Manchester City clinched fifth Premier League championship in past decade
When it comes to Manchester City, they will never be immune to debate or criticism that their success is bought with Saudi oil money. And their counter that they have the best manager in the world in Pep GuardiOla will never be enough to convince anyone focusing on the first point. The truth is probably both.
Man City clinched their fifth Premier League title in a decade this afternoon and have the chance to add a third major trophy this season to the Champions League final in two and a half weeks as it is the only one team that could do it in this busy schedule. The other gaming giants certainly couldn’t. Munich crashed out of the Champions League in the quarterfinals, and it took only one injury for Robert Lewandowski for his status to be “wobbly”. Juventus are a simultaneous dumpster fire and goat fuck. Madrid and Barca might not win trophies. PSG can hit both in the league and in the Champions League and they have the much softer bed in Ligue 1.
Meanwhile, City is where they are at for the two reasons mentioned above.
By entering a season filled with the same number of games as usual, but in a shorter month window and a fraction of the normal offseason, Guardiola changed City’s style to be more stubborn than poetic, believing that his side would not be able to pressure with fury and that they still had something left in the second half. This is the team that amassed 102 league goals last year, but only have 72 with three games to play this season. However, he conceded nine fewer goals. While City averaged 45 ‘squeezes’ in the offensive third per game last year, they have fallen to 35 this year. (h / t at FBREF.com)
While it drove morons like this proclaim that City had gotten so boring and how could they do anything without their ways around the past since they were in the middle of the table, Pep knew. But Pep also used a world-class packed squad. (and flexible) talent you won’t find anywhere else. He could lie down in a new signature Ruben Dias to revitalize the defense, and relegate Aymeric Laporte, his best defender of the previous two seasons, to a reserve role. What other club could even conceive of such a thing? The introduction of Dias saved the career of John Stones, who is now probably the first name on the England squad sheet and who has been one of the league’s best defenders all season after spending years as a Vaudeville player.
All games meant serious rotation, but no team is built for regular rotation like City, thanks to their spending. Take İlkay Gündoğan, who in a previous life was the driving force behind Jürgen Klopp’s explosive Borussia Dortmund teams and a full-fledged German international for most of his career. He had never managed more than 23 starts before this season, a total he seems set to match, but comes from a team role to be the team’s top scorer since midfield. It’s easy to just use it to highlight City’s ridiculous depth that only they can afford, but it’s another thing to keep a player like Gündoğan happy not to play as much as he did and to see him blossom so quickly when you turn to him. It is an honor to Guardiola.
Another is Phil Foden’s development. Guardiola has been praised for his patience with Foden, who has been orbiting the first team for two or three seasons without diving before this one. And he should, because Foden wasn’t overexposed and is now one of the most exciting players in the world. You could say that no one under 25 has played better than him in the world. Still just 20 years old, Foden threatens to reach Golden ball levels in the years to come.
But what other club could afford to wait for Foden? Which team wouldn’t have to give in to Foden’s promise and talents? No one else could have bragged about Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Sergio Agüero, Riyad Mahrez or Leroy Sane in attack in previous years or Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva or Gündoğan in the middle of the field. Keeping Foden in their original packaging would have cost any other team too much. He was beautifully developed, but in the only place he could be.
Riyad Mahrez, or Leroy Sane in attack in previous years or Kevin De Bruyne, David Silva, Gundogan in midfield to say that keeping Foden in his original packaging wouldn’t hurt. He was beautifully developed, but in the only place he could be.
Quite simply, City under Guardiola are operating at a rate that teams can match for a season, maybe even two, but then crumble. Chelsea did so for one season in 2016-17, winning the title under Antonio Conte. They finished fifth the following year. They’re only coming back to this space now. Liverpool ran to the end with City in 2018-19, finishing with 97 points for a failure and then with 99 points to win the title last season. They have been a real mess this quarter, both due to the rigors of the season in their team and the missteps of their manager Klopp.
City never drops from that level, because of his manager and the toys he plays with. One wouldn’t work without the other. They can negotiate this unique and dominant season because they have this team, but also the guy who knows all the buttons to push.
Teams can sprint with them for a short time. But they break down and have to rearm to try again. The city does not. They are always built for it, whatever “that” is.