Saturday, April 20, 2024

(What’s The Story) Blue Moon Glory? Why Manchester City Can Achieve The Quadruple

There have been many huge feats achieved in the sport of football over the years. Leicester City famously won the Premier League in 2016 after starting the season on 5000/1 odds of lifting England’s biggest prize. In 1999 Sir Alex Ferguson’s finest hour as manager come to light as the Red Devils of Manchester United lifted The Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League within 11 days of each other recording an unprecedented feat; The treble.

Look away from the shores of England, take a journey throughout Europe and one will find a huge array of silver made mountains scaled by only the best of the best. Barcelona conquered all in 2009 under the guidance of former player Pep Guardiola whom summoned his three magicians; Messi, Xavi and Iniesta to forge a new empire in Rome as they lifted The Champions League cementing their legacy as the first ever Spanish team to win the treble.

Image © Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Pep Guardiola made history in 2009 as he led Barcelona to an incredible treble. The First Spanish team to do so.

However there is one achievement, one feat, one silver mountain which no team has yet successfully climbed in order to plant a crest baring flag on it’s peak. That mountain is The Quadruple. Since 1960 there have been four major trophies available to English clubs, not including any competitions that have since been discontinued such as The Cup Winners Cup. As the years have strolled by it has proved an impossible task for any single team to hold aloft all four trophies within the same season.

Until the 1992 revamping of the European Cup into the Champions League format that the footballing world now knows today, only the champions of England could compete for all four trophies. UEFA’s biggest club competition was only available to the current First Division winners and the other European nations equivalent. For the last 27 years up to four English teams (under certain circumstances five) have been enabled to fight for major silverware on four fronts yet no club have been able to claim them all within a single season. Until possibly 2019.

Is the quadruple really possible?

Now manager of Manchester City, Pep Guardiola’s side might just etch their names on a brand new page of history as they prepare to scale the ‘Mount Everest’ of football achievements. After the Spaniard ensured his team would live forever by bringing a record breaking 2017/18 season to Manchester that saw the blue side of the city hoist a Premier League and League Cup double, accumulating 100 points in the process, claiming feats such as the most wins, consecutive wins and goals scored with in a single Premier League season, City enter the business end of the 2018/19 campaign with the potential to further yield even larger success as they fight the battle for silverware on all four fronts.

Image © Manchester City
Manchester City lifted the Premier League trophy after a record breaking season

The League Cup:

There can be no doubt that the first trophy up for grabs is easily the most attainable for the Noisy Neighbours of Sir Alex Ferguson as Manchester City march into Wembley Stadium looking to retain their title on Sunday 24th February as they face Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea in the final of The EFL Cup. Having absolutely demolished The Blues in a 6-0 Premier League victory at the Ethihad this last week, going four goals ahead in only 25 minutes of play, I doubt that the Sky Blues of Manchester will ever face the West London side again with such high odds in their favour.

For what it’s worth, anything can happen in the final of a cup competition and as poor as The Blues were when they ventured to the home of Noel and Liam Gallagher, it would be typical of Chelsea’s inconsistent form of late if the actually played well and pulled off a huge upset. They still have quality in loanee signing Higuain and talisman Eden Hazard whom are are more than capable of punishing any side. The West London outfit have already proven that by becoming the first Premier League team to inflict defeat upon City this campaign back in December.

Overall though I think the favourites have a very strong chance of beating Chelsea in order to lift their first piece of silverware of this season. Last time out Sarri attempted to match City punch for punch and though it appeared brave, for about 5 minutes, prior to them conceding the first goal, it was illustrated, once again, that bravery is merely the cousin of foolishness as hatrick hero Sergio Aguero and co. left bravery dead in the water. From what I’ve seen of Sarri, the Italian appears too stubborn to change his style, a style that has seen World Cup winning holding midfield player N’golo Kante play up further up the field and severely out of position, rendering him pretty much ineffective. Come the final I expect City to punish Chelsea once more and fit the fist piece of the puzzle.

City secured their first trophy under Pep Guardiola last season with an EFL cup victory against Arsenal

The FA Cup:

Even though we head into the weekend of the Fifth round of the FA Cup, like it’s little brother, the EFL Cup, already I feel it’s only a matter of formality before City are hoisting the silverware of the oldest Cup competition in a victory celebration. The Blue Moon have taken the FA Cup very seriously this year this following a disappointing fourth round exit last season at the hands of League 1 side Wigan.

Fielding a starting 11 very close to what would normally make up a Premier League fixture, the blue side of Manchester have mercilessly battered both Rotherham and Burnley 7-0 and 5-0 on route to the last 16 of the FA Cup. This Saturday City travel to a Newport County team half the world away in League 2 for what should be a one sided contest to reach the quarter finals. With Chelsea and Manchester United the only other remaining top 6 sides left in the Cup about to commence in battle against each other on Monday night, at very worst the Sky Blues will only have to play one top 6 club to overcome their quest lift to the FA Cup.

Given the way Guardiola and City have approached the FA Cup so far this season, it appears that they have unfinished business with the worlds oldest cup competition and I expect them to go all the way this year.

Image © Herald Sun
City will look to right the wrongs of last season after defeat to Wigan ended their FA Cup dreams.

The Premier League:

This is where things start to become a bit more tricky for Manchester City. By this stage last season City already had the title wrapped up. The Sky Blues dominance within the Premier League had been completely unrivalled as they finished 19 points ahead of neighbours Manchester United in second. This year it’s a very different story as The Reds of Merseyside look to end this seasons tale with their first league title in 29 years to crown their very own happily ever after. Despite unhorsing City at the quarter final stages of the Champions League and ending their hopes of an invincible Premier League campaign in 2018, Liverpool still found themselves 25 points short in the Premier League.

This year, following some much needed new signings, The Reds remain very much in the title race as City only lead them on goal difference while having played a game more. As difficult and unlikely as it is, if Liverpool win every single one of their remaining twelve games, they win the title, regardless of whether City claim three points in all of their final eleven games or not.

The five times European Cup winners may have the ball in their court, yet their journey across it appears more dangerous than that of their sky blue rivals. Liverpool still need to face arch nemesis Manchester United, resurgent and domestically undefeated under new manager, former player, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Also posing a threat is neighbours Everton, both The Toffees and the Red Devils would love nothing more than to derail Jurgen Klopp’s title to charge.

Adding to that, Liverpool still also need to host Spurs and Chelsea at Anfield, both of which could prove problematic for The Reds as the North London club may be looking to steal the title for themselves. Whilst the West London club, Chelsea, have ensured, once before, that Liverpool’s title dreams slipped away and will be looking to do so once again as they fight for top 4.

In the end, I feel that what will ultimately decide who wins the Premier League will be each squads quality, depth and mentality. In all honesty, City seem stronger in all three departments. Talisman and in my opinion the best midfielder in the world, certainly the Premier League, Kevin De Bruyne has been injured for the most of the season. Despite his absence, which would cripple many sides, City could still call on David and Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Leroy Sane, Riyad Mahrez, Phil Foden and of course Fernandinho, the defensive midfield general.

In goal there is the fantastic ball player and shot stopper Ederson whom effectively acts as an eleventh outfield players as well as a goalkeeper. At the heart of the sky blue defence is club legend and captain Vincent Kompany, Laporte, Otamendi and John Stones, all of whom would walk into pretty much any other English defence. For strikers City boast the supersonic Sergio Aguero, their record goal scorer, spurred on to the best form of his life by the mere existence of Jesus, who is also not without certain goal scoring powers either.

Liverpool also have huge quality, in fairness to them. Mohamed Salah is probably the closest player the Premier League has to Lionel Messi, as of right now (if anyone is even remotely close to Messi). The goals he scores are out of this world as well as the number of them, having reached 40 goals quicker than any other Liverpool player in Premier League history. In the Brazillian Roberto Firmino and Senegalese Sadio Mane, The Reds have quality and pace in abundance to join Salah going forward and a Dutch rock in Virgil Van Dyke at the heart of the defence.

Throughout the team, the quality of The Reds is definitely enough to lift the title come May but I’m not sure that the depth is, especially in comparison to Manchester City’s. Having sent Nathaniel Clyne on loan to Bournemouth, Liverpool had to play veteran midfielder James Milner at right back following an injury to first choice youngster Trent Alexander-Arnold. Should Virgil Van Dyke fall to injury Liverpool could do with one of the best central defenders in the world to take his place and replace his quality. It’s a shame Dejan Lovren would take his spot instead.

In terms of mentality, City have the edge as all of their players know what it takes to climb the Premier League mountain. The top flight is certainly harder to retain than to win once as proven over the last decade as the last team to retain the Premier League was Manchester United in 2009, winning their third in a row that year. Despite that, the veterans of the City Squad have won three titles each and a cluster fall of other silverware. Liverpool on the other hand; since last winning the Champions League in 2005, have only won two cups since, the last of which was a League Cup in 2011.

Unlike their rivals, Liverpool have the weight of an entire city on their shoulders as they try to bring Merseyside its first league crown since 1990. Twenty nine long years. That pressure will really test a squad that’s only players to have won major silverware in England comes in the shape James Milner and Mo Salah. In comparison David Silva has won more in his entire career than the entire Liverpool squad put together. It’ll be tough and it could go either way but I think City will be the first side in ten years to retain the league.

Image © Football 365
Salah, Firmino and Mane could take the Premier League title from Manchester to Liverpool as they prove to be a huge threat to City’s crown.

The Champions League:

The Champions League can be a funny contest in all honesty. The drama it can create, especially over two legs in the knockout stages prior to the final can be incredible. I believe that when you compare the two, however, the Premier League is harder to win. In order to win the Premier League, a team has to be the best consistently over 38 tough games.

With the Champions League, the team that wins it doesn’t necessarily have to be the best. The Chelsea team of 2012 were nowhere near the best team in Europe that year yet the season ended with their names on the trophy as they became the only London team to lift the big ears of the European Cup. Porto won the Champions League in 2004, the same year that Arsenal were invincible in their Premier League campaign, making Jose Mourinho the Special one. As seen before winners of the most prestigious cup competition in football just need to fall over the line sometimes rather than striding across like Usain Bolt.

Since the takeover of Manchester City football club by Sheikh Mansour in 2008, City have won everything except the big one, the Champions League. Once they add that accolade to their list of honours, Manchester City can truly consider themselves a member of the big clubs, a European heavyweight. Even though I think they could win every trophy, it is without a doubt that if they could only win one, it would be this one.

For all his success, it has been seven years since Guardiola last won the Champions League as City were left looking back in anger following their quarter final exit at the hands of their current main title rivals. This year I think it could be one of the most competitive Champions League campaigns as there are a host of clubs that could potentially claim the European Cup this season.

Barcelona have Messi, you can never rule out a team with the five time Ballon d’or winner, however the dominance of Barcelona has faded somewhat over the last few years, even though they have real quality in the likes of Rakitic, rather understandably, they’ve never really been able to properly replace the wizardry and control of Xavi and Andres Iniesta as their arch rivals Real Madrid have won gone on to win three European Cups on the bounce under the guidance of Zinedine Zidane.

However, Zidane has departed from Madrid along with Cristiano Ronaldo. With their biggest player over the last decade gone, Real Madrid have suffered this season domestically and though they still seem capable of churning out victories on Europe’s biggest stage, one has to question whether they can go the distance this year.

The power in Munich has also seemed to have diminished somewhat in recent years. Bayern could very well lose out on the Bundesliga title for the first time since 2012 as two of their key players, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, have entered the twilight phase of their careers which, along with the loss of Bastian Schweinsteiger and World Cup winning captain Philipp Lahm in recent seasons, has left Munich light.

Juventus have a great chance this year. Once again Serie A is already over, claimed by the Old Lady so there is every reason for Juventus to put all their eggs into the Champions League basket carried by Cristiano Ronaldo. The Italian side will be keen to add a third Champions League to their trophy cabinet and have every reason to believe move the title from it’s Madrid home.

Despite the other sides that could potentially win the Champions League, I would also include last years finalists, Liverpool, in that category, I do think that overall City have the best all round squad with huge depth and play not only the best looking football but the most lethal, potent football in Europe right now which will be a huge problem for every team they come across.

Having topped their group, the Sky Blues go into the Last 16 of the Champions League against German opposition Schalke whom they should dispatch relatively simply over the course of two legs. From the quarter finals onwards, it will take some giant performances from giant teams to stop them.

The quadruple has so far proven to be an impossible task. Their manager even said as much when talk began of it last season. Yet, in Manchester City, I believe there is a team best equipped to make it a reality and scale the unscalable mountain as they have every reason to go into every individual competition believing that they can win it. If they do, there will be a champagne supernova beneath the blue moon of Manchester.

Image ©
Manchester City will be aiming to win their first every European crown

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