning 3-2 victory against Villa on Sunday saw City over the line, with Ilkay Gundogan coming off the bench to net a decisive double, sandwiching a fine strike from Rodri.

Villa had led 2-0 and at that stage everything was up for grabs, with Liverpool tantalisingly close to pipping City on the final day. Yet 12 minutes and 22 seconds after City surrendered the second Villa goal to Philippe Coutinho, the game had turned around and the hosts were in front.

Asked how the flurry of goals had come about, Guardiola said: "I called Real Madrid and they gave me good advice, this was the reason why."

He followed the quip by adding: "No explanation in Madrid, no explanation today. It's momentum."

The City celebrations were in full swing on Sunday evening and were set to spill into Monday, with a bus parade planned.

"Tomorrow we can celebrate together in the Manchester streets with cigars and beers," Guardiola said.

He has backed his players all season, even after the collapse in Madrid, and said the Premier League remains the ultimate measure of their quality.

"When you win the Premier League in this country four times in five seasons, it is because these guys are so, so special," Guardiola said.

"This game is completely different than the other ones. You have to close something that is so difficult. It's like serving to win Wimbledon. It's the most difficult one, the tennis players say that, so it was quite similar today."

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss said City's four titles in five years represents, for the coaching staff, "probably the best achievement we have done in our careers".

"I'm not saying the Premier League is better or more important than the Champions League, but it is the most honest one," Guardiola said. "The Premier League doesn't lie. It's 38 games, away and home. Many problems for all the teams and in the end who wins it's because of who is the best.

"These guys are legends already. This group of players are absolutely eternal in this club because what we have achieved is so difficult."

Pep Guardiola described his Manchester City players as "legends" after they staged an astonishing fightback to beat Aston Villa and deny Liverpool the Premier League title.

City are champions once more, taking the crown for the fourth time in five seasons, with Sunday's 3-2 win against Villa giving the season a remarkable finish.

They had trailed 2-0 going into the final 15 minutes at the Etihad Stadium, but substitute Ilkay Gundogan scored twice, either side of Rodri's low strike, to turn the match around.

Liverpool, a point behind City, were 3-1 winners against Wolves at Anfield but had to settle for second place.

Guardiola acclaimed City's triumph as the best of his six years in Manchester, given they wrapped it up in such dramatic fashion and in front of a packed home stadium.

"Wow, we, these guys, are legends," Guardiola told Sky Sports.

"When you win in this country the Premier League four times in five years, it's because these guys are so, so special.

"We'll be remembered. The first time, 100 points, we won with a lot of margin; the second one was in Brighton, not in home; the third last season without people; wow, winning at home with our people is the best."

Last season's title was clinched when Manchester United lost to Leicester City, with City not in action. It was a different story this time, as City fans flooded the pitch to celebrate after victory was secured.

"The moment we scored, and after we equalised, we had the feeling we would have chance to score the [winning] goal," said Guardiola.

"What it means to me is that the magnitude of the achievement is related to the magnitude of the rival, and I've never seen a team like Liverpool in my life.

"Big congratulations, they help us to be a better team season by season."

Guardiola said his team were aware that Sunday marked the five-year anniversary of the Manchester Arena bomb attack, when 22 people were killed after a suicide bomber detonated a device as fans left an Ariane Grande concert.

"Of course today is special. It's the fifth anniversary for the arena in Manchester, the 22 people that were killed," said Guardiola. "Today was special for our people. We talked about that and the guys did it."

Asked whether he would commit to a new contract, Guardiola said he had other plans for the coming days.

"Now golf," said the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss.

Jurgen Klopp offered his congratulations to Pep Guardiola and Manchester City after their comeback victory against Aston Villa sealed the Premier League title on the final day.

City had trailed Villa 2-0 after 70 minutes, only for three goals in a six-minute period to turn things around and secure the league crown.

Liverpool had their own comeback win to pull off, recovering from an early Pedro Neto strike to beat Wolves 3-1 at Anfield, though were ultimately helpless to stop City from winning their fourth title in five years.

The Reds are still on course to win a treble this season, having already claimed the EFL Cup and FA Cup, with the Champions League final against Real Madrid awaiting them on Saturday.

However, they were denied what would have been an unprecedented quadruple by City, who pipped them with 93 points to 92 in a tense title race.

"Congratulations to Man City and Pep Guardiola. Thank you to Aston Villa and Wolverhampton for making a proper game of it," Klopp said to Sky Sports.

"It's not the result we wanted. It was a bit of a rollercoaster. I don't know the results exactly but I know [Villa] were 1-0 up – were they 2-0 up as well? Of course at the moment there's disappointment here as well.

"If it's 5-0 to City after 10 minutes it's just a normal game for us. It wasn't our best game either, but it's all good. 92 points is absolutely incredible. We wanted it all, but now it's OK.

"[Finishing second] is the story of my life. I'm still record holder for not getting promoted in Germany with the highest points tally. You need to get more points than any other teams, but we didn't do that.

"You can't do more than give your absolute best and that's what the boys did again. We chased the best team in the world to the wire, that's absolutely special. We'll build a team again and go again."

There was more bad news for Klopp during the win over Wolves, with Thiago Alcantara being forced off at the end of the first half with an injury, and Klopp believes it unlikely the Spain international will be able to play against Madrid in Paris next week.

"I think he'll be out of the final but I don't know. He's limping, so it's maybe not the best sign."

Manchester City have done the job, just about.

Their remarkable 3-2 comeback victory over Aston Villa on Sunday ensured that the Premier League title is theirs for a fourth time in five seasons, ending Liverpool's hopes of a remarkable quadruple in the process.

While Liverpool will now turn their full focus to the Champions League final as they look to secure a third trophy of the campaign, Pep Guardiola will look to build on his side's domestic dominance heading into next season.

Erling Haaland's impending arrival is a strong start to doing just that, and City will have another go at the Champions League next term too with the Norway forward leading their line – the issue of playing without a "proper" number nine finally put to bed.

Had Guardiola and City got their way in 2021, they would have had a striker for this season, too, but Tottenham did not budge on their valuation of Harry Kane.

Yet that lack of a natural centre forward has ultimately not proved costly, and here, Stats Perform looks at the key moments behind City's title success.

Grealish arrives, but no Kane

City broke the English transfer record to sign Jack Grealish for £100million, and while the England international's form has at times been questioned, it was a statement of intent from the champions.

That being said, they missed out on Kane, meaning Guardiola would once again have to do it the hard way... or, at least, rely on his plethora of world-class attacking midfielders to play up front.

The failure to sign Kane was highlighted, ironically, in a 1-0 defeat to Spurs to start the season, though City bounced back with 5-0 thrashings of Norwich City and Arsenal.

Supreme at Stamford Bridge 

City fell short in last season's Champions League final against Chelsea, but on September 25, they rocked up at Stamford Bridge and, if the signing of Grealish was a statement of intent made off the pitch, this performance was one made very much on it.

Guardiola's team delivered a stellar display, especially in the first half, with Gabriel Jesus' goal enough to end Chelsea's unbeaten start to the season.

They may have only won 1-0, but City finished with 15 shots to five, registering an xG (expected goals) of 1.4 to 0.2 and dominated the ball (59 per cent).

Old Trafford dominance

City suffered a surprise set-back at the end of October, losing 2-0 at home to Crystal Palace. Fortunately for them, Liverpool drew 2-2 to Brighton and Hove Albion at Anfield on the same day, and Guardiola's team rallied the following week.

A 2-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford was as dominant as you could get at the home of a city rival. The xG tells its own story – City's 2.37 to United's 0.75, 16 attempts to five, with five on target from the visitors, who hit the woodwork twice.

Twelve of City's shots came from inside United's area, showing just how easy they found it to carve open their neighbours, who managed just four touches in the opposition box (City had 32, and 92 final-third entries). The victory sparked a 12-game winning run that was bookended by a 1-0 home success over Chelsea and included a 7-0 rout of Leeds United and 6-3 dispatching of Leicester City.

Good fortune at Goodison

A 3-2 home defeat to Spurs snapped a 15-game unbeaten run that had seemingly put City well on track to securing the title with relative ease. And it appeared they may well drop points again in the next match, a tough fixture against relegation-battling Everton at Goodison Park at the end of February.

Phil Foden struck eight minutes from time to seal a 1-0 victory that moved City six points clear at the top of the Premier League, but Everton were denied the chance for a late equaliser from the penalty spot when referee Paul Tierney and VAR Chris Kavanagh failed to spot a handball by Rodri.

The Premier League clarified that the penalty was not awarded because there was insufficient evidence to show the ball struck Rodri below the level of his armpit, not because Richarlison had strayed offside in the build-up, and referees chief Mike Riley subsequently apologised to Everton for the mistake.

"Can this episode affect a whole season? I will review a lot of incidents. It looks offside for Richarlison; if it's not offside, it's a penalty," said Guardiola after the incident. Had Everton been awarded the penalty, and converted it, then the title might well be Liverpool's.

Champions League heartbreak fuels De Bruyne-inspired charge

With both Premier League meetings between the title rivals finishing all square, it was Liverpool who got the edge in the FA Cup in April, winning the semi-final clash 3-2. The sides seemed destined to meet again in the Champions League final, yet Real Madrid had other ideas.

Quicker than Carlo Ancelotti could raise his eyebrow, Madrid turned a tie that seemed all wrapped up in City's favour on its head thanks to two Rodrygo goals, and Karim Benzema's extra-time penalty capped off one of the all-time great comebacks, and one of the all-time worst capitulations, in the competition's history.

Yet City, who had beaten Leeds 4-0, Watford 5-1 and Brighton 3-0 in their previous three league outings, responded with a 5-0 demolition of in-form Newcastle United, with late goals from Phil Foden and Raheem Sterling really doing wonders for their goal difference. To boost their mood, Liverpool had drawn with Spurs at Anfield a day earlier.

That advantage grew further still three days later – Kevin De Bruyne scoring four goals (three with his weaker left foot) in a 5-1 defeat of Wolves.

Gundogan sparks a comeback for the ages

City's second-half comeback against West Ham dashed Liverpool's hopes of a true slip-up, though Riyad Mahrez's penalty miss in that match did allow the Reds to close the gap to one point heading into the final day, meaning Guardiola's side needed a win to guarantee the title.

In a narrative a Hollywood scriptwriter would have done well to dream up, Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard was the manager tasked with ending City's charge and, in the process, giving the Reds the title (should, of course, Jurgen Klopp's team beat Wolves).

And that narrative seemed set to rule when Villa went 2-0 up at the Etihad Stadium thanks to goals from Matty Cash and ex-Liverpool star Philippe Coutinho, with the visitors' two-goal lead still intact going into the last 15 minutes.

But Ilkay Gundogan – on what could well have been his final City appearance – had other ideas.

After coming on from the bench, he hauled City back into it with a header from Raheem Sterling's cross and, following Rodri's equaliser, the Germany international tucked in from a Kevin De Bruyne centre to complete a stunning, title-clinching comeback.

Manchester City have been crowned Premier League champions for the fourth time in five seasons, seeing off a spirited challenge from Liverpool.

Pep Guardiola's men may not have won as many trophies as they would have liked this season, but they have been exceptional in defence of their league title in the face of stiff competition.

If City were not already intimidating enough, they will be adding one of the best strikers in world football to their ranks next season in the shape of Erling Haaland.

The lethal Norwegian will surely come in and plunder plenty of goals, just as he has in the Bundesliga at Borussia Dortmund before his £51million (€60m) move to the Etihad Stadium.

However, will his arrival realistically improve them all that much, or more to the point, can it?

That may sound like a ridiculous question, but looking at City's output this season, they have left themselves with very little room for improvement such are the levels they have consistently reached.

Stats Perform has broken down the numbers to try to predict just what kind of impact the impressive 21-year-old is likely to make in Manchester next season.

What Man City need

It has been a popular opinion that City have achieved what they have in the league in spite of not having a traditional striker.

Since Sergio Aguero left at the end of last season, Guardiola has mostly gone with any three of Jack Grealish, Raheem Sterling, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus in attack.

They did spend a lot of time ahead of this season trying to lure Harry Kane from Tottenham, but failing to do so has arguably allowed them to find another way to break down opposition teams. 

Playing without a striker, City have still clinched the league title while collecting 93 points, the third-biggest total they have ever achieved, and scored 99 goals.

By not having an obvious focal point, it has been tricky for the opposition to know who is supposed to be on the end of attacks, and given none of those mentioned has scored more than 11 non-penalty goals in the league, that seems to have been the plan all along.

The perception might be that Guardiola's team have become less direct without a striker, and while that was true last season when Aguero played just 12 league games (seven starts) and they averaged a shot every 42.82 passes, and a goal every 309.05 passes, that came down to a shot every 36.63 passes this season, and a goal every 263.85.

Given Aguero's injury issues in his final campaign at City, you could argue the last time they regularly played with a striker was the 2019-20 season, which was the last time they did not win the league and collected only 81 points.

Since Guardiola arrived at the Etihad until the end of that season, his team averaged a shot every 38.10 passes, and a goal every 271.16, so they have possibly become more direct this term than they were with Aguero in the team.

By comparison, you may assume Haaland has been playing for a more direct team in Marco Rose's Dortmund, and this season in the Bundesliga, BVB scored once every 230.95 passes.

However, they actually only took a shot at goal once every 43.34 passes, so if anything it seems City are more direct than Dortmund, or maybe German teams are simply better organised defensively to stop shots.

 

What Haaland can bring

When you think of Haaland, you think of those direct and explosive runs into the penalty area, usually followed by emphatic finishes. When you think of City, you, erm, don't.

His addition could mean a change in style for the English champions, and the thought of Haaland getting on the end of the ridiculous range of passing from Kevin De Bruyne does indeed make the mouth water.

Do City as a team generally produce more with an orthodox striker, though?

Their record with and without Aguero makes for interesting reading. In the Premier League, the Argentine made 125 appearances under Guardiola, while City played 65 games without him.

In that time, they actually had a win percentage of 72.0 with him and 76.9 without, and even had a slightly better goal average (2.4 goals per game with, 2.5 without).

It is almost just as interesting to see Dortmund's record with and without Haaland. Since signing for the German club in January 2020, he has played 67 games, with Dortmund winning 65.7 per cent and averaging 2.4 goals for. Without him, they won just 61.1 per cent, though averaging only a slightly fewer 2.2 goals for.

It is questionable therefore whether the addition of Haaland will actually generate many if any more wins than they currently enjoy, but will he suit the way City play and can he add to their already impressive haul of goals?

Despite scoring more than any other team in the Premier League this season, no side missed more big chances (a chance from which a goal would normally be expected) than City's 65, though only Liverpool (97) created more than their 87.

City finished fifth in the league for big chance conversion (46.72), and so they will be hoping that part of what Haaland will bring them is putting more of those opportunities away.

In terms of finishing off big chances in the Bundesliga, nobody who scored at least five goals could match Haaland's incredible rate of 78.26 per cent, with even Bayern Munich great Robert Lewandowski only managing 46.67 per cent.

It must be noted though that Haaland's big chance conversion went down to 42.86 per cent in the Champions League, which is probably where City will hope he can make the biggest difference.

 

The league has not been their issue this season, though, rather the big games in cup competitions.

Their defeat to Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final at Wembley was relatively convincing, despite the 3-2 scoreline. With an xG (expected goals) of 1.75, it was more their leakiness at the other end that was their undoing, going in 3-0 down at half-time.

However, it is the Champions League where their biggest letdown occurred, despite what City fans will tell you about their apparent disdain for the competition.

Heading into injury time at the Santiago Bernabeu, City were 5-3 up on aggregate, only to somehow concede twice in two minutes, before a Karim Benzema penalty put them out at the semi-final stage.

Perhaps Haaland could have made a difference, particularly in that second leg where City slightly underperformed their xG of 1.37, though they did score four in the first leg off an xG of 2.70.

Again, you could argue it was more the defence that let them down, somehow conceding six goals despite largely dominating both legs, but in those key moments where City missed golden opportunities, you would think Haaland would have had more ice in his veins.

Match made in heaven?

How could one of the deadliest strikers in Europe not be a good signing? Haaland will almost certainly be a fan favourite and score plenty of goals in the sky blue of his father's former team.

In the league, it seems likelier he will more or less replace the goals of others rather than add to what they are already producing. It would be surprising to see the likes of Sterling, Mahrez, Foden and even De Bruyne score as many as they have this season if Haaland is already banging them in.

However, those fine margins in the cups could well be where he comes into his own, with Haaland either scoring important goals himself, or distracting defenders so that others can do the honours.

It will be interesting to see how City play with a striker, as it of course will mean they line up with one fewer attacking midfielder and will they therefore be able to dominate quite as much as they currently do?

Either way, it is difficult to see how they can do anything other than continue to be dominant with the big Norwegian around as Premier League defenders await what promises to be a busy season from August onwards.

Manchester City are Premier League champions for a fourth time in five seasons, and a sixth time overall, after beating Aston Villa 3-2 in remarkable fashion on Sunday to hold off Liverpool.

City are now in front of Chelsea (five titles) as the competition's outright second most successful side and behind only Manchester United, who have lifted the title 13 times.

Indeed, only United (20), Liverpool (19), Arsenal (13) and Everton (nine) have won more titles in the history of the English top flight, dating back to 1888, than eight-time winners City.

The Citizens' latest title triumph was built on a solid defence and a potent attack, with no team in the division scoring more goals (99) or conceding fewer (26).

With the aid of Opta, Stats Perform looks at some of the other numbers behind City's successful title defence.

PEP PREVAILS ONCE MORE

City have won four of the past five Premier League titles, which is a level of dominance not seen in the competition since United lifted the trophy in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Pep Guardiola has been at the helm for those four most recent triumphs, making him the fourth coach in English top-flight history to win four titles over a five-season period.

He is in quite some company, too, with Alex Ferguson (United), Bob Paisley (Liverpool) and George Ramsey (Villa) the other names on that list. 

The Catalan is only the eighth man to win as many as four English top-flight titles, while only Ferguson (13) has ever lifted the Premier League more times.

Following equally successful stints with Barcelona and Bayern Munich, Guardiola has now won the title in 10 of his 13 seasons as a top-flight manager.

To put that into some context, Massimiliano Allegri (6) is the sole other coach to have won more than five league crowns in that period across Europe's top five leagues.

CATCH US IF YOU CAN

City may have been pushed all the way in the end, but they spent 168 days at the summit – 98 more than any other team, and 157 more than valiant runners-up Liverpool.

The 2021-22 campaign did not get off to the best of starts for City, though, as they lost 1-0 at Tottenham on the opening weekend, with that one of only three losses all season.

That makes the Citizens only the fourth side in the Premier League era to lose their opening match yet still go on to win the title, and the 15th overall in English top-flight history.

CITY FALL JUST SHORT OF OWN RECORD

City had to do it the hard way. They were 2-0 down to Villa and matters looked bleak, but Ilkay Gundogan inspired a comeback for the ages.

It means City end the season with a positive goal difference of 73.

That is the second-highest goal difference in Premier League history, behind only their own mark of +79 in 2017-18 when scoring a record 106 goals and conceding 27.

The 26 goals conceded by City this term is an impressive return, though it is well short of the 15 let in by Chelsea in 2004-05.

GOALS GALORE

City may not have had a player who seriously challenged for the Golden Boot award, but the workload was shared with 16 different players registering a goal.

Set-pieces proved an important source of goals for the champions, who netted 22 times from corners and free-kicks, while conceding just once in this manner.

Their positive differential of 21 goals between set-piece goals scored and conceded is the largest on record in the Premier League since such data was first collected in 2008-09.

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