Manchester City’s Unstoppable Record
Manchester City is 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League table, with Pep Guardiola’s men enjoying a 21-match winning streak in all competitions.
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The Manchester City FC-Liverpool FC fixture has always been an exciting match to watch in the last decade. The two sides are in constant competition to emerge as Premier League champions, and with star players such as Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and City’s Kevin De Bruyne, there is a lot of anticipation behind the game. Last season, when the two sides met at Anfield, Liverpool emerged victorious, starting a win streak that ultimately crowned them Premier League title winners. Manchester City finished in second place that season, 18 points behind Liverpool, and many speculated that City manager Pep Guardiola’s time at the club was over. However, seven months later, Manchester City is 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League table. Guardiola’s men sustained a 21-match winning streak in all competitions before Manchester United defeated them at Etihad Stadium 2-0. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all clubs have suffered through sickness or loss of form, and Manchester City has had its fair share of problems as well. The question is, how have the Cityzens maintained this victory run? Was it just a case of their considerable financial investment aiding the club, or did Guardiola find the right solutions to his problems by implementing a strong system?
Before the 2019-2020 season ended, City said farewell to some of its main squad players. Winger Leroy Sané left for FC Bayern Munich, center back Nicolás Otamendi left for SL Benfica, and club legend David Silva departed for Real Sociedad. As a replacement, Guardiola brought in Ferran Torres from Valencia and center backs Rúben Dias and Nathan Aké from Benfica and AFC Bournemouth, respectively. He also promoted young starlet Phil Foden, who is now playing a bigger role in the squad, to the main team. At the beginning of the season, things were looking shaky for the Blues, who suffered a 5-2 loss against Leicester City FC in September. Guardiola faced immediate pressure, finding himself at 14th place at one point, so he began to switch up his options. He stuck to a normal 4-3-3 formation, which switched up to a 4-2-3-1 at times, and his main strategy was to control possession and look for openings.
With Aké suffering from an injury and Eric García wishing for a move to FC Barcelona, Guardiola stuck with Portuguese center back Dias and English center back John Stones in the heart of City’s defense. Dias has incredible influence on the team, and though Stones had a difficult last season, he has performed exceptionally well lately. The duo has one of the best defensive records in Europe, conceding just six goals in 18 games together. As for full backs, Guardiola has benched left back Benjamin Mendy and instead played either left back Oleksandr Zinchenko, right back Kyle Walker, or alternating full back João Cancelo. Zinchenko and Cancelo have greatly improved since last season, and Walker has been a revelation for the Cityzens with his incredible speed. These full backs have always given their best on the pitch and contributed to City’s defensive record.
After Guardiola solved City’s defensive problems, he focused on improving their midfield and attacking threat. For defensive midfield, he stuck with the Spaniard Rodrigo “Rodri” Hernández Cascante or the Brazilian Fernando “Fernandinho” Luiz Roza, both displaying impressive performances. As for City’s attack, star player Sergio Agüero suffered from a knee and hamstring injury along with COVID-19, and creative playmaker De Bruyne dealt with a muscle injury. Guardiola needed to find the perfect solution yet again, and he did with German İlkay Gündoğan. In previous seasons, Gündoğan has played a defensive role in midfield, but Guardiola has allowed him to set the tempo and keep the ball moving quickly this season. Currently, the German is enjoying his best goal-scoring season, with 13 goals in 30 games. It’s not only Gündoğan who stepped up in place of the injured as well. Bernardo Silva and Foden have been a massive contribution to the team, keeping consistent performances when they play in midfield. Additionally, attackers such as Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus, and Torres have been performing well this season. All have played an equal part in scoring goals and making assists in the final third.
The main reason Manchester City has functioned efficiently as a team this season is because of its chemistry and excellent performances. It’s not just a single player stealing all the credit, but rather the whole team working together. From City’s incredible defensive record to its impressive attacking output against their opponents, it’s no wonder that the squad is enjoying life at the top of the Premier League table. Many avid soccer fans argue that the only reason City is at the top is because of its extensive budget support after being purchased by Abu Dhabi United Group. While it is true that City has been able to find replacements for injured players with ease, money does not equate to chemistry. You can have all the money and star players you want, but if the players don’t have an understanding of the game plan with one another, your team will have a problem on its hands. Even with the devastating loss against Manchester United, it’s pretty clear that Manchester City will continue to dominate the Premier League, and if team chemistry and composure are maintained, they can possibly contest for European trophies.