On the Spot: Congratulations, Pep

As a bitter Manchester United fan, congratulations, Pep. You’re no longer the noisy neighbor, you’re now just a constant thorn in my side.

Chances are, come Saturday afternoon José Mourinho’s Manchester United will lose at the Etihad Stadium and Manchester City will win their third league title in seven years. Pep Guardiola will join an elite group of managers, which includes his opponent on Saturday, who have won the championship in three different major leagues. 

Of course, good old “negative” Mourinho might be able to come up with a game plan to stifle Manchester City and prevent their coronation this weekend. At this point, however, it’s a case of not if, but when, City lifts the trophy. Even if they lose to United and to Spurs the following week, they’ll surely pick up the points they need against Swansea, West Ham, Huddersfield, Brighton and Southampton. If they don’t win a game between now and the end of the season, show me this column and I’ll buy you a coffee from Hotung.

Furthermore, Mourinho’s record against Pep Guardiola hasn’t been great. Overall, Pep leads their head-to-head match-ups 10–4. In particular, Mourinho was walloped 5–0 by Pep’s Barcelona back in 2010. Mourinho’s likely to fail at stopping Guardiola once again. And City will have a point to prove given their terrible Champions League quarterfinal first leg.

The story of the season is that no team has been good enough to match Manchester City’s relentless nature. One can no longer joke about how Pep was a failure in England because his style did not work last year at all. They were leaky at the back and boy did Pep address that with the money he spent, basically buying an entire new backline: Ederson in goal, Benjamin Mendy at left back, Danilo and Kyle Walker at right back, Aymeric Laporte in central defense. I can think of only two instances when they looked bad this season and they were both at Anfield.

Not many teams have the capabilities that Liverpool’s front-line have to challenge Man City. The champions-elect have been dominant in so many ways. They have the highest average possession in the league this year, showing just how difficult it is to get a sniff of the ball playing against them, much less a sniff at their goal. City has scored the most goals (88), 13 more than Liverpool and they’ve attempted nearly 4,000 more passes than Arsenal, who are second in that category. They’ve got some of the most creative players in the league — the top three in assists all dress in sky blue. In Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, they easily have the two best playmakers in the league. It’s as if one might expect City to absolutely dominate the league in the seasons to come.

And they might. But here’s the thing about the Premier League: When Chelsea ran away with the League last year, it was Pep’s City that came roaring back. When United ran away with the league in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season, City returned triumphant the next year.  Who’s to say that the other teams, with some of the best coaches around, won’t be able to find a way to claw back?

We’ll be back, Pep.

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