Pep Guardiola is often lauded as a master of his craft, practically and intellectually.
And while there have been some masterful seasons by his outfits of the past, this Manchester City job, of which remains unfinished, might be amongst the more precious gems of his career. We all remember the teams that Pep Guardiola ran at Barcelona and the dominance he experienced as a young boss coaching, at that time, current and future legends of the club and sport. We all remember the remarkable season City had just two seasons ago, dominating teams and the season so remarkably despite being chased by a very talented Liverpool club at the same time.
But in a season, the second in a row, in which the COVID-19 pandemic has interfered, interrupted and caused havoc across European football and the world at large of course, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City showed off a bit. While they looked a bit off center at the start of the season, it didn’t take very long, in retrospect, for them to show their mettle. The only question remaining in England is who finishes below them, and where?
But they’ve looked as brilliant on the Continent itself for European play, as they have in England for their three domestic obligations. They are still in contention for the absolutely impressive “quadruple”, and were they to win it, there would be little doubt as per my claim. A Champions League crown, Pep’s first since Barcelona and Messi, would surely fill the Catalonian with a pride that he would never admit to in a million years; yet winning all three trophies in England would surely mean a great deal to him as well.
England: No Easy place to Play, even for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City
Pep wants to win the Champions League, don’t get me wrong of course. But to win it in conjunction, alongside of, a domestic treble, would surely impress upon him just how good, how deep, and how resilient his own squad is this year.
It is worth noting of course that this squad, the one currently up double digits on its cross town rivals, number two positioned Manchester United, has far more goals from its midfielders than from its forwards. I merely mention this because that squad has gone for long stretches of time without one of the best players in the world who happens to also be a midfielder.
Yet without Kevin De Bruyne for large stretches, Ilkay Gundogan has enjoyed his best, most productive professional season during the 30th year of his life. His sixteen goals and three assists across all competitions is staggering for a player not known for his offense; he has simply been everywhere he needs to be, whenever he needs to be there.
But we should also look at the rest of the players, for Sergio Kun Aguero, the man who just announced that he would be leaving the club he became a true Premier League legend with, has also been out for almost the entire season. Names like Jesus, Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling have all shown their class, some to greater acclaim than others, and for all the flack that Pep has received regarding his defensive spending, that too has appeared better than in recent memory.
John Stones, formerly of Everton, has looked like a breath of fresh air in comparison to recent seasons, while Ruben Dias has looked positive as well. Joao Cancelo, Erica Garcia, Kyle Walker and Aymeric Laporte have all shown their varying qualities across the Citizens backline as well. Should this form stretch beyond the end of this potentially quadruple winning outfit, City could once again, after only a year off, be the team all other English clubs look up towards.
It would also leave all of Europe staring up at City, who would have to be considered amongst the more dominant teams of recent years. Pep Guardiola would like that. He would like all of that. Yet he will likely never say as much, which of course suits him better anyway. He will let his players do the talking for the most part, and right now, his players are playing much louder and ferocious than any of his competition.