Two quotes this week show the confidence flowing through Manchester City, and why a quadruple discussion is as valid as its ever been for the Etihad Stadium set under Pep Guardiola.
The first came at midweek, when City calmly dissected Borussia Monchengladbach in the away leg of their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie. The second on Saturday after City got goals from its center backs in a 2-1 defeat of West Ham.
[ MORE: Three things from Man City – West Ham ]
They come from players, but let’s first address Pep Guardiola’s thoughts after Saturday’s win, City’s 20th-straight in all competitions and 14th in the Premier League.
“To have 20 wins in this period, I think this could be the greatest achievement we have done,” Guardiola said. “It doesn’t mean we have won the title of course, but in winter time in England, every three days a game, COVID-19 situation, injuries… winning, winning, winning shows strength, mentally.”
City hasn’t won the title but will hold a minimum 10-point, maximum 13-point lead with 12 matches to play after the weekend.
Stones states City intent
Stones joined Ruben Dias on the score sheet in the 2-1 win over West Ham, where he delivered our second quote.
“We go about our business in our own way and keep fighting,” Stones said. “We are playing the football we were a few seasons ago. We have fighters in the dressing room. It has been an incredible few months. We are in every competition to try and win them.”
So what does that mean? We outlined City’s status atop the Premier League table and the side has a 2-0 lead after 90 minutes of the UCL Round of 16 versus Gladbach while taking an away goals edge back to a place they score plenty of goals and rarely them (let alone three).
City has to beat Tottenham in the League Cup final and meets Everton at Goodison Park on March 20 in the FA Cup quarterfinal. Bournemouth-Southampton, Chelsea-Sheffield United, and Leicester City-Manchester United will produce a potential semifinal opponent should they beat the Toffees.
It’s both as likely and unlikely as ever that a club manages to win three one-off finals against deserved finalists plus run their league gamut. Unlikely because anything can happen over 90 minutes and likely because this City monster is consistent and brilliant in its attack and defense.
Bernardo’s midweek comments highlight confidence; Guardiola playing chess
The first quote came Wednesday after City beat Gladbach 2-0.
Before Guardiola begrudgingly accepted City’s favorites label, deferring to reigning UCL champions and former club Bayern Munich, it was Bernardo Silva who delivered the goods on- and off-the-field.
“We have a map, a way of playing,” Silva said. “Players get injured or cannot play and our style doesn’t change.”
Guardiola said “The way we play belongs to us” before Saturday’s game, and the resoluteness of his comments should not be mistaken for arrogance.
There’s an earnestness to City’s play that we’ve seen from champions of yesteryear, literally in the case of Liverpool. Among the differences between the two genius managers in question — and you could write a book on this — is that while the Reds’ determination comes from a relentless pressure and almost always the same system, what City will do each game is a question mark.
And, as Guardiola continues his longest run with a single club, it’s looking straight-up galaxy-brained.
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta raised some eyebrows prior to his side’s 1-0 loss to his former club last week when he revealed that Guardiola had always wanted to play without a true center forward.
Guardiola has now managed 273 matches for City, 112 more than he did at Bayern and 26 more than his incredible run at Barcelona. It seems like, with Ruben Dias and Rodri completing the puzzle, that this is essentially Guardiola’s Endgame.
Whether that puts City or Liverpool in the role of Avengers or Thanos likely depends on the jerseys in your closet, but for neutrals it’s a delight.
Man City stats over dynastic run are stunning
We’re living in an era of, arguably, two Premier League dynasties.
You cannot discount that Liverpool’s injury woes are the main reason they are not an easy second place to City.
You also cannot say any team is in City’s ballpark over the last four years. Barring an epic collapse, Guardiola’s men are going to easily win the league despite scoring less, producing less, holding the ball less, and taking more points.
The defense has been much, much, much more impressive than the numbers indicate because they include the wayward period when City opened the season by allowing seven goals in three games. They’ve allowed nine in 23 since that run.
Saturday was the first time City was outproduced in xG, as West Ham held a 1.93-0.76. That’s just the third time City has conceded more than 1.00 xGA since the start of its winning streak.
On top of that, Guardiola’s 132 wins in 4 2/3 Premier League seasons are more than Crystal Palace in 11, West Brom in 12, and current Championship outfit Stoke City collected in 10.
Stat (per game) | 17-18 | 18-19 | 19-20 | 20-21 (to date)
Goals: 2.79 | 2.5 | 2.68 | 2.0
xG: 2.40 | 2.46 | 2.69 | 2.02
Possession: 66.4 | 64 | 62.6 | 61.2
Passing: 89 | 89 | 89.3 | 89
Goals against: 0.71 | 0.61 | 0.92 | 0.61
xGA: 0.65 | 0.68 | 0.97 | 0.75
Points: 2.63 | 2.57 | 2.13 | 2.38
xPTS: 2.39 | 2.39 | 2.28 | 2.22