Guardiola’s men on course for truly historic campaign
MANCHESTER, England－A 15-point lead, 21 victories in a row, and a club-record-tying 28 games unbeaten.
The extraordinary numbers are stacking up for Manchester City as Pep Guardiola’s winning machine powers to the Premier League title and－whisper it－a potential quadruple.
Guardiola particularly liked what he saw in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Heading into the final 10 minutes at Etihad Stadium, City’s players were in the unusual position of being held, 1-1, but there was no panic. Instead, they just stepped up a gear, overwhelmed Wolves with their pressing and scored three goals.
“When you have a run of 20 wins, you’re not always going to win 3-0,4-0, 5-0,” Guardiola said. “So that is why how you recover from difficult situations is what I’m looking for.”
Gabriel Jesus scored in the 80th minute and again from close range with virtually the last kick of the game after Riyad Mahrez made it 3-1, capping a period of incessant pressure by City after Wolves equalized in the 61st minute through Conor Coady’s header－the visitor’s first touch in City’s box.
Leander Dendoncker had given City the lead for the first time with an own-goal in the 15th.
It was yet another test passed by City in its march to reclaiming the title from Liverpool, with Wolves having proved a tough opponent for City in recent years－winning their meetings home and away last season, for example.
City’s class of 2020-21 is made of sterner stuff this season, though. The team has won every game it has played in all competitions since Dec 19 and now has 15 victories in a row in the league. Its unbeaten streak stretched to 28 matches－tying a club record also achieved under Guardiola in 2017.
City hasn’t trailed for a single minute in any of its last 19 league games－equaling Arsenal’s record set in 1998-99.
Asked how impressed he was by City’s recent run, Guardiola said: “Man United”－referring to City’s next opponent at the weekend.
Pressed to expand, he said: “We talk about records and everything we have done in the league when it is over.”
And it nearly is over. Second-place Manchester United, which trailed the leader by 15 points before Wednesday’s trip to Crystal Palace, doesn’t have the consistency being shown by Guardiola’s side－which is also in the League Cup final, the FA Cup quarterfinals and leads 2-0 after the first leg of its Champions League last-16 tie with BoRussia Monchengladbach.
City has players in supreme form, too.
Mahrez is one of them, the Algeria winger playing a key part in the opening goal by controlling a searching pass by Rodri and driving over a cross that would have been turned into the net by Raheem Sterling if Dendoncker hadn’t done so.
Wolves’ only good spell of the game came after Coady scored his first Premier League goal, with Adama Traore blazing two shots over the bar.
“After 1-1 we suffered but we created lots of chances in the end,” Guardiola told BT Sport.
“Manchester United. That’s all we care (about now),” the Spaniard added.
“The champions are Liverpool, the crown belongs to them. We are in the best position right now to take them out and we are going to try but they are the champions.
“There are 33 points to play for. Tomorrow our opponents will play, we have one or two days off and prepare for Manchester United at home.”
City regrouped and after Jesus swept in a loose ball from the edge of the six-yard box after Kyle Walker’s cross was blocked near the goal line, Mahrez placed a shot into the bottom corner in the 90th.
Jesus converted the fourth goal from close range in stoppage time after goalkeeper Rui Patricio could only parry a shot from substitute Ilkay Gundogan.
City’s winning streak is the third-best streak among teams in Europe’s leading five leagues, behind only Bayern Munich’s 23 in a row in 2020 and Real Madrid’s 22 successive victories in 2014.
What is even more astonishing is that it started the season slowly, with many commentators forecasting the closest Premier League title race for years.
Instead, Guardiola’s men are turning the race into a procession.