Manchester City steamrolled their way to the 2017/18 Premier League title and subsequently claimed their third league crown by a colossal 19 points. Such domination is normally witnessed in leagues such as the German Bundesliga, Italian Serie A and French Ligue 1, but seldom is it seen in England.
The Premier League is renowned for its unpredictability and Leicester City proved this when they marched to the title in the 2015/16 season. But Manchester City’s dominance last season was unprecedented and many expect Guardiola to consolidate his rise at the Etihad Stadium by becoming just the third manager to defend the Premier League title.
Guardiola immediately implemented his possession-based style of play at the club, which served him extremely well at FC Barcelona and FC Bayern Munich. His debut season in England was a cruel but valuable lesson for the Spaniard and he was forced to adjust his system to accommodate to the physicality and tempo of the Premier League.
Manchester City and Manchester United battled it out in the primitive stages of the season, but The Citizens placed themselves in pole position in the title race with victory over their local rivals in the Manchester Derby in December 2017. From that point onwards, Manchester City broke free of the pack and dominated proceedings to clinch their third Premier League title.
The only blemish on their league record was a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool at Anfield and a disappointing 3-2 defeat against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium. They broke two Premier League records by scoring the most goals in a single season (106) and became the first team to finish on 100 points.
Sadly, they were unable to translate their domestic form onto the European Stage and were eliminated by Liverpool, after losing 5-1 over two legs in the quarter final of the UEFA Champions League. This season has started in a similar manner to the previous campaign with Manchester City leading the league table on goal difference with 19 points after seven matches, but struggling in Europe, after losing at home to Olympique Lyonnais and narrowly defeating Hoffenheim in Germany.
Manchester City are currently favourites to win the Premier League title with many betting sites listing them at 4/6.
Strength in Depth
Manchester City have an array of talent stretching throughout the entire squad with Claudio Bravo capable of deputizing Ederson and Gabriel Jesus offering quality in the final third if Aguero is unavailable. They had to contend with an injury to Kevin De Bruyne, who was a crucial component in their system last season.
The Belgian international was ruled out of action at the beginning of the 2018/19 campaign, but German international Ilkay Gundagon has slotted into the midfield naturally and is enjoying a fantastic spell of form. They also have depth in defence with Kyle Walker and Danilo at right-back and Benjamin Mendy, Fabian Delph and Oleksandr Zinchenko at left-back. Guardiola also has the choice between Vincent Kompany, Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte, John Stones and Eliaquim Mangala in central defence.
They are filled with talent in midfield with the obvious talents of David Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, De Bruyne (once fit) and teenage prodigy Phil Foden. Fabian Delph is also capable of slotting into a central midfield role to enhance Guardiola’s options. The competition for places on the flanks is incredible with Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez all vying for a place in the starting line-up.
The volume of options at Guardiola’s disposal will enable them to compete on both fronts and it will also benefit them in the climactic stages of the season when injuries begin to creep in and fatigue intensifies.
Shrewd Transfer Business
Not many teams can claim to have had a successful transfer season when they have signed only a couple of first-team players. However, City have done just that. This year, City did not have any specific requirement for players in any position. Hence the focus was on retaining the players that helped win the title last season, and City managed to do just that.
Key players such as De Bruyne and Aguero stayed, despite interest from fellow European heavyweights. Guardiola even managed to sign Riyad Mahrez from Leicester City to add even more depth to the squad.
A Mixture of Youth and Experience
This City squad is an almost perfect blend of youth and experience. In the goalkeeping position, experienced Claudio Bravo supplies cover for the young and talented Ederson, while in defence veterans Kompany and Otamendi are joined by gifted youngsters Laporte and John Stones. The trend continues in midfield where Fernandinho and David Silva supply experience, whilst Gundogan, De Bruyne, and rising star Phil Foden inject youthful energy into the team in the centre of the park. Finally, in the forward position, veteran striker Aguero is joined by Jesus, Sane, and Sterling, all under the age of 24.
This unique line-up ensures that the manager has the liberty to try out youngsters in less-important games while giving the experienced starters some much-needed rest. City have the distinction of having an experienced starting line-up that ensures stability while the youngsters induce hopes of a promising future for the club.
Pep Guardiola – The Man With The Golden Touch
Current Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola has the distinction of turning every team he manages into a world-class side. Some may argue that this is because he takes on management in the so-called “big clubs”. But the fact remains that few managers in world football are as successful as the Spaniard.
Guardiola always strives to make the team better; as is evident from his criticism of his players in 3-0 or 4-0 victories. This makes Guardiola a tough man to please and encourages healthy competition by ensuring players do not take their place in the starting line-up for granted. The experience of winning several titles in different nations coupled with astute tactical knowledge and an ever-increasing hunger for success makes Guardiola one of the best managers in the world. With a man like him at the helm, City can achieve anything.
Despite all these points in favour of City retaining the title, the fact remains that City are trying to achieve a monumental task. No club has retained the Premier League title since Manchester United in the 2008-09 season, and the league is getting more and more unpredictable with “upsets” occurring almost every week. City are bound to be on the receiving end of such upsets at some point in the season; however what would define their season is how they react to it.
If Manchester City manage to avoid being complacent against the “weaker” teams and grind out results against their title rivals (which they are undoubtedly capable of), they might well be able to break the jinx by securing back-to-back Premier League titles.
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