The best striker in the world? Check. Best array of midfielders? Check. Best defenders? Check. Champagne football? Check. Dominance of English football? Complete.
Over the last decade, Manchester City — backed by Abu Dhabi’s City Football Group — has eclipsed all comers by completing a hat-trick of Premier League titles, a feat achieved only by city rival, United, twice between 1999-2001 and 2007-09.
City has barely put a foot wrong (aside from the resolution of the alleged 115 Financial Fair Play breaches levelled against it) and is threatening to only get better.
But for all the money and the best players, without the signing of Pep Guardiola — hailed as the best coach in the world — it’s hard to imagine the success City has enjoyed in recent times.
Guardiola landed in the Premier League in the 2016-17 season and finished third. After significant backing in the transfer market, City went on to claim five of the last six Premier League titles with some of the best attacking football witnessed in England.
Fluid attacking system
In the first two years of the three-peat, the genius of Guardiola’s fluid attacking system allowed City to adapt and still get the goals even in the absence of a recognised frontman.
Central midfielders Ilkay Gundogan and Kevin de Bruyne were the top scorers with 13 and 15 goals respectively in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 seasons when the team scored a whopping 83 and 99 goals.
This year, Guardiola could afford the riches: the all-conquering forward Erling Haaland for over £50 million, in particular. While the Spaniard largely stuck to his principles, he has tried to maximise the physical strengths and the aerial ability of the Norwegian to add another dimension to City’s attack.
The Norwegian goal machine: Erling Haaland has continued his serial goal scoring form at Man City, scoring over 50 goals in his debut season for Guardiola’s side.
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Haaland has responded with a league-shattering 36 strikes in 33 outings to go with his 52 goals overall.
And it’s not just in attack that City has excelled across the pitch. Since its last defeat at Tottenham Hotspur, City has conceded just 11 goals in 15 matches after conceding 20 in the opening 21 games.
Guardiola’s obsession with control, both on and off the ball, has led to intriguing tactical innovations — wingbacks in inverted central midfield roles (to overload the midfield) and a central defender in a dual centre-back / central midfield positions (to quell the opposition attacks) — with resounding success.
What has been remarkable about Guardiola’s City has been the various challenges it has overcome in the last three seasons.
In the first year, it had to deal with the setbacks of COVID-19. In the second, it had to stave off the relentless Liverpool which was breathing down its neck right till the end. In the current one, it had to overturn an eight-point deficit, at the start of April, to topple Arsenal.
And the Citizens have done it by switching into gear, making it impossible for the challengers to keep pace. In the 2020-21 season, City went on a 19-game (17 wins, 2 draws) unbeaten run when it catapulted from 13th to first and remained there until the end.
It was helped by the postponement of a crucial game away to Everton during the busy Christmas period, affording the team a rare week’s break.
The invincibles of Manchester: Man City has not lost a game in about four months, with the last defeat coming in February 6, 2023.
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In 2021-22, City managed 15 (14 wins, 1 draw) and 12 (9 wins, 3 draws) game unbeaten runs, helping it stay on top for 24 (game) weeks. In 2022-23, when it seemed like Arsenal would run away with it, City turned it around with a 15-game (14 wins, 1 draw) unbeaten run, including two statement wins over the Gunners.
Incidentally, City has not lost in all competitions (24 matches) since the FFP charges were levelled against it on February 6 — a day after the Spurs defeat.
Run of victories
In the three seasons combined, City has a staggering 85 victories in 115 matches (two games left to play this season) and just 13 losses. In comparison, United’s two triple-crown winning teams registered 74 wins (12 defeats) during the 1999-01 period and 83 wins (14 defeats) in 2007-09.
City has not only been dominant in domestic competitions. It has reached the Champions League final twice, the FA Cup and League Cup finals once, and made one semifinal appearance in the Champions League and FA Cup.
The consistency with which City has remained a formidable force has been made possible through its unmatched spending (barring Chelsea this season), enabling Guardiola to pick and rotate from a strong pool of 18-20 strong first-team players worth over £860m in the past three seasons, something its rivals can’t match.
Manchester is blue: In the last three seasons combined, City has a staggering 85 victories in 115 matches, with three games left and has won a hat-trick of Premier League titles.
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In the recent icing-on-the-cake win over Chelsea at home after it was confirmed champion, Guardiola put out a starting XI which cost £244m while the bench strength was £480m!
Despite the three league titles, what will be highlighted as City’s star-making moment will be the 4-0 drubbing (5-1 aggregate) of Real Madrid in the Champions League semifinal.
The manner in which it dismantled the Goliath of the European Cup would have sounded warning signals across Europe even as City looks on course to win its maiden Champions League crown and complete its historic first treble.
With the best players, the best coach, the best recruiting team and the best network of clubs under the City Football Group, City is primed for the next step in its evolution: world domination.