Europe may define Pep Guardiola’s City era but home rule is no mean feat

Friday - 17/05/2019 14:40
Pep Guardiola poses with the Premier League trophy after Manchester City’s win at Brighton. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters
Pep Guardiola poses with the Premier League trophy after Manchester City’s win at Brighton. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images via Reuters
FA Cup success against Watford on Saturday would make it five domestic trophies out of the last six for Manchester City under a manager who has made domestic dominance a habit

Veni, Vidi, City. With the Premier League title retained and an FA Cup final to follow there is already something imperial about the climax to Pep Guardiola’s first three seasons in English football, a sense of nation-building zeal.

This has always been a part of the grander plan, the intention not just to win but to win right, to embody a vision, a way of winning. There have been minor bumps in the road along the way, most notably some disorienting defeats in the first Pep-season, the what-is-tackles, let-them-eat-cake days at Leicester and Everton. But Guardiola has refused to bend and two years later English football has in effect been brought to heel, a stage for that relentless will-to-power.

Victory in Saturday’s FA Cup final against Watford would make Guardiola’s City the first English men’s team to complete a domestic league and cup treble in 58 years since the League Cup was first called into being. Winning the FA Cup would make it five domestic trophies out of six for City over two seasons, a spell of dominance that is alsounmatched in the Premier League era.

For some there will still be reluctance to trumpet this too widely, a fear that such sustained dominance raises questions about the stratification of English football, the dizzying gap in resources even between the top and the slightly less than top, an increasingly centralised system of power.

But there is more here than just the pounding fist of big football. Most notably there is something in the prospect of that treble that speaks directly to the manager’s methods. In the last decade Guardiola has become football’s domestic god, the depth of resources at his elbow, and more charitably the relentless systems-football of his teams, ideally suited to the business of winning domestic trophies.

In Spain Guardiola won five out of eight available domestic trophies with Barcelona. In Germany it was five out of six with Bayern Munich. In England he has four out of eight so far. Another FA Cup final win would make it 15 of 23 domestic trophies in Guardiola’s 10 years as a manager across three separate leagues.

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