It seems increasingly conceivable that this Manchester City squad will be remembered as the finest in Premier League history when everything is said and done.
Arsenal‘s shocking 1-0 loss to Nottingham Forest on Saturday dashed any hopes of Mikel Arteta’s side surpassing Pep Guardiola’s team in the title race, securing Manchester City’s fifth Premier League title in six years. Only Manchester United, from 1995–1996 to 2000–01, has ever accomplished this feat.
Moreover, this marks Man City’s third consecutive championship, joining Manchester United as the only other team to accomplish this feat. Under the leadership of Alex Ferguson, Man United achieved a hat trick of titles twice.
What makes their triumph even more astonishing is the fact that Manchester City also reached the finals of both the FA Cup and the Champions League. In fact, they overcame Real Madrid in the semifinals to secure a spot in the final of Europe’s premier cup competition and move closer to claiming one of the few trophies that have eluded them thus far.
Having clinched the Premier League title, Manchester City entered the finals against Manchester United and Inter Milan as the clear favorites to complete the “Treble,” becoming only the second English club, alongside Man United in 1998/99, to achieve this milestone.
Over the years, Man City has shattered numerous Premier League records, including being the first club to reach 100 points, achieving the largest margin of victory in a title-winning campaign, and securing the most victories in a single season. Under the guidance of manager Guardiola, the squad has already captured an astounding 10 major titles since 2016.
Nevertheless, despite all of their achievements, no Manchester City team has ever gone this close to making history as this one has. This season, there have been instances when even the other team’s supporters were compelled to take a seat and enjoy the football feast that City had prepared.
Even Arsenal, the second-best team in the league, suffered a devastating 4-1 defeat at the hands of City at the Etihad on April 26, effectively sealing another title for the Manchester club. Arsenal’s strong performances earlier in the season had their fans hopeful of celebrating a Premier League victory by the end of the campaign. The gap in quality between the two teams that evening was so vast that the popular football cliche “men versus boys” falls short of capturing the disparity.
While the final standings may eventually make this championship triumph appear straightforward, that certainly was not the case for the majority of the season. Arsenal held the top spot in the league for a record 248 days, a remarkable achievement for a team that ultimately finished second in the English top division.
As recently as April, Arsenal had an eight-point lead over Manchester City at the top of the Premier League, but that advantage was utterly erased as a result of Manchester City’s unrelenting brilliance and the youthful, inexperienced team’s inability to handle the pressure.
The inevitable City victories each week, led by the unquenchable hunger for goals of new recruit Erling Haaland, undoubtedly took their toll on an Arsenal club that was always watching the pursuing juggernaut.
“All credit goes to Arsenal because they were great and pushed us to the brink.” Kyle Walker, a defender for City, told the club’s website, “We simply went on an amazing run, they had a few hitches, we took advantage of it, and we’ve managed to end up where we have. The players we have are to blame. We are a group of young men who have accomplished a lot over the past several years, and we are aware of the high standards we have established.”
The fact that Pep Guardiola and his team show no signs of relenting will undoubtedly worry their Premier League rivals the most.
Even the senior members of the squad show no signs of declining anytime soon. Players like Kevin De Bruyne, who is only 31 and still incredibly talented, lkay Gündogan, whose future remains uncertain, Riyad Mahrez, who is 32 and remains a vital part of Guardiola’s ambitions, and Kyle Walker, who is also 32, demonstrate that age is not hindering their abilities.
Interestingly, despite all the talk about Manchester City’s strength in depth, no team in the Premier League has used fewer players than Man City’s 23 this season. This highlights the efficiency and effectiveness of Guardiola’s squad management. Furthermore, Guardiola himself, who had previously cited exhaustion as the reason for not staying at a club for more than four seasons, is now set to complete his seventh season in charge at the Etihad. He seems as motivated as ever, having recently signed a contract extension through 2025.
Guardiola was recently referred to be the “main piece” of this City team by defender Ruben Dias.
The Portuguese international told mancity.com, “Obviously, the team is vital and, in the end, it is the players that play on the pitch, but he is undoubtedly the head of everything, and we play the game through his eyes. “He has won everything, and he wants to continue to win. That hunger starts all over again every season – that’s his biggest quality.”
Dias also referred to Wednesday’s crushing victory against Real Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal as being “pretty close to perfection,” and this club is unquestionably the closest to perfection of any in the history of the game.
Financial fair play investigation
However, there is a cautionary note for supporters of other teams amidst City’s success.
In February, Manchester City was referred to an independent commission by the Premier League due to over 100 alleged breaches of financial regulations. The charges pertain to the club’s failure to provide proper financial information from the 2009–10 season through the 2017–18 season, during which time the Abu Dhabi United Group acquired the club. If found guilty, Man City could face penalties such as a suspension, point deduction, or significant fines.
Manchester City expressed surprise at the allegations and welcomed an independent review of the matter. The club is reportedly contesting the validity of the investigation, including the involvement of Murray Rosen, a prominent lawyer associated with Arsenal, City’s championship rival.
Sports attorney Nick De Marco suggested that the case could take up to four years to reach a resolution when he spoke to the BBC in February. While Manchester City’s future off the field remains uncertain, on the field, they continue to establish their dominance and are in an excellent position to carry on their reign of success. However, there is a concern about whether fans worldwide will fully appreciate their on-pitch achievements, given the alleged financial irregularities off the field.