After accumulating an impenetrable 16 point lead at the top of the table, this season’s Premier League title is Manchester City’s to lose already, and you’d be brave to bet against them.
Fresh off the back of his first baron year as a manager, Guardiola had a point to prove and his team has responded in the most majestic manner. Scintillating fluidity in attack may be the trademark of Pep’s side this term – coupled with defensive stubbornness and an ability to win games, it’s a combination that separates the Citizens from the rest.
Conversely, a decade ago the notion of Manchester City winning a treble would seem farcical, they were at best languishing in the realms of the mid-table. On the first of September 2008 their transition to Premier League powerhouse would begin, a £200 million takeover was announced by an Abu Dhabi based investment group, instantly flexing their financial muscles, breaking the British transfer record acquiring Robinho for £38 million that same day.
This would prove to be a costly mistake as the Brazilian failed to acclimatise to English football, promptly departing two seasons later. Despite this, City’s new owners showed great intelligence the following transfer window. A hallmark of their tenure has been the ability to rectify each setback, instead recruiting proven Premier League goal scorers Carlos Tevez and Emmanuel Adebayor, propelling them from tenth to fifth narrowly missing out on Champions League football. Since Robinho, many of those initial purchases such as Kompany, Silva, and Aguero bought into the long term plan and have gone on to become modern day legends in one of the clubs most successful eras.Embed from Getty Images
Upon analysing the Citizens most recent acquisitions it would be a fair reflection to say that they’re more astute with their money than that first day, £30 million Wilfred Bony only managed six goals in 36 Premier League games, but flops are few and far between at the Etihad.
An allegation that often arises against Manchester City; is that they bought their way to the pinnacle of English football, contrary to this, evidence suggests they did so no more than any other Premier League compatriot with title aspirations. Guardiola’s side were attained at vast expense and there is no denying the fact, although Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea all boast a higher record transfer fee, producing further evidence that City have been economically shrewd.
This can be proved by the purchase of Laporte, as Guardiola had stressed his need for defensive cover; despite Alexis Sanchez appearing the inexpensive, more attractive deal. After much debating, City pulled out of the race for the Chilean, instead focusing on the central defender, thus resolving any impending issues of a Sanchez selection headache – and his notorious tantrums potentially upsetting the dressing room dynamic. By prioritising Laporte the squad has a wonderful balance and depth in all areas.Embed from Getty Images
Rather than finances, the most frightening aspect for other sides challenging to win domestic silverware ought to be the youth at Manchester City’s disposal. Sterling, Sane, and Gabriel Jesus have a combined average age of just over 21 and the unlimited potential between the three could create a unit eclipsing anything previously seen in the Premier League, if they continue to progress in this manner. Combine the exuberance of youth with a blend of stabilising maturity from the likes of Fernandinho and the formula is certain to bring trophies.
The production line doesn’t end there either, youth development is a key characteristic of progress in Manchester with significant investment occurring to create the Etihad Campus adjacent to the stadium, a world leading training and academy facility based on AC Milan’s Milanello complex. What’s even more impressive is a recent report released by City stated that 75% of those academy players are from the Greater Manchester area. Chelsea have proved how tough the transition from youth prospect to first team regular can be, yet Phil Foden and Oleksandr Zinchenko’s addition to the starting eleven on multiple occasions, accompanied by assured performances prove that no such difficulties are occurring further north.
It’s plausible the reason for this lies in the boardroom opposed to the training ground, while few League campaigns have been as assured as this one, the hierarchy of Manchester City has been accommodating in allowing each managerial appointment their fare turn before being handed a P45. Unlike the Abramovich era in London, allowing Guardiola job security (a luxury in modern football) generates a settled atmosphere amongst the squad, in turn the Spaniard is fortunate enough to be able to risk playing youth.Embed from Getty Images
Off the pitch the managerial rise has accompanied the transition occurring on the grass, Pep Guardiola as a long term target yet the original proposition wasn’t an attractive prospect for a coach of his stature. After quickly disposing of Mark Hughes the board at City hired Roberto Mancini to take the reins, in spite of delivering their first league triumph in 44 years his tenure proved to be turbulent and replacing the passionate Italian with the calming influence of Manuel Pellegrini was an exceptional appointment to stabilize the squad, bringing continued success. To further lure the Catalan to Manchester, City appointed Txiki Begiristain as director of football in 2012, former teammate of Pep who held the same position at Barcelona from 2003-2010 and associate of Joan Laporta, the Chairman who first promoted Guradiola from the B side.
Along with all these factors, expanding the stadium by 7,000 seats with plans to make the Etihad 61,000 in the near future reflects an enlarging fan base. The club recorded record revenues last year, increasing 21% from the previous period, and a third consecutive year of profitability with zero debt, in complete contrast to local rivals Manchester United. To prove this club is being built for the future Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak recently reiterated the clubs long held belief “on-field success and financial sustainability must exist hand-in-hand”.
Due to endless resources and meticulous preparation Sheikh Mansour hasn’t just built an empire in Manchester, he’s created a footballing dynasty.
Written by Harvey Sayer.