Manchester City eye new heights of fourth successive league titles

Manchester City, manager Pep Guardiola looks to be backing the bulk of his treble-winning squad to be strong enough for an unprecedented fourth successive Premier League title.

This is as the Premier League also-rans empty their pockets in a bid to close the gap on Manchester City.

Last season’s runners-up Arsenal have spent close to 200 million pounds and third-placed Manchester United around 100 million with Chelsea also splashing the cash.

Manchester City have been in no rush to bolster their squad with only midfielder Mateo Kovacic signed for 25 million pounds (31.89 million dollars) from Chelsea as a replacement for Ilkay Gundogan.

Although the Croat is unlikely to match the German’s knack for popping up with important goals, Kovacic looks after the ball the way Guardiola demands.

He also impressed in an unaccustomed attacking midfield role in a pre-season game with Bayern Munich.

Classy centre back Josko Gvardiol, Croatia’s masked man at last year’s World Cup, was also on the verge of signing from RB Leipzig for a reported 90 million euros.

But essentially, Manchester City will look pretty much the same as last season’s model.

City’s measured business is in stark contrast to a year ago when they made the blockbuster signing of Norwegian forward Erling Haaland for 51 million pounds — a fee that now looks like the bargain of the century.

Despite Norway striker Haaland contributing 52 goals to the treble-winning campaign, Guardiola says he still thinks City have a way to go to get the best out of the 23-year-old.

He won the treble while leaving the likes of Phil Foden, Julian Alvarez, Kalvin Phillips and the now-departed Riyad Mahrez largely on the bench.
So, it is understandable Guardiola does not feel the need to bring in many big name signings.

He has also been impressed by creative midfielder Rico Lewis and is likely to give the 18-year-old, who has been at the club since he was eight, plenty of chances to stake a claim.

Guardiola is always seeking challenges and new ways to motivate his players.
Having matched Manchester United’s treble while lifting City’s fifth league crown in six years, they have the chance to win a record fourth title in a row.

Four clubs have won three – Huddersfield Town (1924-1926), Arsenal (1933-1935), Liverpool (1982-1984) and Manchester United twice (1999-2001 and 2007-2009).

While Alex Ferguson was the only manager in charge for all three (all six in his case).

Although there have been few changes on the playing front for City, Guardiola has had to shuffle his coaching pack.

This was after losing trusted assistants Enzo Maresca and Rodolfo Borrell, who had been with him at The Etihad for seven years.

He will want to avoid a repeat of last season when a stuttering first few months allowed Arsenal to forge clear.

That could perhaps have been blamed on adjustments needed to accommodate Haaland in a centre-forward role that the team had largely avoided under Guardiola.

But now the Norwegian is fully bedded-in, and those around the striker have learned how to best feed him.

It is very hard to see Arsenal, or anyone else, reaching mid-January eight points clear as them Gunners were last season.

Manchester City will be fighting on all fronts again, which brings its own challenges.

But with the Champions League monkey off his back, Guardiola must be quietly viewing that four in a row “better than Sir Alex” idea with particular relish. (Reuters/NAN)