The return date for Elling Holland, who broke the Premier League record for most goals in a season (36) last season, is becoming increasingly uncertain.
“There are still no plans for him to return,” Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said in a press conference before the club’s 2023-2024 English Premier League Round 21 away match against Newcastle United on Wednesday.
Holland has been sidelined since picking up an injury against Aston Villa on March 7. It was initially unclear what the injury was, but Guardiola said he was being rested to prevent a stress fracture in his ankle.
Until then, Guardiola seemed to think Holland’s injury was minor. “He is a very important player, but we have to be prepared for unexpected absences, such as injuries or accumulated cautions,” he said, adding that no date had been set for his return.
Holland then traveled with the squad to the Club World Cup in Saudi Arabia late last month. He did not play in any matches, but training footage was released and it was thought that he would be fit to play when he returned to England after the tournament. He watched the tournament from the stands alongside midfielder Jeremy Dockoo.
However, Holland is still ‘no news’.
Nothing has changed since the end of the Club World Cup. There is still no sign of a return. “It’s a bone problem,” Guardiola said, adding that it’s an injury that will take time. “The injury hasn’t worsened, but the club’s medical staff said he should take a break,” he said. “I hope he’ll be available at the end of this month. It’s lasting longer than I expected when I first got it (the injury).”
The good news is that City have been performing well without Holland. They are currently unbeaten in eight games, winning seven and drawing one, from their first game without Holland, against Luton Town in the 16th round of the league, to their last game, against Huddersfield in the third round of the FA Cup on July 7.
“We need him,” Guardiola said, “and I hope he can play the last four or five months of the season without problems.”
This is because if they win the Premier League this season, they will be able to claim an unprecedented fourth consecutive Premier League title.
To date, no team has won the Premier League in four consecutive seasons. Manchester’s local rivals, Manchester United, have won the title for three years in a row twice before, from 1998-1999 to 2000-2001 and again from 2006-2007 to 2008-2009. Under Guardiola, City won the league title in both the 2020-2021 and 2022-2023 seasons.
Guardiola is aiming for a fourth straight Premier League title. “It’s possible at the moment,” he said in a press conference when asked about the possibility of winning a fourth consecutive league title. “I think we have 18, 19 games left, but we’re five points off the top (Liverpool) and we’ve played one less game (in the club competition). It’s quite possible.”
“Of course it’s difficult,” he said, but he also expressed confidence that it is possible, saying, “The path that Sir Alex Ferguson (Man United), Jose Mourinho (Chelsea), Arsène Wenger (Arsenal) and others have taken to create long-lasting dynasties is similar to the path we are on.”
The immediate task is to beat Tottenham in the FA Cup round of 32.
The two teams will meet in the FA Cup Round of 32 at 5:30 a.m. on April 27 at Tottenham Hotspur. City hasn’t scored a goal, let alone won, at Tottenham Hotspur since the stadium was completed in April 2019, so it’s a jinxed match with no sign of Holland returning.
To add insult to injury, City are currently without winger Jack Grealish. “He’s a little bit ill, but hopefully he’ll be back for the game,” Guardiola said in a somber tone.
A welcome relief is the recent return from long-term injury of midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who was instrumental in City’s third consecutive league title and historic maiden Champions League triumph last season.