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Manchester City turn Premier League into a procession

Manchester City’s domestic dominance under Pep Guardiola has made a mockery of the Premier League’s claim to be more competitive than Europe’s other top leagues.

City sealed a fifth title in six seasons on Saturday with three games to spare, having ultimately seen off Arsenal’s challenge to win the league for the first time in 19 years with ease.

Their dominance looks remarkably like that of Bayern Munich in Germany or Paris Saint-Germain in France, despite a clutch of hugely wealthy rivals in England.

Guardiola’s men can enhance their case to be considered one of the all-time great teams in the coming weeks by matching the achievement of Manchester United’s treble winners of 1998/99 by adding the Champions League and FA Cup.

But they have turned the world’s richest league into a one-horse race.

A takeover from Emirati royal Sheikh Mansour in 2008 has transformed City from also-rans in the shadow of their local rivals into the dominant force in English football.

On the back of huge investment from the Abu Dhabi owners, City have won seven titles in the past 12 seasons.

But they have gone up a level since the arrival of Guardiola, one of the most successful managers in football history.

Only United under Alex Ferguson had previously won five titles in six years, between 1995/96 and 2000/01.

City have done so while rewriting the record books and taking the level required to become Premier League champions to new heights, starting with an unprecedented 100 points tally in 2017/18.

Should they win just two of their remaining three games, City will break the 90-point barrier for the fourth time in six seasons—a mark United only managed twice in Ferguson’s entire Old Trafford reign in a 38-game season.

Questions over the competitiveness of the English top flight would have been raised far more quickly but for the fight put up by Liverpool and Arsenal in recent seasons.

Liverpool racked up 97 points in 2018/19 and 92 points last season but still missed out on the title due to City’s relentlessness. 

In the one season City were denied, 2019/20, Liverpool posted 99 points.

City’s experience shows –

In another era Arsenal could have been out of sight after winning 50 points from their first 19 games this season.

Instead, the defending champions stayed the course and slowly reeled the Gunners in, thanks to a winning streak that started back in February.

“We have a very experienced team and competing in the last few games of the season is not a new situation for us, and that helps us a lot,” said City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan. 

“It’s about staying calm and having trust in your abilities.”

The hope for the chasing pack is that Guardiola is so central to the whole structure of City’s sporting project that the empire will crumble when the Catalan finally departs.

The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss has now won 11 league titles in 14 seasons as a coach.

But Guardiola looks set to be around for another two years after extending his contract to 2025 earlier this season.

The task of dethroning the champions looks greater than ever now that Erling Haaland has been bedded in to add a sharp cutting edge to the control Guardiola craves.

Any suggestion that the Norwegian’s presence would destabilise City’s collective brilliance has been emphatically answered by the 22-year-old’s 52 goals in his debut season.

Haaland’s decision to shun the advances of Real Madrid to come to Manchester was a coup for the Premier League’s ability to attract the top stars.

But league chiefs will be aware that while City’s record-breaking side are grabbing the headlines, perhaps too much dominance could eventually damage the global brand.

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