The key to Manchester City’s success is…

An energized, lean, mean-looking Manchester City outfit has come to the party this season. Undefeated so far, they have shattered records with an incredible 58 points in 20 games. That’s 58 points from a possible 60. Such form has never been seen before in the league and the credit has gone to Josep “Pep” Guardiola for proving to his doubters that he can indeed succeed in the Premier League.

We now wonder not if, but instead by what margin, they will win the league. Man United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham, and Arsenal have all been comfortably defeated by a collective scoreline of 18-5. Although Guardiola’s men still have to play reverse fixtures against these sides, it looks unlikely that any of them can come close to matching City’s energy and desire over 90 minutes.

Here is a quick statistical look at the Citizens’ league campaign:

Goals scored: 61 (3.05 goals/game) – Best offensive unit in the league
Goals conceded: 12 (0.6 goals/game) – Best defensive unit in the league

Top Scorers:
Raheem Sterling – 13
Sergio Aguero – 12
Gabriel Jesus – 8
Kevin De Bruyne – 6
Leroy Sane – 6
David Silva – 5
Nicolas Otamendi – 4

Top Assists:
Kevin De Bruyne – 9
David Silva – 8
Leroy Sane – 8
Raheem Sterling – 4
Kyle Walker – 4
Sergio Aguero – 4

As we can see, the distribution of goals and assists is fairly even across the squad, with no particular player being an anomaly. Defenders, midfielders, and forwards showing up on the top goals/assists chart is the stuff of a “dream team” from a team cohesion point of view.

With such a deliberate and unending breakdown of their opponents over the course of 90 minutes, it is hard to see Guardiola’s men ever being dominated on the pitch unless a new tactical breakthrough is discovered. The high energy, high pressing style combined with crisp, neat and penetrative passing has overwhelmed all of their opponents to date.

There was a brief moment some years ago when Jose Mourinho seemed able to rival Guardiola from a tactical perspective (mainly after Inter Milan’s victory over Barcelona in the Champions League knockout stages in 2010). Since then, however, Guardiola has consistently managed victories over his Portuguese counterpart and there is no doubt over who the higher quality manager is.

In Spain, some have argued that Guardiola’s tiki-taka Barcelona led to Simeone’s machine-drilled Atleti. How will the footballing standard and style in England change as a result of this tactical and stylistic dominance by City?

I believe that we could see the emergence of a new age of tactical nous designed to counteract the style imposed by Pep, although there is no sign of it just yet. Meanwhile, whether this City side can keep up their current form, and whether they will ever match the success of Barcelona remain to be seen. In either case, the game has evolved for the better, and we are witnessing something truly special.


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