No Premier League team has been in as strong a position as Pep Guardiola's Manchester City
Pep Guardiola's side have won their third Premier League title in four years, changing the landscape of English football. The Premier League has had dominant teams before, but nothing like what has been built at the Etihad Stadium. Rather than being caught, City are more likely to only get stronger as the gap on their rivals gets bigger.
With Manchester City officially crowned champions, the cold silver of the Premier League trophy will be familiar to the touch. It has, after all, ended up in their hands in three of the last four seasons.
Last season, of course, saw red ribbons tied on the trophy, but despite strong opposition from Liverpool over the last few years this particular era of Premier League history belongs to Pep Guardiola and his relentless, unparalleled City side. Their dominance has cast a sense of foreboding across English football.
Three titles in four years might only be the start for City. Talk of a generational transition gave rivals hope that Guardiola might struggle to build another great team following the apparent end of a cycle last season. Yet, with Vincent Kompany and David Silva gone and Sergio Aguero set to leave this summer, City have powered through a transition many predicted would shake them.
Never before in the Premier League age has a club found itself in as strong a position as the one Manchester City find themselves in now. Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side won three straight titles between 1999 and 2001, but the threat of Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal was always there. They did the same between 2007 and 2009. However, Ferguson’s advancing years put a date on United's supremacy.
Chelsea and Jose Mourinho dominated the English game for a period, but the Portuguese’s own volatility was a threat to the establishment of any real premiership at Stamford Bridge - and so it proved as he was sacked amid friction with Roman Abramovich. Guardiola, however, is shielded from City’s owners due to the club hiring a number of his close friends to serve on the board.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson looks on as they celebrate winning the Barclays Premier League, after the game
Image credit: PA Photos
At this point, it’s difficult to envisage what might cause the downfall of Guardiola’s City. The two-year ban from the Champions League meted out by UEFA last year had the potential to knock them from their stride, but the successful appeal has emboldened City even further. Financial Fair Play (FFP) has no real power to stop clubs spending what they like.
And Manchester City have more to spend than most. Their resources will always give them an advantage, but they also know how to use their resources more efficiently than anyone else. Look at how City quickly moved through a number of central defensive targets last summer before ultimately securing a deal for Ruben Dias, now a Player of the Year candidate.
While the Premier League is often guilty of enjoying the smell of its own flatulence, it’s true that it has produced a broader cohort of winners over the last 15 years than any other of the ‘Big Five’ European leagues. It would be hyperbolic to claim anyone can win the Premier League, but its wider range of potential winners has long been a key part of its appeal.
Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne have been central to Manchester City's tactical evolution
Image credit: Getty Images
Guardiola and City are changing this, if they haven’t already done so. Inter are the only team with a greater lead at the top of a ‘Big Five’ European league than City this season, and they just won their first title win in over a decade. Liverpool managed to keep pace, and even surpass City for a spell, but Jurgen Klopp and his players appear to have been mentally and physically drained by the experience.
Manchester City have the most resources, the best sporting structure, the best manager and the best players. There’s no rational argument that projects their demise. Consider if City add a natural goalscorer like Erling Haaland or Harry Kane, both linked with the club, to their squad this summer - what chance does the rest of the Premier League have?
None of this is Manchester City’s problem. It’s up to their rivals to close the gap. They cannot rely on City falling away. Upon taking over at City, Guardiola’s detractors told him he wouldn’t dominate English football like he had done in Germany and Spain. Since then, the Catalan has dismantled this argument along with every other Premier League opponent and there’s no reason to believe he will stop any time soon.