football

OPINION: Are Manchester City set to Dominate the EPL?

April 03, 2018

- Grant Whittington

Unless you’re a Manchester City fan, the current Premier League table makes for truly grim reading!

Under the brilliant guidance of Pep Guardiola, the Citizens have moved to within touching distance of the EPL title, with the side currently 16 points clear of bitter rivals Manchester United with just seven games remaining. In fact, City can secure the title if they beat second placed United at the Etihad Stadium next weekend, with the club having already won the League Cup and reached the Champions League quarter final.

In the post below, we’ll look at the achievements of Guardiola’s City this season, while asking whether or not the club are set to dominate the Premier League?

Will it be a Record-breaking Season for City?

In many ways, the knives were out for Pep Guardiola during the Spaniard’s first season in England. After all, he endured the first trophyless season of his career at the Etihad, enduring a second-round Champions League knockout and finishing third in the Premier League (15 points behind winners Chelsea).

The seeds of growth and improvement were sewn during this time, however, with City overcoming a relatively poor autumn to only lose two of their last 20 EPL games in 2016/17. Guardiola then spent millions during the summer, adding pace and dynamism to a creaking defence and unleashing Kevin de Bruyne and the timeless David Silva as a dominant partnership in central midfield.

The results have been truly staggering, with City having only lost once in the league this season and won a staggering 27 of their 31 games so far. They have accumulated 84 points and plundered 88 goals during this time, with just six more wins required to ensure that they become the first club to break the 100-point barrier during a Premier League season.

With the League Cup already banked and Liverpool standing in the way of a Champions League semi-final berth, there’s no doubt that this could be a record-breaking season for the Blues in more ways than one.

As if this was not enough, Guardiola has also cultivated a brand of football that has taken the Premier League by storm. More specifically, the Spaniard has taken the principles of the possession-based, high pressing game that he deployed at Barcelona and tailored it to suit the Premier League, with City adopting a slight more direct and high-tempo approach at times.

The relative lack of technical ability in the EPL has also ensured that Guardiola’s City boast incredibly dominant possession statistics, enabling them to apply relentless pressure during games and wear down even the most packed of defensive units. This has also translated into the league’s best defensive record, with City having shipped just 21 goals in 31 games and played the vast majority of games camped in the opposition’s halves.

This unique and aggressive style is one that City’s opponents have struggled to cope with throughout the season, with neither excess physicality, deep defending or rapid counter-attacking able to keep them at bay for long. With this in mind, there are already some who believe that City could be set to dominate next season too, as they potentially lay the foundations for a long and glorious dynasty.

Will City Continue to Dominate the EPL?

There’s certainly plenty to assert the idea that City will dominate for the foreseeable future, and not only on the field of play. The club is also incredibly well resourced, of course, with Guardiola and previous managers (including Manuel Pellegrini and Roberto Mancini) having all spent heavily since the Sheikh Mansour-takeover in the summer of 2008.

Unsurprisingly, City have the highest net spend of any Premier League club during the last five years, with a grand total of £563,100,000 having been invested in the playing squad alone. This is more than £100,000,000 more than nearest rivals United, and more than double that of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs.

So, with an already talented squad and an endless supply of cash to spend, City are well placed to sustain their place at the top of the English game. With Guardiola at the helm, they also have a philosophy and an identity that could translate into European success, although the Spaniard did fail to win the UCL during his three-year stint at Bayern Munich (having inherited a Champions League winning team in 2014).

While these factors may point to a period of dominance for City (domestically, at least), the club is likely to face a number of challenges in the months and years ahead. One of these undoubtedly lies in the form of city rivals United, who are once again expected to spend lavishly under Jose Mourinho this summer in an attempt to chase down their rivals.

Despite his numerous detractors, the Portuguese has already built a formidable squad at Old Trafford, while star performers like Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez and Romelu Lukaku all have the potential to develop further in the months ahead. If these individuals can reach their full potential in a typically disciplined and street-wise Mourinho side, the gap between United and City could well be diminished next year.

Then we come to Liverpool, who are improving under Jurgen Klopp and remain the one side to beat City in the league this season. They did this with a breathtaking display of intense pressing and high-tempo counter-attacking, which exploited the huge swathes of space that Guardiola’s teams leave behind them with their high defensive line. At one stage during the second half, Liverpool led 4-1 and were in complete control, while Klopp’s approach may serve as an inspiration for other managers to follow in the future.

There are a couple of issues with this suggestion, of course, not least because Liverpool’s aggressive tactics can also play directly into City’s hands. Their failure to shut-up-shop against Guardiola’s side mount an inspired and ultimately futile comeback at Anfield, for example, while it also saw them lose 5-0 in the return game at the Etihad in September (albeit with 10 men).

Not only this, but few teams pack the pace and penetration boasted by Klopp’s side, meaning that many would struggle to hit the Citizens on the break so effectively.

The Last Word

 Ultimately, it’s impossible to determine whether City are poised for a prolonged period of dominance. Much will depend on how their rivals react to to this season’s procession, as well as the ability of EPL sides to improve and counter Guardiola’s aggressive tactics.

A great deal will rest on the shoulders of the players themselves, particularly those who have served the club so well this season.

After all, enjoying sustained success requires tremendous hunger and consistency, as well a desire to continually improve (both individually and collectively). Without this, City will struggle to dominate the league or maintain the incredibly high standards that they’ve set this term.

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