Manchester City Premier League Champions

Roundtable: Can Man City create dynasty?

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As we continue to break down Manchester City’s Premier League title-winning season, it is time to look at some bigger picture questions around Pep Guardiola‘s latest masterpiece.

Is he creating a dynasty? Where does this City team rank, all-time? How can they improve?

[ MORE: PST’s coverage of Man City’s title win ]

With that in mind the Pro Soccer Talk got together in a roundtable format to discuss Man City’s title win. Here it goes…


What has been the most impressive thing about this Man City team this season?

Joe Prince-Wright: The way Pep’s tactics and philosophy have clicked into place. That doesn’t just happen. City were a long way off a Pep team last season but it takes hard work on the training ground on the small details and all of the players to buy into Pep’s philosophy. They did and it worked splendidly well.

Nick Mendola: The consistent dominance in the deepest league in the world. Forget style for a moment and look at the numbers.

Kyle Bonn: I would have to say the team’s grasp of Pep’s tactics. Last season they just flat out didn’t get it. It never clicked, and that seemed like a huge problem going forward into the long-term. But this year, they’ve slapped the puzzle together and made it work in pretty stunning fashion considering how out of sync things appeared last year.

Dan Karell: (Until recently), it’s been the overall consistency in league play. Man City was dominant from the start and aside from this recent run of form, it has remained the dominant force in the Premier League.


Does the amount of money Guardiola has spent take away from their achievement?

Prince-Wright: A little. It will always be there with City because they’ve come such a long way in such a short space of time and that is down to the huge financial backing from Abu Dhabi. Still, you can chuck money at it whatever way you like (ahem, Man United…) and it doesn’t guarantee success. Guardiola has a plan and he has been lucky enough, as he often says, to acquire top players who can carry out what he wants.

Mendola: It’s a ton of dough, yes, and outspending rivals should make a team the favorite to win the league… but I have a hard time saying a couple hundred million bucks is the reason a team won the league in such impressive fashion with a month-and-a-half to spare.

Bonn: I don’t believe so no. Many top teams in the Premie League either spend similar amounts or at least have the means to do so. It’s easy to nitpick amounts spent, but it’s still very hard to dominate such a competitive league the way they have.

Karell: Not at all. If you want to win in world soccer, you pretty much have to spend, and Man City has not only spent big but spent smartly. Also consider that one of the biggest signings for Man City, Benjamin Mendy, has missed the entire season with a torn ACL and is just returning to fitness.


Are we seeing the start of a new dynasty in the PL? Three titles in seven seasons is impressive, but does it feel like they can easily repeat this success for the next few years?

Prince-Wright: It does. It really does. Manchester United and Chelsea are the only teams to win back-to-back titles in the PL era (United won it three times on the spin twice) but no team has successfully defended their title in a decade. That shows how competitive it is each season and in City’s case they didn’t do well at all the season after winning their first two PL trophies. This feels different and given the finances Pep will get to spend this summer to make City into genuine favorites for the Champions League, plus the likes of Sterling, Sane and Ederson all being so young, there is a real possibility they will dominate the PL for many years to come.

Mendola: Maybe, sure, but the amount of money being spent by Chelsea and Manchester United isn’t going to die down, and Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Spurs… there are a lot of teams who can catch fire for a season.

Bonn: No. Dynasty doesn’t fit Manchester City’s success. Obviously much of how the league views City also has to do with their success in Europe, which at this point is minimal. Especially this year potentially going down to a Premier League team paints them as beatable. It feels like ages ago that Sergio Aguero’s miracle goal won them the league, and they have plenty of work ahead to establish themselves as a “dynasty” like Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United did.

Karell: Maybe. This team definitely has some legit pieces who could win titles for many years, but there are still questions about some of the older players and whether they can keep up the pace in the future. Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling will be around for years as will Kevin De Bruyne, but Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho are all on the wrong side of 30 and play in crucial positions in the spine of the team. Finding replacements for them (though Gabriel Jesus seems terrific so far) will be necessary for Pep Guardiola to keep this team at the top of the Premier League


Which player has been the most important for City this season?

Prince-Wright: I want to say Kevin de Bruyne, and it probably has been, but I’m going with David Silva. You can pick KDB, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling, Ederson, Aguero… they’ve all been very important in their own ways. But Silva has made everything tick and his play has set the tone for the entire team. Defenders give him the ball and he gets things going from that slightly deeper role and he’s still found time to pop up in the box and score or assist. KDB has been the star but City aren’t the same team when Silva is missing.

Mendola: It’s Kevin De Bruyne, though there’s an argument to be made for Leroy Sane. The German on the left side has been the target for so much of Guardiola’s attack. And whatever freedom De Bruyne can manage, often on the right, is somewhat tied to that.

Bonn: Ederson. A ball-playing goalkeeper is so important to Pep’s system, but also that goalkeeper must be, you know, a good goalkeeper. This is where Claudio Bravo failed, and it was a massive problem. Now that Ederson has the goal locked up *and* can play the team out of the back to perfection, the ball movement flows beautifully.

Karell: It’s got to be Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgian has been a maestro in the midfield and thanks to Fernandinho’s strong work cleaning up loose balls behind him, de Bruyne has the freedom to create and set the tempo, leading to goals goals goals.


And which new arrival has had the biggest impact in their debut campaign at the Etihad?

Prince-Wright: Ederson. His array of passing with his feet is unreal. Kyle Walker has done well too but the Brazilian goalkeeper was the calm, possession based stopper Pep wanted after the Claudio Bravo experiment went badly wrong. If you want to find out more about Ederson, here’s a piece on him from myself after I met him earlier this season.

Mendola: Ederson, who exemplified Guardiola’s plans for the goalkeeper position (and showed us why Claudio Bravo was a thought). It might’ve been Benjamin Mendy or Aymeric Laporte with health and a full season, but it’s certainly not Kyle Walker and neither Danilo nor Bernardo Silva played enough to make it count.

Bonn: Ederson, clearly. But at the risk of repeating myself, I’ll pick someone new to talk about here. Kyle Walker was a no-brainer for Pep to snatch and slide right into his system, and it’s gone exactly how most would have expected: brilliantly. Walker is a perfect fit for Pep’s style, and his importance to the squad can’t be overstated

Karell: Ederson. He’s come in and completely dominated the position, ensuring that Claudio Bravo wouldn’t play again. Not only a gifted goalkeeper defensively, Ederson’s ability to pick out a pass from 50+ yards away has effectively given Man City an extra midfielder on a field full of them.


Be honest, after last season did you think it would be possible for Guardiola’s team to dominate this league by sticking to his playing philosophy?

Prince-Wright: No. I didn’t think they could do it. I picked City to win the league but winning it is one thing and winning it with this style is another. A joy to watch.

Mendola: Dominate? No, but there was enough in how they played to imagine they’d be able to contend for the title this season. Kudos to City’s hierarchy for not flipping their collective lid after finishing 15 points behind Chelsea’s first year boss last season.

Bonn: Nope. Not one bit. Between their lack of understanding of the tactical setup and their inability to defend, there was no reason to think this team would end up here.

Karell: Yes. I predicted from the start that Man City would win the Premier League and they lived up to the lofty expectations set by fans and the media (and they themselves, surely). Man City was the best team on paper coming into the season and they proved it on the field too, playing their way.


Where, if anywhere, can this Man City team improve? Where do they need to add new players in the summer?

Prince-Wright: Bringing in Fred to be the long-term replacement for Fernandinho is a good move and I still think they need another new center back with Vincent Kompany not getting any younger and John Stones struggling. Apart from that, pretty set, but they have to keep an eye on the Sergio Aguero situation with the Argentine stating again he will leave in 2020 at the end of his contract to go back to Independiente.

Mendola: Benjamin Mendy returning to health fixes the left back issue, and competition for Kyle Walker at right back isn’t a bad idea. I’d vote for improvements on John Stones and either growth from or competition for young Gabriel Jesus behind Sergio Aguero (who is 29).

Bonn: They probably need to thin the wing-back ranks to get more consistency, but also they need another striker. They’re lucky Sergio Aguero has made it through the season unscathed, because the squad lacks another target man. With Aguero about to summit 30, they could use the insurance. Also, the midfield could use some support as Fernandinho has been spectacular so far but he has nobody who can play that role and Gundogan is injury prone.

Karell: Of course they can improve. The fact that the team was winning games 4-0 and 5-0 masked some defensive issues and they certainly need to get younger in their spine, with Sergio Aguero, Fernandinho and Vincent Kompany all 30-years old or older.


Finally, where will this City team go down, all-time, in PL history? The best team ever?

Prince-Wright: Third best behind the Invincibles and United’s 1998/99 side. Chelsea’s great teams will be in the conversation too but we always remember the more stylish teams and City fall into that bracket. If they had won the UCL, then they would’ve been the best PL team ever.

Mendola: Just behind Arsenal’s Invincibles and United’s 1998/99 squad? Chelsea worth a shout? It’s either The Invincibles or this team, and I’m leaning heavily toward City. Arsenal’s unbeaten team dropped points 12 times despite finishing the league season unbeaten, and City is already 20 goals worth of differential ahead of their pace. The style is similar, but the league is better and deeper now. This season is nuts.

Bonn: It’s hard to slide then in anywhere definitively at this point, but I think they slide in around 3rd. Really tough to argue they go anywhere below that given the sheer dominance. I don’t think they make it above the Invincibles, but they would be a good battle for Man United in the late 90’s or Chelsea’s 04/05 team.

Karell: I think they’re certainly in the top 5 of the Premier League’s history of teams. Their offensive dominance and flair for the beautiful has been fun to watch. I think they’re behind the 04/05 Chelsea team and Arsenal Invincibles but it’s certainly a ridiculously good team and one that will be talked about for many years to come.

How have Man City’s veterans reinvented themselves?

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The new kids on the block at Manchester City have been very, very good this season, but what about the veterans who have now won their third title with the Citizens?

Vincent Kompany, David Silva and Sergio Aguero have reinvented themselves and have undoubtedly improved under Pep Guardiola‘s guidance as question marks around their future at the club hung in the air following the third-place finish in 2016/17.

Yet with Pablo Zabaleta, Joe Hart, Aleksandar Kolarov and Yaya Toure deemed surplus to requirements since Guardiola arrived in the summer of 2016, the Spanish coach believed in Silva, Kompany and Aguero but has had to help all three adjust to new roles and ways of playing to elongate their City careers.

How exactly have they changed their games and adapted to Pep’s methods?

The most dramatic change has been in Sergio Aguero’s game, as the Argentine striker who previously would start shivering and look around in a daze if he went anywhere near the halfway line has now become a mobile part of City’s attack and is popping up out wide and in deeper roles as well as being the Johnny on the Spot the team needs to finish off chances. City missed Aguero badly for the UEFA Champions League quarterfinal defeats to Liverpool with Gabriel Jesus a fine understudy but not yet possessing Aguero’s predatory instincts.

Aguero is now 29 years old but he has now scored at least 20 PL goals in each of his past four seasons and in three of his last four campaigns he has scored at least 30 in all competitions. At City and this season he has added more dynamism and link-up play to his performances as he broke Eric Brook’s record and is now City’s all-time leading goalscorer and is already prepping himself to return to Independiente when his City contract ends in the summer of 2020. He now has 199 goals in 292 games for City in all competitions and his status as not only a City legend but a PL legend is secure.

Speaking of club legends, Kompany also falls into that category as the Belgian center back has now captained City to three league titles in the past seven years. Although the first PL trophy, in 2011/12, will have been the sweetest to end City’s 44-year wait for a league title, this will be a close second, especially for Kompany.

The towering center back has been ravaged by injuries over the past few seasons and his career was in considerable doubt at the end of last season as Guardiola tried to nurse him back to full fitness as carefully as possible, something which seemed to frustrate Kompany. Yet Guardiola’s patience has paid off and Kompany, 32, has delivered plenty of commanding displays this season — the League Cup final win against Arsenal stands out particularly as he had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in his back pocket — as his calf problems have dissipated and been managed expertly with plenty of games off to rest.

He seems to have admitted that his once blistering pace is long gone (due to the injuries) and Kompany now spends more time pushing forward and being tight to the striker he is marking. That suits City’s high-pressing style under Guardiola well and although Kompany has made just 19 appearances this season, you can make a real argument that whenever he is in the team they look more organized and confident defensively. Kompany has reinvented himself in accepting his limitations and, crucially, by working with Guardiola’s medical staff to regain his fitness.

Focusing on David Silva, the 32-year-old Spanish midfielder has had his best-ever PL season and his pulled the strings alongside Kevin De Bruyne in a slightly deeper role in midfield. They’ve been eerily similar to Xavi and Iniesta in Pep’s Barcelona teams and the runs of Silva and KDB into gaps opened up by Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling staying wide have seen Silva grab 11 assists and nine goals, while KDB has 20 assists and 11 goals.

Silva’s reinvention as a deeper central midfielder comes from being in the right place at the right time. Guardiola realized his countryman had the ability to dictate the tempo of the game and everything ticks when Silva is on song. His clever passes round the corners, perfectly weighted cutbacks and surging runs have become a trademark of one of the greatest teams the Premier League has ever seen. Silva is now in his eighth season at City and the $35 million they paid Valencia for him in 2010 is a bargain. Silva will pull the strings for Spain at the World Cup this summer and he is in the conversation for City’s best-ever PL player alongside Kompany and Aguero in terms of his incredible consistency as he’s played in 344 games over the past eight seasons, the lowest games tally being 36 in 2015/16 and that was down to an injury.

Silva’s off-field problems must also be taken into account when assessing his brilliance this season. His newborn son Mateo was born prematurely and he has missed games to travel back to Spain to be with him, yet his play on the pitch hasn’t dropped at all as he dedicated his third title at City to his son who continues to battle.

How does Man City stack up against best PL teams in history?

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Manchester City’s disappointment in the UEFA Champions League shouldn’t define its 2017/18 season, particularly because of the excellence of the squad in the Premier League.

Pep Guardiola‘s second season in England has proven to be an overwhelming success, with the Citizens losing just twice in league action under the watch of the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager.

[ MORE: Areas of improvement for Man City next season ]

City’s brilliance has already resulted in a number of record-breaking feats, including locking up the PL title with five matches remaining in the current campaign. However, the Manchester side is far from done, and there are plenty more records that await the Etihad Stadium side.

With a 16-point margin over rivals Manchester United, the Citizens could very easily shatter the record for largest point gap between first and second place. United did that back in 1999/2000 when Sir Alex Ferguson‘s club finished 18 points above Arsenal.

Guardiola and Co. have looked the dominant side since August, and it’s rare for a club to keep up this sort of brilliance for the course of a 38-match season, and yet City has done so with little struggles for the most part.

Pro Soccer Talk decided to take a look at how Man City stacks up against the best PL sides in league history.

Chelsea (2004/05) — Record: 29-8-1 (95 points) — Most points in PL season

Chelsea (2016/17) — Record: 30-3-5 (93 points)

Manchester United (1999/00) — Record: 28-7-3 (91 points)

Arsenal (2003/04) — Record: 26-12-0 (90 points) — Only unbeaten club in PL history

Man City (2011/12) — Record: 28-5-5 (89 points)

Blackburn Rovers (1994/95) — Record: 27-8-7 (89 points)

Man City (Current season in progress) — Record: 28-3-2 (87 points)

Manchester United (2007/08) — Record: 27-6-5 (87 points)

Man City (2013/14) — Record: 27-5-6 (86 points)

Leicester City (2015/16) — Record: 23-12-3 (81 points)

Clubs like Arsenal’s 2003/04 squad, as well as Chelsea’s team the following season have long been seen as the gold standards in the Premier League. In particular, the Gunners because of their unblemished record in the top flight back in the early 2000s.

With five matches to play though, City can squash the points record by winning three of its matches. That feat is very much a possibility for the incumbent champions due to their fixture list over the final month.

That leaves the question though: how good is this Manchester City side?

Very rarely now in soccer do we see a club succeed without having the financial backing of a wealthy owner. That being said, all the top sides in England on a regular basis have that sort of financial support, particularly City, Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.

It’s quite uncommon to see a club like Leicester City pull off a sustained success like the Foxes did in 2015/16, which made for one of the most dramatic and appealing seasons since the PL’s inception.

Taking factors like money out of it, Man City has been a machine in 2017/18, and Guardiola’s patience and brilliance in building his squad has paid massive dividends.

The club’s depth is nearly unmatched when trying to compare City’s roster to previous sides in the PL.

This year, City has had to deal with a multitude of injuries, including those to Kevin De Bruyne, Gabriel Jesus, Sergio Aguero and David Silva. There have been others as well, but those four have all been tabbed as key contributors to the City attack over the past several seasons.

Names like Benjamin Mendy and Danilo have been rarely mentioned this year for their respective stints on the injured list, which furthers the impression of the team’s depth and quality of reserve players.

The Citizens haven’t skipped a beat in times of angst though, and the two instance where the club faced defeat this season — 4-3 to Liverpool and 3-2 against Man United — were both incredibly close encounters.

The story of this squad hasn’t been completed yet, but regardless of what transpires the rest of the way, this Man City side will surely remain amongst those of the elite in England’s first division.

Areas of improvement for Man City next season

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Many are trumpeting Manchester City’s amazing title season as the tip of the iceberg under Pep Guardiola at the Etihad Stadium.

While the club’s momentum was tired by a pair of losses to Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League and a come-from-ahead failure versus Manchester United, the City set is prepared to smash any number of records by season’s end.

Yet it’s not irresponsible to suggest City will get better in 2018-19. Any argument that teams may figure out Guardiola can be mooted by his players’ increased familiarity with his system. There’s an argument to be made that City will lose more matches based solely on bounces and luck, but Guardiola’s men can perform better even with the stylish demands of their boss.

Here’s how:

Return of Mendy — Benjamin Mendy was a thrilling addition to the team before his ruptured ACL caused him to become more known for his entertaining Twitter feed than anything he’d do with a ball at his feet. Left back was actually an issue for City on several occasions this season, and Mendy’s return to health coupled with increased Danilo familiarity (should he stay) will help the cause more than it hurts it.

English backs get better (or get going) — Of players who played a bunch for City, Kyle Walker and John Stones ranked ninth and 13th according to WhoScored and ninth and 11th on Squawka in terms of individual performances. Walker’s numbers were his worst in three seasons, understandably given his comfort at Spurs and a new system, while Stones has been stagnant for both Everton and City since his breakout first two seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15. Still just 23, he needs to improve to be a part of a top Premier League defense.

More consistency from the right wing — Raheem Sterling can line up on any part of an attack trident, even getting some center forward time, but the league needs to look out if he can continue to improve his service from the right side. Right now, teams focus heavily on Leroy Sane on the left, where Guardiola looks to set up shop more often than not. That’s opened things up for Kevin De Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, and David Silva… now Sterling needs to do the same for Sane, who could have an unbelievable run with a little more space.

Center forward insurance — Sergio Aguero was devastating at forward despite a car accident and knee injury restricting his season so far to 25 matches (21 goals and six assists there is pretty good, huh?). He’s also 29 years old.

Recently-minted 21-year-old striker Gabriel Jesus has 10 league goals this season, but only two since netting eight times in his first 11 matches. Olarenwaju Kayode and Marlos Moreno won’t be the answer in returning from loan spells, and Lukas Nmecha isn’t quite ready to be a reliable part of the club.

Who are Pep’s second and third strike options next year? At least one is probably coming from outside the Man City stable.

Who has improved the most under Guardiola at Man City?

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Which three players have benefited the most from Pep Guardiola‘s guidance this season?

We won’t take the cheap way out and ride young players who looked set for breakout campaigns for any manager — Looking at you, Leroy Sane — though certainly Guardiola has played major roles in their development.

MORE: Ranking each Man City player out of 10
MORE: Jose Mourinho reacts to City’s title
MORE: The Opta numbers behind the title

MORE: Twitter reaction to title win

There are a few to monitor moving forward as the reach a second or third season in Guardiola’s system. Consider Kyle Walker and John Stones, English players who have had fits and starts to life in sky blue.

— Sergio Aguero — Follow us here. Yes, Aguero has long been one of the most prolific strikers in the world, but it’d be short-sighted to forget that Guardiola was talking up how much better the Argentine could be inside of his system (and was even rumored for a transfer away from City during Pep’s first season). At 29 years old, Aguero is in the midst of his best PL scoring campaign in terms of rate — 21 goals in 25 matches — and his production in all comps is his best since the 2014-15 season. Again, he’s 29 and supposed to be getting less done.

— Fernandinho — Unheralded on City’s lightning unit and derided by opponents as a hatchet man, the Brazilian is in the midst of his best season in the Premier League since his debut campaign in 2013-14. He’s currently completing more than 90 percent of his passes for the first time in his career, and owning the air with 2.7 aerials won per game (also tops for his career). His clearances are on the rise as well.

Raheem Sterling — There is question as to whether the youngster will ever be a truly elite finisher, but his electric skill set was so much more than pace this season. Sterling’s positional awareness and even his long-suffering second touch improved as Guardiola coaxed 17 goals and eight assists out of the 23-year-old. Sterling has 10 more goals and two more assists than any of his previous four PL campaigns.

BONUS: David Silva is having an incredible campaign, but it’s hard to say one of the best attackers in club and possibly country history is improving. What Pep has done, however, is supplied a system meant to open up the field for players of Silva’s ilk. It’s worked: Silva has equaled his second-best goal production numbers since 2011-12.