Pep Guardiola and his team are probably pinching themselves right now. Up until quite recently, it looked as though the Premier League title race was set to be contested by three evenly matched teams — Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.
However, the latter two have both dropped crucial points in recent weeks, allowing Guardiola’s side to capitalise and open up a 10-point lead at the top of the table, with it looking increasingly likely on the betting exchange UK that City will secure a fourth Premier League title in five seasons.
As the chasing pack have faltered, City have simply kept on winning. At the time of writing, they have won 11 consecutive Premier League matches since the 2-0 defeat at home to Crystal Palace in October, the kind of form that is almost impossible to match for the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool.
Guardiola’s tactics and methods are, of course, a huge reason why City have suddenly hit such a purple patch of form, but he is also blessed with the kind of strength in depth that Chelsea and Liverpool could only dream of. Even if a player is underperforming, there is always someone waiting to step off the bench and do the business.
In this strange campaign, where Covid-related postponements are likely to define the second half of the season, having strong squad depth is vitally important if you are to avoid falling into a malaise in terms of results. The fact that City can call on players like Riyad Mahrez or Raheem Sterling to step into the starting 11 gives them a clear advantage over their rivals.
There’s no denying that City have this edge due to their financial muscle. The fact that they are able to bring players to the club who are capable of performing to such a high level, even though they might not start every match, proves that the wages they offer are enough to make up for it in the minds of most footballers. Arrivals at Manchester City know that, even though they may have periods on the bench, there will always be opportunities to play due to the sheer volume of matches and Guardiola’s tendency to rotate his team on a regular basis.
Take Bernardo Silva as an example. It was widely rumoured that the Portuguese international was set to depart the Etihad Stadium in the summer transfer window, but he has stayed put and become one of City’s star performers this season — arguably their player of the year so far. That said, his form has dipped slightly in recent weeks for his remarkably high standards, but Guardiola has been able to rotate effectively, and Mahrez has enjoyed a rich vein of form over the festive period. Simply put, there is always a group of players at the club who are in good form, even if a few of their other stars are misfiring.
Chelsea have had to count the cost of losing Romelu Lukaku to injury earlier in the season, with Timo Werner unable to live up to the standard required to lead the line for Chelsea. Liverpool have suffered injury setbacks in midfield, and have at times been forced to rely on academy graduate Tyler Morton who, while talented, is clearly not ready to the thrust into the spotlight.
Meanwhile, City have thundered on, ruthless in their pursuit of yet another Premier League title. The perfect marriage of expert coaching, seemingly unlimited funds, and effective recruitment has given the league leaders an embarrassment of riches in every area of the pitch. If they fail to see out the title from here, it will be a major shock.