Liverpool are proof Pep Guardiola might never achieve what Man City really want after Champions League success

Man City’s dominance of football is now almost total – and only Liverpool have been able to stop them in the Premier League

Trent Alexander-Arnold didn’t even have to think twice when, as a guest at Formula 1’s recent Spanish Grand Prix, he pondered who he thought would win the Champions League final between Manchester City and Inter Milan.

“I think Man City are still the favorites in everything,” was the quick response from the Liverpool defender.

Indeed, City underlined their relentless dominance of recent years by ending their wait for a maiden European triumph with a narrow victory over a fiery but struggling Inter Milan on Saturday night in Istanbul.

While the manner of City’s victory in a disappointing match means the legacy of Liverpool at the Ataturk Stadium remains very much undiminished – and, as much as some were desperately attempting to suggest otherwise, the instinctive save by Ederson to repel Romelu Lukaku’s poor header wasn’t on a par with Jerzy Dudek’s heroics to stop Andriy Shevchenko at the same end in 2005 – it meant the Etihad side had navigated the one remaining hurdle of the Pep Guardiola era.

On the pitch at least, City have now answered all the questions that have been asked of them. And, continued off-field uncertainty notwithstanding, unless their moneybags Abu Dhabi owners grow bored of conquering all – the Club World Cup will surely follow later this year – they will remain the team to beat for the foreseeable future.

Throughout the ranks, City rule. Premier League champions, European champions and FA Cup winners, their U21 and U18 teams also once again won their respective leagues. Only the League Cup – a trophy they have won six times in the last decade – evaded them.

Of course, there’s no way Liverpool can stop City further closing the gap to their six European Cups next season after this season ended outside the top four. Their Champions League battle has been temporarily suspended.

At the domestic level, however, things are different. The bookmakers already see Liverpool as the second favorite behind City and it’s not entirely unfounded. Yes, Arsenal have narrowly pressured City for most of this Premier League season until a catastrophic collapse in recent months. And even then, with their record 84 points, they finished just under five points behind a City side who eased off last week after hard work.

Indeed, after Guardiola’s reign really took off when he claimed the title five years ago with 100 points, Jürgen Klopp’s Reds were the only side capable of seriously challenging City. Twice they finished just one point behind the Etihad side on 97 and 92 points and reclaiming the title in 2019/20 to prevent their main rivals from claiming six championships in a row.

And despite all the trials and tribulations Liverpool have endured for much of this season, they were once again the only team seriously able to keep pace with City at the end of the season, taking 24 points from 30 in their last 10 games.

How close the Reds can get back to Guardiola will most likely depend on what happens in the transfer market. City, like other top clubs, won’t stop, but Liverpool have at least stolen an early march by signing Alexis Mac Allister from Brighton. More will follow and they are needed. And as to whether it is possible to progress from fifth to the title, Arsenal have provided solid evidence of that this season.

As soon as the Premier League fixture list is announced on Thursday, there will also be a better look into the immediate future. Liverpool’s early struggles this season have not been ameliorated by the heavy burden of difficult away games. And while the completion of the stand overhaul at Anfield means they will hit the streets, a more balanced schedule could ease the process of adjusting signings and help maintain the momentum at the end of this season.

The debate over whether the current City side is the greatest England has ever produced will now rage – for a start, there’s a strong argument their 2018/19 team was better man for man – but while the players and management are rightly hugely admired for setting new standards of consistent excellence, there is a glaring obstacle that prevents them from being loved in the same manner as the finest teams of other clubs and eras, Liverpool included. It’s perhaps the one achievement Guardiola, for all his clear desire, will never attain at the Etihad.

But Alexander Arnold was right. City are the favorites in everything. They’ve won five titles in six years, along with Liverpool (1978/79 to 1983/84) and Manchester United (1995/96 to 2000/01). No team in English football has ever dominated so much, winning six out of seven championships which will be their target for next season.

In fact, the clear advantages City have long enjoyed mean they should win everything they compete in, year after year. Fortunately, however, sport rarely operates on such simple principles.

And Liverpool need to make sure they put themselves in a position to capitalize again if City falter at any point. After all, the Reds know better than anyone that any empire will eventually fall.

Igbo Kennedy

Igbo Kennedy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *