Manchester City have been a joy to watch this season. Leading the way at the top of the Premier League table, Pep Guardiola’s side are a class above their domestic rivals and a first Champions League triumph is still up for grabs. After a hit-and-miss first campaign in charge, Guardiola’s influence has been clear for all to see this season. City have gone from potential contenders into one of Europe’s elite club sides in the space of six months, playing some Barcelona-esque football in the process.
The Citizens have been champions-elect since before Christmas but the wait to regain the domestic title is almost over. At the beginning of the 2017/18 campaign, City were a general 2/1 shot to win the title and bettors have been lining up to collect winnings for a while. Guardiola’s men have been in complete control at the top of the division and it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see a period of dominance for the blue half of Manchester now. This City side is superior to their domestic rivals in every way.
Defence wins championships?
Building a solid defensive unit was Pep’s main priority in the summer of 2017 and the City boss did not disappoint. There were a few eyebrows raised at Kyle Walker’s £50 million price tag but the England international has flourished under Guardiola’s leadership. He was the best right-back in the Premier League whilst at Tottenham Hotspur but he is now arguably the best right-back in world football. Pep has helped Walker to hit new heights this season and he could feature prominently at the Etihad Stadium for many years to come.
Targeting goalkeeper Ederson Moraes was a stroke of genius. A relatively unknown quantity in English football, the former Benfica shot-stopper has blossomed into a consistent pair of hands between the posts. A huge upgrade on Claudio Bravo, Ederson’s distribution is simply sublime and that is a key reason for his early success at the Etihad. Keeping possession is key to Pep’s style of football and he demands excellence from every member of his squad. To be fair, Ederson is probably better on the ball than Danny Welbeck.
Fabian Delph project is nothing new
But perhaps most importantly of all, Guardiola sees certain qualities in players that most managers can’t. Take Fabian Delph, for example. Something of an outcast in the previous City regimes, Delph is now a pivotal figure in Pep’s squad; the former Aston Villa captain has made 17 appearances for the Blues so far in 2017/18. Delph, a central midfielder for most of his career, has transformed into a reliable option at left-back and Guardiola deserves praise for his transition. Versatility is one of his favourite traits in football.
You only need to look back at Guardiola’s work at Bayern Munich and Barcelona to see that this philosophy is nothing new. Pep has been doing this for years; Philipp Lahm is the prime example of that. He transformed Lahm from an out-and-out right back into Bayern’s star defensive midfielder in the space of a single season, a rather extraordinary feat when you think about it. This is Pep Guardiola’s universe; we’re all just living in it. Sometimes you just have to sit there and recognise greatness.
Relentless City set up for future success
Just look at this Manchester City squad – it is young, vibrant and hungry for success. Pep will be targeting Champions League glory in the coming months and victory in Europe’s elite club competition would see his stock soar. City fans will be calling for a gold-plated statue of Guardiola outside the Etihad and with good reason. The club have been through some tough times over the years and this is their golden era. City had to watch Manchester United lift trophy after trophy during Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign but it is now their turn to dominate.
Pep knows that City are heading in the right direction and supporters will be expecting more success in the near future. Defending the Premier League title has to be City’s number one objective next season; that and winning the Champions League. From now on, the Blues will expect to challenge in both competitions. Pep has set the bar high but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Success brings expectation and if there is one man who can cope with expectation and keep City at the top, it is Pep Guardiola.
Throughout the 2017/18 season, Manchester City’s Champions League odds tumbled, as they asserted their dominance both domestically and in Europe. Guardiola led Barcelona to two European victories during his time at Camp Nou and his former club may be City’s main rivals in this competition. Whether Pep’s men go all the way to the final this season or not, City are getting closer to that elusive Champions League triumph and it would be foolish to bet against the Blues on current form.
Stratospheric rise to prominence
Remember the embarrassing 8-1 defeat away at Middlesbrough in 2008? Less than 10 years later, City have blossomed into the Premier League’s driving force. The top flight is more competitive than it has ever been and City’s dominance is testament to Pep’s work. There was talk of an unprecedented quadruple but City’s FA Cup exit to Wigan Athletic ended those hopes; that will be Guardiola’s aim for the future. Dominating all four competitions would eclipse any previous achievement in English football.
Pep’s Manchester City are on an upward trajectory and they will not stop until they conquer Europe. A Champions League victory will see City announce themselves as major players on the big stage and silence any lingering critics. Guardiola has done that himself through style and substance; City have taken the beautiful game to new heights during his early tenure. But there is so much more to come. City fans, more success under Guardiola is a certainly – the blueprint for an Etihad dynasty is well and truly in place.