The Manchester City and Pep Guardiola project

Throughout the years the Premier League, England’s first division, has been blessed with talent. This talent has come in the form of players, managers and, most importantly, teams.

Since the league debuted in the 1992/1993 season there have been a few clubs that have remained at the top, including Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool as the more traditional big clubs, along with the likes of Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and Leeds United.

In recent years there has been a change with the emergence of Chelsea, Manchester City and, admittedly to a lesser extent, Tottenham Hotspur.

Each of these clubs has had their ‘golden era’, where their team was arguably one of the best in the league and on more than one occasion, the best team in the world.

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It is hard to start anywhere but with Sir Alex Ferguson, the most dominant manager in modern footballing history.

In 26 years of managing Manchester United, he ensured their survival before mustering up 38 major trophies which included a mere 13 Premier League Titles, 5 FA Cups and 2 Champions League trophies. Not a bad career when it’s all said and done.

Ferguson ended his career with an incredible ability to win huge games and trophies with seemingly average players.

Now, having Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Roy Keane, the Class of 92 and a host of other world class players certainly didn’t hurt his cause but the fact that eccentric twins Fabio and Rafael have multiple Premier League titles as regular first team members (Rafael far more than Fabio, to be fair) stands testament to the coaching and managing abilities that the Scotsman possessed.

Although United haven’t seen the same success since his departure, Ferguson’s time at the club ensured that they will always be in the discussion for the best club in the league, if not the world. The teams he produced such as the 1999 treble winning side and the 2008 side which brought European and domestic glory to Old Trafford, once again, will always be in the conversation for some of the best teams in English and footballing history.

For as long as I have been watching football there is one rivalry that every neutral football fan has an interest in, Manchester United and Liverpool, and it is easy to see why.

The Premier League era has been dominated by Manchester United whereas the old First Division was dominated by the red sector of Merseyside. The two most successful teams in English football history and without question the two biggest clubs in the land.

Liverpool had more success in the earlier years, as I said, before the Premier League, but let’s not kid ourselves, Liverpool are still a huge club and will always be held at that standard.

Although they have only won one title since the renaming of the top tier, the Scousers have consistently churned out world class players and brilliant sides with some of the best players to ever grace England’s footballing grounds.

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Players such as the magnificent Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez and Xabi Alonso are the type of players who deserve to have a Premier League title to add to their other achievements including Champions Leagues and FA Cups.

The seemingly unlucky trait that these Liverpool teams carried around for years was eventually dispelled by the geggenpress, high intensity, highly entertaining and ruthless side that Jurgen Klopp has assembled.

The perfect blend of talent, hunger and passion spearheaded by one of the best goal scorer’s the competition has ever seen, Mo Salah, and backed up with the Dutch Dynamo Virgil van Djik has ensured that the Anfield faithful no longer have to wait for a real chance to be at the pinnacle of English football once again.

The exciting style that has made Liverpool one of the world’s most feared outfits, also ensures that they belong in the conversation for the Premier League’s best ever team.

Arsenal are in the same boat with Liverpool in terms of having success at the start of the Premier League and not replicating it as the years went on.

Although Arsenal have consistently stayed at the top end of the table they have not been able to keep up on the success the achieved in earlier years, with the emergence of teams such as Chelsea and Manchester City.

However, when Arsene Wenger first came to England, it’s safe to say he brought a brand of football that was completely foreign to British soil.

Wenger implemented a style of possession based football that was centred around the technical ability of his players and the solidarity that players such as Patrick Vieira, Tony Adams and Martin Keown offered.

With those three mountains of men around, it allowed the brilliance of Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry and Robert Pires to express themselves and operate with complete freedom.

The Arsenal Invincibles were a side full of flair and excitement partnered with a rock hard core that guided them to a whole season unbeaten in the league.

It is impossible to have a conversation regarding the best teams in Premier League history without including the only team in competition history to go the full 38 games without losing.

Although recent Arsenal sides have struggled to replicate the feats that these earlier teams did, they still play with flair and under Mikel Arteta have adapted to the modern version of Arsene Wenger’s playstyle, which will bring them success sooner rather than later. As a Spurs fan, I find it very hard to admit, but I am trying to be as unbiased as possible.

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The first club in England who saw a major cash influx to the extent that it could seriously affect the direction of the club was Chelsea with Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who purchased the club in 2003.

The impact was immediate for the Blues as the Special One, José Mourinho, guided the club to their first top division title since the 1954/55 season and first league title in any manner since the 1988/89 season when they clinched the old Second Division.

Under the guidance of Abramovich, Chelsea have navigated success through a host of different managers that have included Mourinho, Ancelotti, Benitez and club legend, Frank Lampard.

Chelsea have brought in a host of players throughout the last 18 years but the basis of their success was built off players such as Frank Lampard, John Terry and Didier Drogba.

These players brought in the early success under José that included Premier League titles and graduated to European Glory under Roberto Di Matteo and most recently the European success has come under Thomas Tuchel who has gone against Chelsea’s apparent reputation to have no faith in academy players.

Mason Mount, Reece James and Trevor Chalobah would have you disagree with that and I’m sure Tammy Abraham and Fiakyo Timori may also have their opinions on that matter.

Arguably Chelsea’s best team that they have fielded in the Premier League era was in the 2004/05 season when they only conceded an astonishing 15 goals.

That team was littered with talent; along with the three legends I already mentioned, they had Petr Cech, Claude Makelele, Joe Cole along with a host of other players who could be attributed with the ‘legend’ tag.

Now to the protagonist of the article, the biggest benefactors, so far, of huge financial investment and, in my opinion, the most exciting team in the world at the minute, Manchester City.

The only thing I can remember about City from when I was younger was Richard Dunne, Shay Given, Stephen Ireland and co. being spanked 8-1 by Middlesbrough. Then the influx of cash began to attract new players, beginning with the Brazilian showboat that was Robinho.

Since Roberto Mancini’s 2011/12 side, they have won four more Premier League titles and do not show any signs of slowing down.

Their elegant play style and sheer dominance of the football has been integrated by the masterful Pep Guardiola has brought about some of the best football the English game has ever seen.

His expansive style of attacking play is something that he started in Barcelona with the likes of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta and has brought to the North of England, ingulfing the world in it’s beauty.

To me, it is football in its truest form. No fear, a clear tactical structure but in a way that allows his players to play with freedom.

Now, I will admit I am reluctant to place any Manchester City side beside some of the teams that I have mentioned earlier in the article, just yet. But, my question is, when do we start to realise and admit that this side may just play the best football the English game has ever seen?

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Let’s go to the beginning of Pep’s reign in Manchester. He arrived to the Etihad Stadium after a stint with Bayern Munich in which his management was questioned due to his inability to win a Champions League while at the German footballing stronghold.

He spent 2013 to 2016 at the Bavarian side before making his switch to the English game, a time in which he won three Bundesliga titles, two DFB Pokal, one Club World Cup, and one UEFA Super Cup.

It was hardly a failure in any sense of the word, but being unable to win a Champions League with such a star studded squad left doubts over his tactics and people wondering whether or not he tends to be almost too smart at times, something we will come back to later in the timeline.

However, in his time in Germany, the only teams that won the Champions League were Barcelona and Real Madrid. They are two of the best sides in recent memory and especially for the Zidane-led Real Madrid, possibly the most prolific European outfit that there ever has been, so although he didn’t win the Champions League, it would be ridiculous to say that they weren’t a brilliant side who were just beaten by two superior sides.

Although he did face criticism in Germany, there wasn’t a single football fan worldwide who was not excited to see him test his ability in the best league in the world and it’s safe to say he’s done well so far.

His first season in charge ended in a third place finish with Bleacher Report football posting a picture on their social media pages basically saying that Pep was drowning in the pressures of the Premier League. The Americans, will they ever learn?

Since then Pep has gone on to win three Premier Leagues, with City favourites to win their fourth in five years at the end 0f the 2021/22 season.

This instant success has come due to the brand of football he sets his team up with. All 11 players must be able to actually play ball, no goalkeeper is just there to keep clean sheets (Joe Hart) and no centre half is there to just win tackles and hoof long balls, each player is part of Pep’s plan to play true football.

Unsurprisingly, City have scored the most goals and collected the most points during the Spaniard’s tenure so far, one of the most dominant periods in Premier League history. That’s the reason why this conversation needs to happen, if they are not up there with the best sides in Premier League history, then when?

There have been many rumours that Pep would relish another challenge in another league or possibly at the International stage but the prospect of assembling the most exciting, most successful and therefore best side the Premier League has ever seen may just be too much for him to resist.

If Pep decides to stay for, as an example, ten years, and wins seven or eight titles, how could someone argue that they are not the most dominant side ever? Throw in a couple more League Cups, FA Cups and perhaps the illustrious Champions League title or two and you could easily beg the question whether they are the best team of all time, without any of your mates looking at you as if you’ve just said that Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi (a discussion for another day).

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One accusation that Manchester City and Pep will always face is that their success only comes from their extensive transfer budget and a seemingly endless need for new top quality players.

However, not every top quality, big money transfer just works out when they move to a new club. Although they spend a substantial amount of money, Pep is one of, if not the best at developing players into the best they can possibly be.

The endless list starts at Barcelona and has continued at City with players such as Phil Foden, Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sané, Raheem Sterling and it goes on.

As I said, these players already ooze potential, but when Pep starts working with them he turns them into world class talents, players capable of playing his brand of football, at the highest level.

Not every coach can get the best out of top players, but Pep has shown time and time again that all the money in the world doesn’t produce a top side and for me, means that that argument could never be used.

It’s an excuse people will use because they don’t want to accept the brilliance of this manager or this team and will be something they will constantly face.

In my opinion, they play some of the best football I have ever seen, one of the most dominant sides that have ever graced the game and will win a Champions League sooner rather than later to tie it all together.

I know a lot of people won’t like me saying this but I think, if Pep stays and continues on this path, they will go down as the best team the Premier League has ever seen.

The Author

Jack Murray

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