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  • Writer's pictureThe Season Ticket

Football | Persistence with Pep's philosophy pays off

5 - Man City have won the Premier League title with five games remaining; equalling the English top-flight record. They have equalled the efforts of Manchester United (1907-08 and 2000-01) and Everton (1984-85) who all won the top-flight title with five games to spare. Cruise. pic.twitter.com/SbeV1CXB0u — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 15, 2018 After picking up four points in their opening two league matches, City embarked on an incredible 18 match win streak. The Manchester club beat Brighton 2-0 away from home on the opening weekend of the Premier League, before being held by Everton at the Etihad in a 1-1 draw. However, City sent out a warning to the title pretenders with a 5-0 demolition of Liverpool, followed up by a 6-0 victory over Watford in September. Chelsea held the previous streak for consecutive wins (13), and this stunning form allowed Pep's side to create a gap at the top of the table by Christmas. City have won 28 of their 33 league games to date, and look set to beat Chelsea's record of 30 in the 2016/17 season. They have also won 14 away games in the English top flight, and will surpass Chelsea's '04/05 record of 15 if they win their remaining two games on the road. These away wins include victories against Spurs, Arsenal, Chelsea, and United. City have deservedly been lauded for their attacking play. David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne have been a joy to watch, with the latter providing a league high 15 assists from his new, deeper role in the City midfield. Ikay Gundogan has also overcome his injury problems to rediscover his best form. Leroy Sané - nominated for the PFA Young Player of the Year - has been a constant outlet and threat down the left, and has also chipped in with plenty of goals and assists. Sergio Aguero remains as prolific as ever, and he has netted 21 league goals despite ongoing injury issues. Only Mo Salah (30) and Harry Kane (25) have scored more. Raheem Sterling has enjoyed his best season to date, and despite his critics, he has still found the back of the net 17 times in the league.
22 - Raheem Sterling scored his 22nd goal of the season for Manchester City, which is now at least twice as many as he’s registered in any of his previous seasons in all competitions (11 in 2014/15 and 2015/16). Pepped. pic.twitter.com/9Na0fCNgmm — OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 14, 2018 Guardiola has often been criticized for neglecting his teams' defences, but City's defensive stats have been very impressive domestically. City have faced the fewest shots on target in the league, and have also conceded the fewest goals. City have a goal difference of +68 (Chelsea hold the record with +71), and have conceded just 25 goals. The club spent heavily on their defense in the summer, and the investment has been worth it. Ederson has enjoyed an excellent debut season, and his eye-catching distribution has been key to City's style of play.

Only David De Gea (16) has kept more clean sheets than the Brazilian international's 14, and De Gea has faced 59 more shots than Ederson. The Manchester United goalkeeper has also had to make double the amount of saves that Ederson has faced. Kyle Walker has brought energy and dynamism to the right back position, and Fabian Delph has filled in admirably at left back in the absence of another big signing in Benjamin Mendy. Aymeric Laporte was signed from Athletic Bilbao in January, and Nicolas Otamendi enjoyed a (for the most part) fine season at the heart of the champions' defence. Vincent Kompany - largely free from injury in recent months, and remains a key player at the club. Fernandinho is one of the most underrated players in England, and the Brazilian midfielder performs a crucial role for the champions. The 32 year old protects the back four and links the play, allowing Silva and De Bruyne to flourish alongside him in the centre of midfield. Pep's philosophy relies on defending with the ball. If you have the ball, you can't be attacked. Leicester won the Premier League by often surrendering possession, but City have used possession as their weapon of choice. City have dominated possession in most games this season, and have broken several passing records. Ikay Gundogan set a new record for most completed passes in City's 1-0 win over Chelsea with a staggering 167 (181 touches).  City completed 902 passes against Antonio Conte's side, which is also a Premier League record. Are City perfect? Absolutely not. Pep's detractors will point to City's sequence of results before their comprehensive 3-1 victory over Spurs at Wembley on Saturday evening. Liverpool twice exposed their weaknesses in the Champions League, while neighbours Man United stunned Guardiola's side at the Etihad last weekend. Has Pep spent vast amounts of money to build an enormously talented squad? Yes, but he has spent it wisely for the most part, and he has also improved players who were already at the club, such as Sterling, Delph, Sané, and De Bruyne to name but a handful. Manchester United have also spent an incredible amount of money in recent years, but have been miles off City this season, and lack the style which makes their neighbours so good to watch. There is no need to compare City to other great Premier League champions, they are a fantastic team in their own right. They deserve immense credit for the football they have played this season, and for the manner in which they have won the league with five games to spare. Pep is the first manager to win four consecutive manager of the month awards, and a manager of the year award is likely to follow. His philosophy works, and he was right to persist with it despite the criticism. “Can you play that way, with those players and win this league?” Yes, and with five games to spare.

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