Yesterday saw Manchester City suffer their first home defeat since February, falling 2-1 to Brentford, a side that was promoted to the Premier League only last season. The loss snapped Man City’s 16 game winning streak at The Etihad, and they remain second in the table heading into the World Cup break.
For City to be second is one thing, but for them to see some substantial distance between them and the league leaders, in this case Arsenal, who have a five-point lead on them, well that is another thing entirely.
“The best team won, we struggled from the beginning and we couldn’t deal with their long balls. Usually you press the ball to win it, but this was different. They defended so deep and so well,” City manager Pep Guardiola said after the match
“We have done exceptional in the Champions League and well in the Premier League. We’ll come back and prepare for the second half of the season now.”
Pep summarized it perfectly- City has been elite in continental competition, winning their UEFA Champions League grouping, one that included European power Borussia Dortmund, with ease.
And ultimately, it’s the point of this exercise that is the 2022-23 season, for City, right?
Winning the Champions League, which they still have never done, is their main objective of all objectives. Obviously, they want to win as much as possible, across all competitions, but Europe is the big prize for a club that has won the Premier League four of the last five seasons.
To be sitting five points off the top of the table though, is a little shocking at this point. Then again, we’re only about one third of the way through the league season.
It’s one-third, not halfway, even though it feels like halfway right now, with this World Cup break occurring during the holiday season.
Overall, this six-week break feels like another preseason/offseason, especially for City’s most prolific player, the heir to the Cristiano Ronaldo/Lionel Messi throne, Erling Haaland.
He is hands down the best player who won’t be in Qatar and his goal-scoring exploits are making him the next biggest brand name in world football.
On pace to shatter numerous single season scoring records, Haaland has rapidly recovered from a minor foot injury, and he’ll head to holiday in full fitness.
When he gets back, he’ll be the face of the franchise for a club that announced record breaking revenue and earnings this past week. In that self-congratulatory announcement, City also announced that they were valued the second most valuable brand in all of world football.
And they surpassed the 100 million followers mark on social media too. In other words, Manchester City is the perfect place for him, because this club almost has it all.
Almost, as they still need to win Europe. Like Paris Saint-Germain, another club owned by a tiny but exceedingly wealthy petrol state, they have only reached the UCL final once, and lost.
Maybe this is finally their year?
State of the Clubs at the World Cup Break Series
Chelsea Man City Liverpool Man United
Paul M. Banks is the Owner/Manager of The Sports Bank and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”Follow paulmbanks