While most managers will tell you that there’s little insight that can be gained from glorified friendlies like the Community Shield, there’s no doubt that teams would rather win this piece of silverware than lose out to a potential rival.
This was certainly the case last Saturday, when Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side struck the first blow in what’s sure to be another keenly contested battle for supremacy between the Reds and Manchester City.
But what did we learn from the Citizen’s 3-1 defeat at the King Power Stadium, and how are City looking ahead of the new season?
#1. Haaland Misfires on Debut
There have been few more hotly anticipated debuts than Erling Haaland’s first appearance in a Manchester City shirt, but the Norwegian cut a frustrated figure in Leicester.
Not only did the former Borussia Dortmund striker miss a couple of excellent chances for the Blues, but his teammates also struggled to find many of his most penetrating runs and play to his considerable strengths.
This shouldn’t necessarily come as a huge surprise, of course, especially with City having largely deployed a false nine over the course of the last two years. As a result, they’re not used to playing more direct balls over the top or even looking for the runs of a traditional centre forward, and this evolution will take time and patience.
So, Haaland may take a little time to truly hit his straps in Manchester, but he still offers excellent value at 9/4 to lift the EPL Golden Boot this season (you can opt into the 1xbit sign-up offer to get the best value for your money with this type of bet).
#2. Jack Grealish Continues to Struggle
While there were mitigating factors that underpinned Jack Grealish’s difficult first season at the Etihad in 2021/22, people will be far less understanding if the former Aston Villa man fails to improve during the upcoming campaign.
Unfortunately, Grealish also looked ponderous and ineffective on the left-hand side in the season’s traditional curtain-raiser against Liverpool, as he struggled to link with his teammates and often slowed down the impetus of attacking moves.
City definitely looked livelier and more positive when Phil Foden entered the fray, while the observation that Grealish often looks scared to lose possession in Pep Guardiola’s side gathers credibility with every passing game.
This is a huge concern that needs to be addressed ahead of the new season, especially with Raheem Sterling having departed and Grealish expected to play an even more significant first team role this season.
#3. Julian Alvarez Hits the Ground Running
The winter window signing of precocious South American forward Julian Alvarez has largely been overlooked by the arrival of Haaland, with the former also joining in the summer after immediately being loaned back to previous club River Plate.
However, the forward excelled after coming on as a second-half substitute at the King Power Stadium, playing with energy and purpose while even getting on the scoresheet after poaching the rebound when Phil Foden’s shot was spilled.
Alvarez played from the right in order to accommodate Haaland, and his direct running, dynamism and pace caused considerable problems for Liverpool’s defence.
His performance certainly offers optimism for the year ahead, and Alvarez could be an emerging star once the campaign gets underway.