It was a predictably easy and uncontested win for Manchester City on Saturday morning, as they resigned Fulham to yet another indication that the season will end for the Cottagers with relegation.
It was an extraordinarily one-sided affair at Craven Cottage and while many did not expect Fulham to put up much of a fight against one of the best Premier League sides ever, the ease in which City flowed through them was astonishing, and luck was on their side in only escaping with a two-goal loss.
City put the pressure back on Liverpool
The positives of having the early kick-off and playing on Saturday instead of Sunday for Manchester City is exactly as suggested; putting the pressure back on Liverpool in the title race proved simple enough here, with Klopp’s men hosting Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Sunday. That should prove to be a much more competitive game than the one that was shown here and City will be hoping for any slip-ups at all to give them what could be the vital edge in the title race.
Neither side have a particularly difficult final end of the season, with Liverpool playing Spurs and Chelsea at home and City playing United away – with that being said, it wouldn’t surprise many if both teams won every game they had left. It has just been refreshing to have a proper title-race this season and it does feel like there is at least one late twist left in the tale as well.
For all of Liverpool’s brilliance this season it is hard to look past City for the crown. Their strength in depth allows them to rotate entire teams and still pick up wins and whilst Liverpool do not rotate as much as their rivals, and have also lost fewer games than them, the draws have recently cost the Reds in their challenge. We didn’t learn much more about Manchester City on Saturday – just that they’re very, very good, and can still be better.
Fulham lack cohesion, personality…and a plan
It is not because of games such as these that Fulham’s fate has been decided, and yet they still let themselves down. Their performance on Saturday was lifeless and tepid as City continually rolled balls into space and cut open the lines between Fulham’s defenders with ease. Both goals, although expertly finished, came directly from Fulham players giving the ball away, with the second goal seeing Fulham make a mistake seconds after they’d recovered from a previous one.
We’ve seen teams of Fulham’s size take one of two approaches against teams like City; either you’re brave and try to match them in attack or you defend deep and hope for the best. Fulham’s performance on Saturday was neither one nor the other, neither attack-orientated or defence-focused – a nothing performance in a nothing season.
The quadruple continues to look likely
The quadruple is the impossible dream for English clubs, the feat that none of the very best Premier League sides have ever achieved. City find themselves less than fifteen games away from this achievement, and having already won the League Cup they have a fantastic chance of winning all of their remaining competitions. They sit a point ahead of Liverpool before the Reds fixture with Tottenham and have drawn Brighton in the FA Cup semi-final which is a seemingly easy passage through to the final (with no disrespect to the Seagulls). They will also face Tottenham in the Champions League quarter-finals which was a fortunate draw for the Citizens and on paper, should be a passage to the next round.
Could they do it? It seems inevitable that they will slip up somewhere and it should not be forgotten that City are yet to make it to a Champions League final. Even Guardiola has not been to that stage since the last one he won at Barcelona so to class them as even slight favourites seems premature. Yet the other two competitions, the FA Cup and the Premier League, are in touching distance, and it will be another astonishing season for the club if they manage a treble as well.
Manchester City are extremely capable of winning fourteen games in a row, even against good opposition – to doubt their potential to achieve the quadruple is to underestimate one of the best Premier League sides ever.
Huddersfield relegated with Fulham soon to follow
Thanks to their loss at Crystal Palace and results elsewhere, Huddersfield Town were relegated from the Premier League on Saturday – the first team to go down in March since that fateful Derby team who finished the season with eleven points. It has been known for a while that Huddersfield are doomed – as soon as David Wagner left the club were pretty much resigned to their fate.
Fulham are almost as bad as Huddersfield but it doesn’t feel like they’ve been planning for the inevitable in the same manner at all, perhaps out of the slightly deluded belief that they might stay up. Relegation could be confirmed as early as Tuesday – Fulham are sixteen points behind Burnley with only six games to play, eighteen points to play for in total and a failure to beat Watford would seal relegation, regardless of results elsewhere. How prepared the club are for this, how ready they are for the rebuilding process, is anybody’s guess.
Sergio Agüero matches Henry’s record, with a staggering 48 games to spare
The beautifully floated effort into the top corner of Fulham’s net was Sergio Agüero’s 228th goal for Manchester City, matching the number that Thierry Henry got for Arsenal. He has done it in 48 games less than the Frenchman, a stat that remains extraordinarily impressive even when considering the fact that Henry did often play on the wing for Arsenal.
Agüero often feels underrated perhaps only because fans do not use enough superlatives to describe his achievements, but it is getting harder and harder to deny the fact that we are seeing one of the best strikers to ever grace the Premier League in full-flow.
His injury problems hampered a few of his seasons for City and one has to wonder what kind of total he’d be on if he had been fit for every game. The knock he picked up on the 57th minute at Fulham will from City’s point of view, hopefully, be nothing serious as the next fourteen games are some of the most important Manchester City have ever played, and to lose a striker like Agüero for even a few of them would be a bitter blow.