Manchester City is on the hunt for an unprecedented Quadruple after qualifying for the semi-finals of the FA cup. The club managed to turn around their woeful fortune at the start of the season to now compete for four trophies at once.
City has won 34 of their 39 games since the international break in November. The run consisted of a 21 game winning streak across all competitions which had seen them leapfrog all their title rivals in the Premier League and put them in pole position to secure the league title. They now have gone into the next international break having a lead of 14 points at the top of the table.
Turning the table upside down
Even in January, the title race seemed wide open with a host of clubs potentially competing for the trophy. Manchester City’s amazing run coinciding with other clubs dropping points has helped Pep Guardiola’s men take an almost unassailable lead. Add this to the fact that the club are in the finals of the Carabao Cup, semi-finals of the FA Cup and quarter-finals in the UEFA Champions League- looking for a historical Quadruple.
However, the road hasn’t been as smooth as the club’s form might make it seem to be. The pandemic affected 2020-21 season has had a jam packed schedule for football clubs across Europe. It has given rise to numerous injuries across squads. Manchester City too has had their woes with injuries. Strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus have missed quite a few games that saw the club play with no proper striker at times.
Solution to defensive woes
Manchester City’s woes over the years have been down to the defence. The defence leaked goals that have cost them titles in the past. The signing of Ruben Dias and resurgence of John Stones combined with the versatility of Joao Cancelo has fixed the team’s backline.
Ruben Dias has been an instant hit at Manchester City. The former Benfica Center Back has had a similar impact in City as Virgil Van Dijk has at Liverpool. John Stones, a player who used to be on the bench for the past few seasons seems to have resuscitated. Pairing with Dias has brought out the best in the Englishman.
The duo has scored more goals for the club than they have conceded. Prior to the Manchester derby on March 5, the duo had started 17 games together. During that period, the duo scored five goals for the club while conceding only four.
At one point, City kept 16 clean sheets within a fixture of 20 consecutive games in all competitions. City currently boasts the best defensive record in Europe having conceded only 21 goals in 30 league games this season.
Cancelo shines bright
The other key figure in this mammoth defence has been the versatility of Joao Cancelo. Right back, Left back, midfield- it doesn’t matter where the Portuguese plays. Keeping the backline airtight, clogging the midfield when in possession of the ball and supporting attackers when needed, Cancelo has been pivotal for the club all round the pitch. It’s no surprise that the Portuguese defender’s heat map this season is spread out all throughout the pitch.
The midfield has made sure the club don’t miss the services of strikers Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus. So many times this season, Pep Guardiola had to rely on a false nine in the form of De Bruyne or Sterling upfront. Yet the club managed to grind out results.
Ilkay Gundogan has been another revelation for Manchester City this season. Since Christmas, the German has found the net 11 times, scoring match winning goals which helped the club cement a spot at the top of the table. Phil Foden has been another standout performer for City. The 20 year old is living up to Pep’s praises and filling in the boots left behind by David Silva.
Formidable squad depth
When talking about the success of Manchester City, the club’s strength in depth cannot be emphasised enough. The sheer quality in depth of the City squad has proven vital this season. With almost two players for each position, the club has been able to rest key players and yet field eleven good enough to get the job done.
With the business end of the season coming up and City still duelling for four trophies, the importance of squad depth will be more crucial now. Will 2021 finally be the year when Pep Guardiola shuts his critics and delivers a Champions League trophy without Messi?
Ayman Chowdhury is an undergrad student studying at Dhaka University. [email protected]