Record breakers, precedent setters. Manchester City have enjoyed a landmark season in the Premier League, setting a standard for the rest of English football to aspire to. Manchester United secured second place on Thursday night, but the way they did it, with a goalless draw against West Ham, underlined just how adrift the chasing pack are from Pep Guardiola’s side.
Indeed, City are well-deserved champions, one of the best teams to have ever won the Premier League if the hype is to be believed. Their points tally, which could stand at 100 come this weekend, suggests this to be the case. But it must be pointed out that Guardiola and his players haven’t exactly faced much in the way of stiff competition this season.
This was best illustrated in the way Chelsea played against Manchester City in a 1-0 defeat at the Etihad back in March. Concerned with merely limiting the damage the runaway leaders could inflict, the Blues showed no ambition to attack. At times, they walked, strolled, within yards of the ball. It showed how many in the Premier League viewed the challenge of taking on City.
Next season could be very different, though. The competition should be better-equipped, better coached. Chelsea, for one, will have a new manager and most likely a whole host of new signings too. Manchester United will also dip into the transfer market as Jose Mourinho takes the club closer to his grand vision, whatever that may be.
Arsenal will be freed from the shackles that have restricted them in recent years, with Arsene Wenger finally stepping aside to signal a period of fundamental change at the Emirates Stadium. There might not be fundamental change at Spurs, but Mauricio Pochettino will be expected to take his side to new levels next season, and given the success he has enjoyed in North London he cannot be counted out.
Then there’s Liverpool, who have really hit their stride since the turn of the year. Since the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in the January transfer window. The Reds’ run to the Champions League final, which saw them blow away Man City in the quarter finals, has hinted at their full potential. The task next season will be to realise that in the Premier League. Of all the sides aiming to challenge City’s supremacy, Liverpool look best-placed to actually do so.
Across the board, there should be an improvement in quality in the Premier League next season. Of course, it should be pointed out that Manchester City will be hoping to improve as well, with the Abu Dhabi-owned club sure to spend big once again in the summer. A number of targets have already been linked with a move to the Etihad.
However. focus next season will be on the Champions League for Man City following two disappointing European campaigns under Guardiola. In a sense, the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich manager’s reputation is on the line in the Champions League and so that could distract from domestic matters going forward.
But these are the challenges that great teams face. To be considered among one of the very best sides Manchester City must find a way to compete on all fronts and this summer will provide them with the chance to add depth to their squad. Any holes will be plugged, any weaknesses will be addressed. This is the other side of the coin.
Guardiola is a master when it comes to winning league titles, claiming four of the last five he has contested. There’s little reason to believe his Manchester City side will fall away in the way previous title winning teams have at the Etihad under Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini. But they might not stroll to the championship like they have this term. Things might be somewhat tougher.
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