Sunday 25 August 2019

Richard Dunne: 'The issues that arose at Liverpool over pre-season, Man City don't have anything like that'

Rodri has made a good early impression at Manchester City (Adam Davy/PA)
Rodri has made a good early impression at Manchester City (Adam Davy/PA)
Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne

It's up to the rest of the Premier League to try and stop Manchester City from winning the title again. And I just can't see anyone, including Liverpool, being able to do that this season. Pep Guardiola's men are the team to stop. Again.

I have watched a good bit of Manchester City in pre-season but it's their business in the transfer market which convinces me more than their form, City just do things the right way in terms of signings.

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When they needed a couple of full-backs they went out and bought them, they knew they needed a No 6 and went out and bought one. With the younger players coming through and the signings they have made, it all fits seamlessly and they don't seem to have any problems.

City are not just a settled team, it's a settled club and that's a major help. You look at the couple of small issues that arose at Liverpool over pre-season and City don't have anything like that. As an entity, they have been geared up for a long time to have Pep in charge as manager and since he has been there, the club just let him at it, they let him manage.

What I like about the City way of doing things is how they identify where they are struggling and they try to fix it. How many years did we say it about Arsenal that they needed a goalkeeper, or a centre-back? They never went and bought them, they just went out, year after year, and kept buying these small No 10s, Arsenal never fixed the problems.

Guardiola did that. After his first year he identified that he needed two full-backs, to play the way he wanted to play, and he bought them. He knew he wanted to replace David Silva, so in comes Bernardo Silva. Fernandinho now looks like he won't play as many games so they went out and bought Rodri.

I feel they still want a centre-back but they weren't going to be forced into paying £80million for Harry Maguire, Guardiola knows he can find a better player for less money and he's prepared to be patient. Their transfer business means the minimum disruption to the team, whereas Manchester United have been linked with players in every position and that disrupts the dressing room, as players can't settle. If as a player you hear the club is signing two centre-halves, if that's your position, you'd think: ‘I need to get myself out of here'. Footballers should be able to focus on their football and United haven't given their players that opportunity this summer.

I know there may be disappointment at City at not winning the Champions League but there are a few months before that kicks off again in terms of the new season and City have a chance to focus on a good start in the Premier League.

And they do start well. City tend to blow teams away early on in the season, Liverpool did well to stay the pace with them last season, but City are on a 14-game winning run in the league and they have the drive to keep that run going into this season.

Things don't always go to plan and one injury, one bad game, could change things... but I can't see it happening.

Liverpool will run them close as they have a lot of the pieces in place, and I don't see City as being miles ahead of Liverpool, but the problem with Liverpool is, once you go beyond their main 14 players, they struggle in terms of quality.

They do have a settled team, and the players know what's expected of them, but City just have that knowhow about winning the league. Liverpool will hope the boost they have from the Champions League win can feed into that, but it's not always enough.

Manchester United have a long way to go. If you tried to name the United XI for the first game of the season, I don't think anyone would get it right.

They have a lot of players already, a lot of players on the way in and out, there are signs from the summer of a clearout, but Solskjaer's first proper transfer window could not be considered a success do far – there has been too much media attention on what they've been doing.

Their aim has been to get in a couple of strong players, including a central midfielder they can rely on every week. They haven't done that. United need to go and do it and not have their transfer business played out in the media, all those leaks are killing what they are trying to do. Though Maguire's aquisition does, at least, represent a win of sorts.

Chelsea, meanwhile, will be interesting with the new manager coming in. Frank Lampard has all the goodwill behind him, but Chelsea is a tough club and managers can lose goodwill. It would be a sea change for the Chelsea fans to just support Lampard, no matter how they are doing. See where that goodwill is if Chelsea are 11th in the league after a couple of months. That Chelsea squad is renowned for just downing tools if they don't like the way things are and that's going to be a battle for Lampard.

I see the season being a struggle for the promoted teams. Those teams who come up find it difficult and Aston Villa will learn that the money they have spent, and they have spent a lot, might not count for much, and Norwich will find it tough as well.

Those teams have to start the season well as you can't turn around a bad start in the Premier League.

Villa have spent something like £100m and that money should be enough to get you into the top six, but that's hard to see happening. Fulham spent a lot of money and it wasn't enough.

My concern with Villa is how many players they have signed who have not played in the Premier League.

I'd like to see them do well and Villa, as a club, do belong in the Premier League, so this is an important season, but I wonder if the money they spent will be enough to see them through.

One team who could do well is Southampton. They could be a surprise package, if there is to be one.

Like last season, Liverpool and Manchester City will push each other but it won't be as close as last season, City will win the league again and will win it by more points, they are the dominant team and I can't see anyone else being good enough.

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