Pep Guardiola has completed a historic three-peat as Manchester City have been crowned champions of England yet again.
Manchester City have managed to come out on top in an intense title race with Arsenal. The Gunners were leading the race for the majority of the season, but City managed to peak at the right time and overcame the Arsenal challenge.
Manchester City won the league title on Saturday without even kicking the ball as Mikel Arteta’s men lost to Nottingham Forest. It won’t be wrong to say that the Gunners to an extent have gifted the title to City. However, Pep Guardiola’s men have surely done their bit to deserve this victory. And, they celebrated their triumph on Sunday after managing to win 1-0 against Chelsea.
With yet another Premier League title in their name, Manchester City have now won three PL titles in a row. That is a feat that only Manchester United have achieved in the past. And, in the past six seasons, they have won it five times.
With the league title done and dusted, Manchester City will now focus on the FA Cup final against Manchester United and the UEFA Champions League final against Inter Milan. Pep Guardiola’s men have a chance of creating history as they eye a treble.
Only one English club has ever managed to win the treble. It was Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United that did it back in 1999. City have an opportunity to equal the Red Devils, and they look all set for it.
Meanwhile, Manchester City have dominated the English top flight in a manner no one has ever seen, and they have been by far the best team in England for the last half a dozen years. But, this time around, it was not that easy for the Blue side of Manchester to lift the title. So, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at how they managed to pull it off.
Erling Haaland: Arrival of a Goal-Scoring Beast
Erling Haaland grew up supporting Manchester City as his dad played for the club.
He's now won the Premier League with them in his first season.
Every young footballer's dream ❤️ pic.twitter.com/HQE6imqY3q
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 21, 2023
Manchester City won the race for the services of Erling Haaland ahead of the ongoing season, it was the first step towards the ultimate dominance. They triggered his release clause of around €60 million to land him at the club.
Haaland got going right from the start, and it did not even take him a few games to settle in the Premier League. The manner in which he was scoring goals suggested that he was born to dominate the English top flight. Prior to the former Dortmund forward’s arrival in England, there were question marks on whether he would be able to repeat his Bundesliga heroics in the Premier League.
But, the 22-year-old has already shut his critics with record-breaking numbers. In his very first season, Haaland has broken the record for most Premier League goals in a single season. The former Dortmund striker has overtaken Andy Cole and Alan Shearer’s tally of 34 goals.
Haaland has 36 goals with two games still to go. He also has seven assists to his name in his 34 league outings. Overall, the 22-year-old has scored 52 goals and has eight assists in his 50 outings. His numbers are outstanding and people might consider him the biggest reason for City’s dominance but in reality, he is just a small part of it.
Departure of Joao Cancelo: A Blessing in Disguise
In search of perfection, Pep Guardiola started trying out a back three with two holding midfielders in front of them midway through the season. The MancheesterCity manager wanted to control as much of the ball as possible and have no threat on his goal.
It resulted in decreasing game time for their full-backs. Joao Cancelo was not happy with his declining game time and had a spat with Guardiola. It did not go down well with the Spanish boss, who decided to offload the Portuguese full-back who was crucial to his team’s success over the past two seasons.
At that point in time, the decision was criticised as Manchester City were left with no proper first-team left-back in their ranks. However, when we look at it after the end of the season, it looks like a blessing in disguise. Cancelo’s departure meant Guardiola couldn’t shift back to a proper back four and his only way out was to make the 3-2-4-1 system work. And, it seems he has managed to pull it off just in time.
Kevin De Bruyne: The Ultimate Menace on the Loose
Pep loves when Kevin De Bruyne yells 🗣️ pic.twitter.com/lVgIXeXRjI
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) May 20, 2023
In Pep Guardiola’s 3-2-4-1 formation, Kevin De Bruyne and İlkay Gundogan feature as attacking midfielders. The three at the back and two holding midfielders on top of that give them enough defensive cover to go all-out attack.
De Bruyne, in general, is amongst the best creative midfielders in the world. He can create goals from impossible angles with pinpoint delivery and can even score bangers from outside the box when needed. In short, the Belgian midfielder was the deadliest weapon in Guardiola’s arsenal.
And, when combined with the striking force of Erling Haaland, they form a pair that is second to none in world football at this point in time. However, this is not what makes City the most deadly team in the world. While these things do contribute to their success, formation is the key.
Guardiola plays two attacking midfielders for a reason, he wants one of them to stick to a conventional attacking midfielder’s role and allow the other to roam around freely and join the attack from wherever needed.
Gundogan and De Bruyne start in these roles; the German international plays as a conventional attacking midfielder and sticks to his position. Meanwhile, the Belgian roams around freely. And, even since the 31-year-old has been handed this free-roaming attacking midfielder’s role, he has started to dominate games on his own.
The oppositions are no longer able to man-mark him as he does not tend to stick to a position. And, everyone is well aware of the fact that if the Belgian international gets time on the ball, he can pull off things very few in world football can. This transition of his is an important reason for City’s dominance in this season.
Manchester City and a Perfect Fusion of Defenders and Attackers
The mastery of Pep Guardiola. 🧠 pic.twitter.com/KrtEJX4uGp
— Premier League (@premierleague) May 21, 2023
Once again the formation is what makes it tick, it allows Guardiola to field five rock-solid defenders and five world-class forwards. The Spanish manager plays four centre-backs in his 3-2-4-1 formation, and the fourth defender plays as a holding midfielder alongside Rodri who might be a midfielder but his strength is the defensive side of things.
So, in short, Guardiola deploys five defenders on the pitch and none of them is a full-back or even if he is, the role is that of a centre-back. All five of his defenders have exceptional passing abilities and are masters when it comes to playing out from the back.
With full-backs out of the picture, the risk in their playing style reduces allowing them to have more possession of the ball. His five defenders form a rock-solid base which allows his forwards to go all-out attack. When it comes to the attack, he has five attackers on the pitch. He starts with two wingers out wide, two attacking midfielders and an out-and-out striker.
His two wingers are players who don’t have raw pace rather they have exactly the playing style Guardiola needs for his plan of total dominance. They have the ability to dribble, they don’t take unnecessary risks and are safe in possession. Now, his decisions to let go of players like Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling does make sense because Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish are more suited for a safe and possession-oriented style of play.
The two attacking midfielders, one who controls the pace of the game and sticks to his positions and the other who roams around and strikers when he wants to. Gundogan controls the pace and De Bruyne does the damage.
Up front, he has the deadliest goalscoring machine in Erling Haaland. This formation and the players allow Guardiola to control the four phases of the game: in possession, out of possession, attacking transition and defensive transitions.
The Spanish tactician who led the Barcelona revolution back in the day might have found the formulae that will lead him to glory as the boss of Manchester City. Guardiola’s new formations and the tactical innovation of fielding a team with five attackers and five defenders could possibly change the game of football forever. For now, it might lead him to the Champions League title and might help him complete the treble.