The inevitable has finally been confirmed in English football. It’s been obvious for several months that runaway leaders Manchester City would win the Premier League trophy. Their surprising 2-1 loss to UEFA Champions League opponents Chelsea last weekend didn’t matter. Manchester United’s decision to field an under-strength side at home to Leicester City resulted in a defeat and City cannot be caught. For the fifth time in the past decade, it’s the blue half of Manchester that’s celebrating.
City’s rise to dominance this season is a reminder that early-season form isn’t everything. A few journalists – and perhaps even some fans – wrote off their title chances in November when the team slipped to eleventh in the table after an indifferent start. Liverpool was still seen as favourites back then, even as Tottenham Hotspur briefly rose to first place. What a difference six months makes. Liverpool will be lucky to qualify for the Champions League. Tottenham Hotspur is out of the running for the top four altogether and parted with manager Jose Mourinho halfway through April. Manchester City and Pep Guardiola stayed focused, found their rhythm, and went on a record-breaking run of consecutive wins that blew everybody else out of the water by February. If Guardiola was ever worried about his job, he didn’t show it.
A lesser manager would have panicked during that brief barren spell. Players would have been dropped, changes would have been made during the transfer window, and tactics would have been re-evaluated. Guardiola, though, isn’t a gambler. We suspect he isn’t the sort of coach who spends a lot of time playing online slots for kicks. If anyone in the Premier League does that, it’s probably Liverpool, who has an official online slots game available at nz.roseslots.com for New Zealand Players, such is their ever-expanding commercial reach. Guardiola is the kind of man who knows that although you can sometimes reap great results from playing online slots, you’ll lose more often than you’ll win. Rather than risking everything, he stuck with what he knew, and he was rewarded for it. He’s since signed a new contract that will keep him in Manchester until the summer of 2024. We can expect City’s ongoing dominance of the game in England to last until at least then.
The first thing that will ensure City remain dominant is that there isn’t a coach on Guardiola’s level available anywhere else in the world. Mourinho’s star has fallen. Ancelotti – one of the great coaches of the past two decades – looks comfortable at his new level with Everton. Zinedine Zidane doesn’t appear to be the elite coach everyone hoped he would become with Real Madrid, and times are so hard at Barcelona that failed Everton coach Ronald Koeman is likely to remain there for at least another year. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, once mocked for his early struggles as Manchester United manager, is now seen as the best man for the job. Even Mauricio Pochettino, who was once seen as an elite coach in the making, has overseen yet another Paris Saint Germain Champions League failure and now looks likely to lose the French title to Lille. Nobody does it better than Guardiola, and so it’s impossible to imagine another English club appointing a coach who can equal his success.
The other big thing going for the Citizens is the quality of their squad. This season they’ll finally say goodbye to Sergio Aguero. The Argentinean striker is the club’s all-time top goalscorer and has been the cornerstone of their success for the past decade. There has been talked of City buying either Harry Kane or Erling Haaland as a replacement for him, but they might not even need a replacement at all. Recently, City has been taking to the field without an orthodox striker at all. Their midfield poses such a threat that the players who play there can handle the goalscoring responsibilities themselves. Phil Foden has firmly established himself in the first team and looks like he has all the tools to become the first genuine English Ballon d’Or contender in twenty years. City’s control of the midfield is how they win games, and this season it doesn’t appear that anyone has an answer to it.
At the risk of making ourselves look foolish in two weeks time, it’s also highly likely that City will finish the season with the Champions League trophy. Yes, they lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final and also in the league, but the Champions League final is a very different occasion. Guardiola knows what it takes to win it and sees lifting the trophy as vindication of the five years he’s spent in Manchester already. Chelsea and Thomas Tuchel will badly want it for themselves, but a determined City side ought to overcome them. Manchester City beginning to dominate Europe is UEFA’s worst nightmare given the club’s fraught relationship with the governing body, but nobody looks likely to be able to stop them. The combination of a perfect coach with perfect players is irresistible. Guardiola has had five years to stamp his authority on his team, and he’s done it perfectly. The more experienced players in his squad are well accustomed to what he expects from them. The younger players – Foden included – have been trained in “the Guardiola way” since they were in the junior team. Until someone finds a way to counter the Manchester City system, they’re likely to be unstoppable.
Even if someone did find a way to put the brakes on the current City team, they have another tool in their arsenal – their enormous bank balance. In the event of an emergency, if there was no other way to turn around the team’s fortunes on the field, they could simply go out and buy whoever they wanted. As well as having the world’s best coach, Manchester City has the world’s richest owners. Money talks in football whether fans want it to or not, and it’s City who can shout the loudest. That’s the factor that guarantees them success not only now but well into the future after Guardiola has said his fond farewells. Get used to seeing players in sky blue lifting important trophies – it’s a sight you’re going to see a lot in the years to come.