This current Manchester City team are the best side to play in the Premier League. Of course, time acts as a sturdy obstacle for direct comparison given how football evolves over the years.
There’s another issue with the exact definition of ‘best side’, so we’ll make our case – and you’ll bloody like it.
There’s a school of thought that clubs have identities. The worst phrase in sport is when a pundit refers to a footballer as being suitable to a certain club. Football clubs have evolved into investment funds for billionaires and whether you like it or not, managers are having to churn out a recipe for success in little or no time – almost subconsciously.
Believe it or believe it not, back in the day, football was about success, but also promoting a mantra. This isn’t relevant anymore, and clubs have to adopt a manager’s beliefs – not vice versa. Due to this investment in one man, the pressure is piled on. Instant results or bust.
However, the ‘new’ Manchester City seem so fresh that they didn’t have to rehash the spirit of their (relative) glory days in some sort of culture clash at board level. They’re long past that.
Not that they’re any sort of revolutionaries, but the City brass gave Pep Guardiola hundreds of millions of pounds because they believed in his approach. The biggest question associated with Pep is longevity – but thankfully this argument is based only around his current crop of players.
Managers like Jose Mourinho set up in overly negative fashion in order to play the percentages and keep it tight. This is based on the need for results. While we’re sure Jose has inherited that mentality over time and does enjoy drilling sides in a certain defensive shape, there’s no doubt every manager would like to be instigators of a new brand of football that heightens the entertainment level associated with the sport.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) October 21, 2017
The problem is that it’s now outside a manager’s remit. While the billions undermine the merit somewhat, the on-field product does its best to claw back credibility – and it succeeds in this case.
Wenger’s Invincibles were incredible. Momentum did play a huge part in that run, as did resolve. We’re not suggesting those aren’t commendable qualities in a squad – just that we’re speaking strictly in footballing ability. United’s ’99 squad had similar traits.
Guardiola had many of the best players on the planet at Barcelona and at Bayern. Questions were rightly asked about how adaptability. KDB and Aguero aside, how many of those Man City players are considered among the best in the word? Not Fabian Delph, I’ll tell you that much.
City have only dropped two points at this stage – and notched 32 times in the process. Usually scoring that many goals means you’re consistently overloading and get caught out at the back end. Not quite, though. They’ve only shipped four goals – and two of those were in a 7-2 rout. How does he do it?
Guardiola is a freak. But he’s the best kind of freak.
Famously known for using quadrants to coach attacking movement, every single detail is catered for. It’s these intricacies that make us look on in awe of Kevin De Bruyne doing things that should be impossible. His ankle should break in three different places while completing some of the passes he manages.
This is the level of detail of which these players are aware of. As soon as De Bruyne moves into a certain area of the pitch, he knows Leroy Sane’s angled his run inside the full back to be on the end of a breath-taking switch. He knows this because he probably practices it fifty times a day.
What isn’t noted enough is the age of some key elements of this City side. Looking at their recent demolition of Stoke as an example – Ederson’s 24, Stones is 23, Sane is 21, Raheem Sterling – 22. Gabriel Jesus isn’t 21 until April.
He can craft a side like this in spite of a lack of experience. The fact is that they don’t need resolve, because they’re simply better.
To keep so much control of a game should be impossible unless everything goes perfectly to plan. The thing about this side is that it does – and regularly.
The Tottenham and Manchester United sides that currently sit behind them in the league table are excellent in their own right. That’s, perhaps, what makes Pep’s squad so remarkable.
When it comes to assessing just how ‘good’ a side are, it’s advisable to remove terms like ‘character’. Character is an associated feature that people will remember in time, over the course of a season.
This Manchester City side don’t have any notable features, other than simply being a machine that strangles opposition of the ball and relentlessly attacks them with meticulously-planned movement off the ball and baffling consistency on it.
Eight games isn’t enough – that’s understandable. Anyone can say things in retrospect, but nobody can deny what’s in front of them.