IAN LADYMAN: Man City have come up with the blueprint for dominance
IAN LADYMAN: Manchester City have come up with the blueprint for dominance by becoming MORE than just champions… it feels like the club have reached their destination almost 15 years after their Abu Dhabi takeover as they look to seal the treble
- Successive titles are hard enough while hegemony is another level again
- City made winning the league look easy as they rested players in the sunshine
- CITY 1-0 CHELSEA: Julian Alvarez gets the title party started against the Blues
This has been the end game all along. This is what it has always been about at the modern Manchester City. To be here not only as champions but also to be more than that. To occupy a different level to everybody else. To dominate and to rule. To be different than everybody else. To be better.
And now they are here. Not yet a treble. The weeks to come will either deliver that or otherwise. But their position as English football’s dominant force is secure. Five Premier League titles in six seasons. Not since Manchester United opened the Premier League era by winning eight of the first eleven episodes have we ever witnessed anything like this.
It has not been easy for Pep Guardiola and his team this season. Winning the league will never be that. But they have made it look so, blowing past Arsenal with another of those blistering end of season charges to reach this day of sunshine, smiles and rested players as champions with three games to spare.
It was not possible to sit here at the Etihad Stadium and not think back to previous glories. Last year went to the final moments of the final game against Aston Villa. That was a day of drama and racing pulses. And then there was the first one. That was eleven years ago yet doesn’t seem it. Roberto Mancini’s team were title innocents back then. The sun shone that day too but the football didn’t. Sergio Aguero at the death got them home.
But that was all different. None of that was this. They were journey staging posts. Here yesterday it felt like the destination. Almost fifteen years of Abu Dhabi ownership has been building towards this, a day when City’s hold on the English game felt so tight it was hard to imagine it ever being released.
Pep Guardiola’s side has provided the blueprint for total league dominance at Man City
Chelsea gave the champions a guard of honour before kick-off on a sunny day in Manchester
It will be, of course. Wheels turn and eras end. But for now to witness City in their majesty is a glorious thing and it was fitting to a degree that the opponents were Chelsea.
For this is what the London club once had in mind, back when Roman Abramovich placed his wealth at the London club’s disposal two decades ago and his chief executive Peter Kenyon vowed to ‘turn the world blue’. Chelsea threatened to do it. Five league titles and two Champions Leagues represent a significant return on all that money. But domination? No, that never arrived. Indeed only once in two decades – under Jose Mourinho in 2005 and 2006 – did Chelsea win back to back league titles. That, as much as anything, tells us just how hard it is and by extension just how extraordinary Guardiola’s City really are.
Successive titles are hard enough while hegemony is another level again. Simply because someone else always comes along. For Sir Alex Ferguson and United, it was Leeds and then it was Arsenal and then Chelsea and now, most irritatingly of all, their neighbours.
For City that someone has, most consistently, been Liverpool. Seasons like this – with Arsenal falling away – makes you realise just how good Jurgen Klopp’s team have been to even try to keep pace with what has been built in east Manchester. One day Liverpool may well look back and view themselves as the biggest casualties of City’s power. This is a team that over a four-year spell finished three Premier League seasons with 92, 97 and 99 points and only won it once.
That astonishing statistic points to City’s might as much as anything. United, in winning thirteen modern titles, breached the 90-point mark only twice. Yet City have normalised what was once a notable achievement and as well as being the country’s best football team, the psychological hold Guardiola’s side now has over the rest of the Premier League is perhaps like nothing we have seen before.
Liverpool’s 2020 Premier League victory grows increasingly miraculous in this Man City era
Although a far cry from today’s side, Chelsea post-2003 takeover saw success but never created a footballing hegemony
To get here, City have changed in order to mould themselves in to something that was acceptable to Guardiola. Certain intentions and stated philosophies went out of the window. That’s what you do when you have a stellar coach. You give. But that’s not to say it will all fall apart when he leaves.
That is the hope of clubs like United. But it may be a hope clung to in vain. City have grown and improved as an operation during Guardiola’s seven years. How many mistakes do they make in the transfer market now? Kalvin Phillips, who started his first league game for the club he joined last summer, looks like a rare one. But defender Manuel Akanji and Nathan Ake point to a new cleverness.
They cost £35m between them while the sale of Raheem Sterling to yesterday’s opponents carried the hallmark of a club and a coach that has recognised when a player has gone off the boil and been bold enough to do something about it. Sterling took his place in Chelsea’s guard of honour for the new champions here and that must have stung a little bit.
City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak (left) watched the team’s first match as champions
Winning the league keeps Guardiola’s side firmly in the hunt for a historic Treble this season
For sure, City must win their Champions League final against Inter of Milan in Istanbul next month if domestic achievements are not to lose some of their shine. Meanwhile, 115 Premier League charges remain outstanding. If some of those stick, we may start to look at much of this in a rather different way. History will judge City in an alternative light if they are proved to have gamed the league’s financial guidelines.
But until that day comes we will judge City by this, by what they do the field. This was consecutive Premier League win number twelve. During that run they have also beaten Bayern Munich and Real Madrid with terrifying comfort in Europe.
Are Guardiola’s City the best Premier League team we have ever seen? It’s almost impossible to say and while a treble of league, FA Cup and Champions League would bolster their case, it doesn’t really matter.
What they are right now is everything they always wanted to be. When the Abu Dhabi blueprint was drawn up back in early September of 2008, this is exactly what it looked like.
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