Manchester City have clinched the Premier League title with five games to spare after Manchester United‘s shock 1-0 loss at home to West Brom. Having missed out on winning a major honour for the first time in his celebrated coaching career last season, Pep Guardiola has restated his claim as a man at the summit of world football through Manchester City’s twin Premier League and League Cup triumphs.
Manchester United’s shock defeat at home to West Bromwich Albion, eight days on from Jose Mourinho‘s men spectacularly crashing the long due title party at the Etihad Stadium by claiming a famous come from behind 2-3 win, handed City glory with five matches remaining this term.
No side has ever been crowned champions with more games to spare in England and they could add more records before the current campaign is out, alongside their league-best winning run of 18 matches that spanned between August to December in the first half of English football’s 2017/18 season.
Having beaten Tottenham at the Wembley Stadium on Saturday, Pep Guardiola said he wouldn’t be watching Sunday’s clash at Old Trafford, preferring to spend his afternoon on the golf course. Other than a few minor blips in the last two weeks, it has been a sublime campaign for the Spaniard and his expensively assembled squad.
7 – Pep Guardiola has won the top-flight league title in seven of his nine seasons as a manager, with the only exceptions being 2011-12 at Barcelona and 2016-17 at Manchester City. Mastermind. pic.twitter.com/wLGOio3MU2
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 15, 2018
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) April 15, 2018
Now that the 2017/18 title is done and decided, we list down five key players who played a starring role in Manchester City’s spectacular Premier League title win:
1. Kevin de Bruyne
Among countless star performers in Guardiola’s side, Kevin De Bruyne has been the standout. Easily the most important cog in Manchester City’s machine during the opening weeks, the Belgium midfielder kicked into gear and the season duly took flight. It is a level that he has maintained with startling regularity. A magnificent footballer, De Bruyne deserves full marks for his performances this season because in virtually every league match he has been simply formidable.
City’s driving force and, along with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah, the outstanding player in the Premier League this season, KDB is a complete midfielder. More consistent, calmer and never more effective, De Bruyne has morphed from a high-calibre attacking midfielder with a knack for goals and thirst for assists into a master of all he surveys from midfield, bending games to his will and always alive to the big moments.
His 11 goals and 20 assists in all competitions this season also tell a story of their own.
42 – Since the start of the 2015-16 campaign, Kevin De Bruyne has provided 42 assists in the Premier League, more than any other player in the Big 5 European leagues. Expected.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) March 31, 2018
2. Sergio Aguero
Kun Aguero has been in swashbuckling form this season and appears to be scoring goals as per his will when fit. A haul of over 30 goals and 7 assists in all competition, despite injuries and not enjoying Guardiola’s unqualified confidence, shows just how lethal the 29-year-old is. The Argentina striker has become a more complete player and a more prolific scorer under Guardiola’s masterly tutelage and his presence at the helm of the Spanish tactician’s attack has promised goals and nightmares to opposition defences.
Aguero, City’s all-time record goalscorer, was once again unhappy with how he was being handled and the relationship between Guardiola and his star striker has never been without some sort of unease. However, Guardiola has coaxed some of the finest form of Aguero’s stellar career from the Argentina international this season – his contribution to City’s overall play improved to the extent that it would seem foolish to start that work all over again with a marquee signing in the upcoming summer.
3. Raheem Sterling
Pep Guardiola’s capacity to nurture and improve his players has never been more apparent than in the case of Raheem Sterling. A year on from becoming the most expensive English player in history after his move from Liverpool, Sterling looked like a broken player at the end of Euro 2016. Money had proved no guarantee for City either. Come the 2016/17 season and Sterling’s patchy form continued but so did Guardiola’s intensive coaching and encouragement. As a result, the 23-year-old will now head to this summer’s World Cup in Russia on the back of the most prolific season of his career, with a penchant for injury-time winners and constant goals.
As has been the case with Leroy Sane, Sterling appears transformed under Guardiola this season and has already scored 22 goals while also contributing 13 assists in all competitions. The England winger has truly come of age in this campaign, doubling both as creator and predator and making himself indispensable to Manchester City’s title winning machine.
4. David Silva
The heartbeat of Pep Guardiola’s midfield, it can be argued that David Silva is to Manchester City what Xavi was to Barcelona. He controls the play in the middle of the park and provides the calmness and composure to an attack bustling with pace and energy of Aguero, Sterling, Jesus and Sane. Despite moving to a deeper role due to the presence of quick wingers and his own advancing age, the Spanish wizard has lost none of his creative powers, and in fact, has gone on to improve his scoring numbers. The 32-year-old has found the back of the net 9 times and has also provided 14 assists to his teammates.
The complete antidote to panic, the Spaniard operates has operated in a near permanent state of serenity this season and at 32, he is playing the best football of his career. One of the architects of his side’s Premier League triumph, Silva added to a body of work that makes him arguably City’s greatest ever while playing through the unenviable hardship of having his prematurely born son lying in intensive care in Valencia. His imperious levels have never wavered.
5. Leroy Sane
Leroy Sane’s breathtaking pace, fabulous dribbling and ball control has left defenders terrified and gasping for breath. Under Guardiola’s tutelage, The German has gone on to become one of the most feared wingers in world football. With 13 goals and 14 assists in all competitions to his name this season, the 22-year-old German winger is one of the favorites to win the PFA Young Player of the Year award at the end of this season. Seriously fast with plenty of end product, Sane has the talent to become a true superstar in the next few seasons.
Sane’s pace, skill, technique and athleticism combine to give him arguably a higher ceiling than any other member of Guardiola’s squad. De Bruyne, Silva, Fernandinho and Otamendi have all been rewarded with new deals this season and City should consider contracting Sane beyond the end of his current deal which runs out in 2021. On current evidence, he could quite possibly be in a different stratosphere by then.