With Man City now having wrapped up their third Premier League title, questions are being asked as to exactly how any team could even think of challenging them next season. City won the title quite comfortably and sent records tumbling in the process – just about the only one they didn’t manage to either equal or break was Arsenal’s unbeaten season. Otherwise, it has been a wonderful season in the blue half of Manchester, and one pundit has claimed that this is now the Citizens’ chance to go on and dominate the English top flight for years to come. That man, of course, is record Premier League goalscorer Alan Shearer.
Shearer, who won one Premier League winners’ medal during his playing days, believes that Pep Guardiola’s men have got “a hell of an opportunity” to make the league their own moving forward. Of course, the first 20-or-so years of the Premier League were largely dominated by Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, but since Sir Alex retired five years ago we have seen three different teams lift the trophy. Those three were Chelsea (twice), Leicester City (once) and of course City (now twice). With defending champions Chelsea not having a great time of things this season, however, City would seem to be just about without match in the English game at the moment.
OK, United finished second in the table – but they were some 19 points adrift, and that is a huge gap to bridge if the Red Devils want to reclaim the crown. Not content with that, Chelsea themselves finished 30 points behind City – so there will have to be an awful lot of work done in west London if Antonio Conte’s men are to mount a serious challenge next time round. They won’t have the distraction of Champions League football of course, but Europa League commitments will still feature in next season’s fixture list.
The main problem facing City now, really, is identifying exactly what is needed to maintain their place at the summit. That may not sound like too bad an issue to have, but the main reason that it exists at all is because they have looked so good all over the pitch. Ederson is a wonderful goalkeeper, John Stones seems to be rising to the level expected at the Etihad and of course moving forward City are a potent threat. Any front line with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, David Silva and Raheem Sterling is going to strike at the very least outright respect (or at the most outright fear) in the hearts of the opposition.
The only men who would clearly be a safe bet to improve the already sublime side would, of course, be the world’s elite – the Neymars, the Messis, the Ronaldos, or for want of a better term, the Galacticos of the footballing world. But would even they truly improve the team? Of course they are players of the highest calibre, but as any football fan will tell you – it’s not the player that wins the title, it’s the team. OK, someone like Ronaldo can take a game by the scruff of the neck and drag three points out of it, but to quote the old cliché, the season is a marathon, not a sprint. And in the players already on City’s books, they look perfectly equipped to operate as one cohesive unit, their fluidity and versatility allowing for a combination of team sheets on any given day to see the challenge through and emerge with the win.
Then again, Liverpool have an equally threatening front line, and if they can just plug the few gaps elsewhere on the park it could be argued they may be preparing to leap forward to be the next primary challengers to Guardiola and co’s throne. United have quality throughout too, and despite some unrest and dissension among the supporters relating to the manager’s conduct they can’t be discounted either. All things considered City’s approach to this summer’s transfer market requires a very delicate, precise approach with a definite, achievable vision at the end. It may be a good time to be a City fan, but perhaps a tough time being Pep Guardiola. Then again, he knows what he is doing too – it may be tough, but it isn’t impossible that City could be on the cusp of a period of domination just as Alan Shearer has suggested.
Play the newest EPL Fantasy game here!