Man City: Champions elect?
With eight games to go, City are 16 points beyond rivals Manchester United in the Premier League title race. When the gap was just 11, Pep Guardiola told a Mirror reporter he had not expected to run away from the pack so easily, that it was "unreal" and "not normal".
That said, it's no accident City are on top. Guardiola's master plan has simply been more masterful than even he anticipated. This could be just the beginning.
Adapt but don't change
Props must be given. Pep never changed his style; he just changed the components (i.e. the players). His debut season began and ended like a nightmare. Which is to say everything seemed wonderful and perfect before the bottom dropped out.
After a flying start, the season unravelled in October. Many among the old guard weren't capable of producing the technical discipline Guardiola demanded. When they could, they were undone by Pep's biggest mistake, Claudio Bravo.
Everton, Leicester, and Chelsea all had their way with City mid-season. The manager who had looked like a duck taking to water was suddenly struggling to stay afloat.
In addition to the questions being asked on the pitch, the Catalan was unprepared for those coming in the pressroom, and the subsequent criticism across the media landscape. He invited even more by refusing to abandon his methods.
Fast forward a bit more than a year, and he has made his detractors eat their words. Most of the older players were shipped out. Guardiola then recruited younger, more coachable replacements.
The manager's adjustments have paid off like a winning lottery ticket. The first trophy was a baby step, the EFL Cup in February. Now the side is set to win the Premier League with victories in its next two matches.
Even if it takes longer, it will happen. The most important aspect of the journey has been Pep's self-belief. His philosophy never changed.
City’s stellar season
An eighteen-game winning streak, multiple club and player records have all happened this season. City went unbeaten in 28 matches across all competitions. Sergio Aguero became the club’s all-time top scorer. The Argentine has already hit 30 goals in what should be his most prolific season.
The Champions League remains a possibility. Should the Sky Blues fall short, this will still be their greatest season.. They’ve already surpassed their goal totals for the previous three seasons. Chelsea's record is within reach. Their points tally is on course to shatter the Premier League record. After 30 games, their points-dropped total remains in single figures (9).
Will they break more records? Yes. Will Pep’s side drop any more points? Probably. With April being such a busy month, they’re bound to draw at least one. Will they lose one? Guardiola won't be happy even if they take a day off after the title is won. Fans and owners remain fixated on the Champions League, especially considering the investment. The club sent a statement in that regard by plucking Monaco’s brightest talents after their defeat last season. Will Pep be able to inspire his side to greater glory? We shall see.