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Manchester City made history on Saturday by becoming the first club in England to complete the domestic treble, thrashing Watford 6-0 in the FA Cup.
The statistics behind Pep Guardiola’s domestic football dominance are staggering. They have accumulated 198 points over 2 Premier League seasons, notching 50 wins this season, and had three players surpass 20 goals this season and (7 in double figures). This all came from a season where last year’s best player in Kevin DeBruyne missed half the campaign with an injury.
Farewell to a Legend
On Sunday morning, City captain Vincent Kompany announced he was leaving the club after 11 years in Manchester. It’s testament to Kompany as a man that he kept his departure away from the public domain in the buildup to the conclusion of City’s Premier League campaign and Cup Final appearance. In doing so, his departure didn’t prove to be the disruptive sideshow that was Steven Gerrard’s long goodbye from Liverpool.
Kompany’s parting gift was his thunderous winning goal against Leicester that swung the title race decisively in City’s favor. However, at the age of 33, he was only likely to play a small role.
Pundits have been quick to claim City will dominate the next five years of English football, so can anyone stop them? The biggest threat to City’s dominance will inevitably come from Liverpool. Jurgen Klopp’s side took the title race to the final day of the Premier League season, finishing just a point behind City.
Liverpool should start next season in a stronger position than last with Fabinho and Naby Keita now bedded into a midfield that will also be boosted by the return of a healthy Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. With a young team, Liverpool can expect to be competing for major honors into the foreseeable future, barring any of their stars handing in a transfer request.
Of the other members of England’s big six, Manchester United are in the early stages of a lengthy rebuild. Arsenal are still transitioning from Arsene Wenger to Unai Emery, while Chelsea are facing a transfer ban and the imminent departure of Eden Hazard. Tottenham have a strong first eleven capable of competing on their day, but lack depth behind their best fifteen players to compete over a full league campaign.
As for the rest of the Premier League, Leicester City, Wolves and Everton are improving young sides trying to challenge the top six, and although they’re not going to win the Premier League next term, they will have a big say in who does in their games against the top two.
A Summer of Change?
Contrary to some rumors, Pep Guardiola is not on his way to Juventus. The manager has never walked out on one club for another while under contract. Guardiola’s current deal expires in two years, and it would be a surprise if he stayed beyond that. Guardiola will stay for one or two more seasons and then take a sabbatical before a likely move to Serie A.
The more immediate issue for City is that their squad is older than Liverpool’s. In the Liverpool squad, only James Milner (33), the peripheral Adam Lallana (31) and Simone Mignolet (31) are over the age of 30. Klopp’s likely strategy this summer will be to extend Milner’s deal, move on from Lallana, Mignolet and Daniel Sturridge, and tweak his squad with younger talents.
On the contrary, City have Sergio Aguero (30), David Silva (33), Fernandinho (34), Nicolas Otamendi (31) and Claudio Bravo (36). Guardiola’s summer priorities are a left-sided centre back to succeed Kompany, with Harry Maguire often mentioned. In addition, they are in need of a holding midfielder to replace Fernandinho, with Atlético Madrid’s Rodri on his radar. Silva has been the most consistent player at City for a decade and they appear to have his long-term replacement in the precocious Phil Foden.
Aguero is coming off another marvellous season, but as previously shown by the likes of Wayne Rooney, Robin Van Persie and Fernando Torres, once top strikers begin to regress, their decline becomes rapid. It’s unlikely Agüero will regress much next season, but his future is open to question, and even a minor drop-off from Aguero would have serious repercussions for City.
There could be further changes afoot with Ilkay Gundogan sending mixed messages on his future with just a year left on his current deal. Leroy Sane is rumoured to fancy a move back to his native Germany as Arjen Robben’s replacement at Bayern. Meanwhile, Guardiola is thought to be considering the future of Benjamin Mendy. City have the financial clout to sign who they want, but with changes come risk, and imports can take time to acclimatize to the pace of the Premier League.
More importantly, City’s squad was perfectly weighted this season with everyone contributing and Guardiola rotating as necessary. If City find themselves with greater numbers this summer, that balance will be upset.
Fans of both Liverpool and Manchester United have been quick to point out their club’s treble winning seasons of 1984 and 1999. For all their domestic dominance, this club season will end with City fans having to watch two other English clubs contest the Champions League Final.
City have never quite fallen in love with European competition. Whereas United and Liverpool fans talk of great European nights at Old Trafford or Anfield, the Etihad has never quite had the same.
City’s issues with UEFA reached a new flashpoint last week when UEFA’s Independent Financial Control Board recommended sanctions against City for alleged breaches of Financial Fair Play and financial doping. If the UEFA charges and then convicts City, they would face a one year-suspension from the Champions League.
At this stage, City haven’t been charged and any sanction is unlikely to come into effect before the 2020-21 season. However, it does make reaching a Champions League Final a more urgent priority for the club. Retaining the Premier League was always going to be City’s biggest goal for this season, having previously failed to mount a robust defense of their 2012 and 2014 titles.
With Kompany gone and other changes afoot, Manchester City will look a different next season, but there’s little doubt they’ll be title favorites as long as Guardiola is in post. Liverpool aren’t going away, and while others will seek to close the gap, there’s no doubting who are England’s top dogs this summer.
Featured Image: ITV.com