The five key factors behind Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola's first Premier League title
Posted: 16 April 2018 Time: 20:00
Manchester City secured the English Premier League title this weekend in a record-breaking 2017/18 campaign, KickOff.com takes a look at the five key factors behind Pep Guardiola's tactical masterclass.
City overcame last week's disappointing UEFA Champions League exit and Derby defeat to Manchester United by convincingly seeing off Tottenham 3-1 while the Red Devils fell to a shock 1-0 defeat to West Bromwich Albion - which secured the title with five games remaining,
It marked the 23rd trophy for Guardiola's impressive CV and his second for the campaign after the Carabao Cup.
After 33 games, 28 wins, three draws and only two defeats, the record-breaking feat dispelled any doubts over his managerial capabilities and tactical style in England - after a trophyless debut campaign at the Etihad last season.
1. Defensive frailties diminished
Upon finishing in third place in the 2016/17 season, Guardiola dispensed of his ageing full-backs Gaël Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta, who were clearly beyond their peak based on their career trajectory since their exits.
The Spaniard subsequently splashed out €177m (R1.9b) on three new full-backs Kyle Walker, Benjamin Mendy, Danilo and goalkeeper Ederson Moraes which was highly criticised by English media.
While Mendy has been blighted by injury problems, central midfielder Fabian Delph deputised in his absence with consummate ease within the possession-based system.
And with the best defensive record this season, conceding only 25 goals in 33 games, the splurge has been fully warranted.
Ederson's nomination for PFA Young Player of the year a testament to his influence - after Claudio Bravo's underwhelming performances as Guardiola's sweeper-keeper; a role which is integral to his attacking philosophy.
Central defender Nicolas Otamendi, another key figure in their defensive solidity this season was considered a flop in his debut season after a big-money move from Valencia.
His erratic displays and indiscipline in Vincent Kompany's absence were cited as the epitome of the Sky Blues issues last season, but the 30-year-old developed into the central figure in the core of experienced players in Pep's starting XI.
2. The midfield trio
English football in a traditional sense, has been all about stamina, strength, aerial presence and the old cliche of 'winning the second-ball' in midfield.
However, the central midfield pairing of the diminutive David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne was one of the biggest factors to the success that brought the title with over 70% possession in their 33 fixtures thus far.
The midfield duo dictated games from start to finish with the security of the unheralded hero Fernandinho in the defensive midfield role.
3. Sane and Sterling's flying form
In the 4-3-3 system deployed under the meticulous Guardiola, wingers Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane have developed into consistent Premier League performers.
The talent of the mercurial wingers have never been in doubt, but their ability in the final third has improved immeasurably.
Sterling's remarkable improvement, in particular, has been eye-catching with 17 goals and 12 assists in 29 games in the league, a superior return from the 13 goals and as many assists in his first two seasons in a Citizen shirt.
Sane, 22, has been shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year for his dominating displays on the left flank, while Sterling made the cut for the Young Player of the Year.
4. The consistent Aguero
Sergio Aguero looked set to be ousted due to Guardiola's clear preference to Brazil wonderkid Gabriel Jesus, but the 29-year-old worked his way back into the reckoning upon Jesus' knee injury - scoring 21 goals in 23 starts and etching his name into City folklore by becoming the club's all-time record goalscorer.
5. Streamlined squad but depth improved
After ridding the 'deadwood' in the squad, the likes of John Stones, Bernardo Silva, Ilkay Gundogan, Danilo and club legend Aguero often found themselves on the bench as rotational options for the Spanish tactician.
When one considers the experience of the established national team players and quality at their disposal, it comes as no surprise how City managed to set a new league record of 18 consecutive wins as they eased their way to league honours.
Do you think City's title success was the most dominant by any side in the modern Premier League era? Comment below or interact with us on social media!