Manchester City has well-surpassed expectations this season, what’s next for everyone else?
With the curtains coming to a close, Manchester is blue after 33 games. On their road to the title, Manchester City broke several Premier League records – total points (97), total number of wins (31), total number of goals (105) and consecutive domestic wins (18). The Citizens achieved all these, with one game left. This marks City’s third domestic title since the Abu Dhabi United Group takeover, and notedly the third different manager to attain this feat. Aside from that, this also means the end of Yaya Toure’s spell at the club after 316 appearances.
The last time major records have been broken were of course in 2003–04, where a Thierry Henry-led Arsenal cemented their name in history to be the first and up till now, the only Premier League club to be unbeaten through the course of a full 38-game season. Chelsea previously held the record for most wins in 2016-2017 with an impressive amount of 30.
In other leagues however, like the Serie A, two other teams have been named Invincibles. The 2011–12 season saw Juventus go undefeated and carried that form into the next season, tallying 49 consecutive games before succumbing to an inspired Inter Milan. 1992’s A.C Milan did the same albeit a shorter 34-game season, but held their streak for 58 games.
Outside of the “Big Five” league, Celtic together with a redemption-seeking Brendan Rodgers, completed the domestic 2016–17 season unbeaten in 47 league and cup games, winning the Scottish Premiership, Scottish Cup and Scottish League Cup for a historic unbeaten domestic Treble.
The total goals scored by City, at a staggering 105, is two more than Chelsea in the 2009-2010 season but a little shy of Real Madrid in the record in the 2011-2012 La Liga season (121). I’m impressed at how City dominated the assist table, with the top four spots filled by Kevin De Bruyne, Leroy Sane, David Silva and Raheem Sterling, totalling 52 assists. Tasked with putting the ball at the back of the net, Sergio Aguero contributed 21 goals, Sterling with 18, and Gabriel Jesus with 12. Perhaps it’s just an opinion, but on the surface, there seems to be little to no ego on the team, nobody hogs all the glory, and the cultivated habit of sharing the ball has led to amazing chemistry within the team.
Do keep note that City not only leads the league in goals per match (2.84), but also the total number of passes (27653). What intrigues me the most is their tendency to not use the staple tactic of playing crosses or high balls. City is ranked 15th in the league for crosses, with Tottenham Hotspur leading the pack. Guardiola has tactically used the players in his disposal (and splurged) to replicate a more physical Barcelona-styled team to adapt to English football. Prioritising possession, passing, killer through balls that releases players for runs, using precise ball movement and player positioning to create chances. His depth of players with a knack for sparking explosive runs delivered as promised. You wouldn’t be surprised with City leading the league in through balls (115).
The end result? A historical record-breaking offensive performance.
Quietly on the other end of the spectrum is a superficially dejected Barcelona, who just got dumped out of the Champions League in dramatic fashion by Roma who rose spectacularly from their ruins. Coutinho is probably confused right about now, after leaving Liverpool who is due in the finals against Real Madrid. Sure, the Catalan giants swept Sevilla in the Copa del Rey final 5-0, but meagre cup triumphs do not represent their success.
As silent as they have been since their defeat to the Giallorossi, Barcelona is on the brink of setting an unprecedented La Liga record – the unbeaten season. What makes this even more extraordinary is the likes of Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Valencia in their heyday, all co-exist in the league. And none of them has even come close to it. With two games to go, one against Levante and the other Real Sociedad, the Catalonians has a pretty decent chance of clearing the final pair of hurdles.
It is truly puzzling to find the Champions League finals will be between two clubs currently fourth in their domestic leagues. Yet teams such as Paris St Germain, Bayern Munich, Barcelona, and Manchester City who decidedly won their respective leagues by a landslide, are not participating in Kiev.
Hopefully, an Egyptian god by the name of Mohamed Salah will bless Liverpool with their 6th Champions League title and in the process help himself to the coveted Ballon D’Or.*
*At the time of writing, Mohamed Salah had not taken part in the last game. As of the last game, Salah was injured and forced off the pitch after 20 minutes, while Liverpool lost the match, losing the chance at the Champions League title.