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Manchester City: The serial Premier League winners who don’t do twists and turns

Rodri was key for Manchester City throughout their campaign (Martin Rickett/PA)
Rodri was key for Manchester City throughout their campaign (Martin Rickett/PA)

As Manchester City celebrate their historic fourth successive Premier League title – and sixth in seven years – it is remarkable to think some considered them third favourites just last month.

April began with City having just been held to a goalless draw by Arsenal, a result which not only cost them the chance to leapfrog the Gunners, but left Liverpool standing alone at the top.

Yet as the Merseysiders have learned only too well in recent years, this is not a City side that should ever be doubted.

Phil Foden shone throughout Manchester City's campaign
Phil Foden shone throughout Manchester City’s campaign (Martin Rickett/PA)

This time Liverpool’s challenge was to fade before the final straight but the Gunners bounced back from a slip-up at the hands of Aston Villa to take the fight to the final day.

It was arguably one of the great Premier League finishes but that defeat to Villa, a full seven games before the end of the season, was all the opening City needed.

In the past there would still have been time for “twists and turns” but City, in the era of Pep Guardiola, simply do not do twists and turns. Once a door is left ajar, time and time again they have shown they not only push it open, but charge through it.

That is a tribute to the enduring quality and mentality of this superb squad and, above all, the mastery of Guardiola.

Manchester City did not drop a point after their draw with Arsenal in March
Manchester City did not drop a point after their draw with Arsenal in March (Martin Rickett/PA)

There may be times in the autumn or winter when City can dip below their usual standards and be picked off. Arsenal themselves proved that by beating them at the Emirates in October, while there was also a loss to Wolves and points dropped against Crystal Palace and an underwhelming Chelsea.

But come the new year, and certainly the spring, City click into gear. The intensity lifts and the required results are almost invariably found.

Guardiola has never wavered in how he wants his teams to play, and when their fluid style is allied to individual ability and a fierce determination to win, they become a fearsome force.

Arguably the squad was not as strong or dominant this season, and the performances not as polished as recent years.

Manchester City had to replace Ilkay Gundogan
Manchester City had to replace Ilkay Gundogan (Martin Rickett/PA)

Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez have not been replaced with like-for-like quality while Erling Haaland, Kevin De Bruyne and John Stones have missed large spells through injury. Jack Grealish was also unable to build on his impressive 2022-23 season.

Others have stepped up, however. Phil Foden has matured into a playmaker of some stature while the team have been unbeaten whenever the formidable Rodri has played. There have been other contributions throughout the team and the cameos of back-up goalkeeper Stefan Ortega have been as important as any.

It should also be mentioned that Haaland and De Bruyne have delivered in abundance when fit, of course.

Kevin De Bruyne (left) and Erling Haaland have contributed when fit
Kevin De Bruyne (left) and Erling Haaland have contributed when fit (Adam Davy/PA)

There does remain an elephant in the room, with nobody knowing what the outcome will be when the 115 charges the club face over financial irregularities finally come to a head.

But, in purely footballing terms, this is a special group. Winning four titles is an extraordinary achievement, another in a growing list for Guardiola’s City along with last year’s treble and their 2019 domestic clean sweep.

In this mood it seems unlikely this – or completing an unprecedented second successive double next weekend – will be the summit of their accomplishments.