Football: Manchester City title runaway a surprise for Pep

Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring their first goal, on March 5, 2018.
Manchester City's Bernardo Silva celebrates after scoring their first goal, on March 5, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Manchester City are on an inexorable march to the Premier League title with four more wins needed on paper, but technically, it is only three given that their fourth game is a "six-pointer" against rivals Manchester United.

And that is assuming the Red Devils win all their games before April 7, including this morning's (Singapore time) clash at Crystal Palace.

But manager Pep Guardiola admitted he never imagined City would have run away with the league title this season after beating Chelsea 1-0 at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.

Bernardo Silva scored the winner seconds after the second half kicked off.

When asked whether he felt such a season of dominance could have been foreseen, Guardiola said: "Before? No way. Who could believe it? If you ask the players, the players (couldn't believe it).

"Not just the results but the way we played, today was another demonstration. We showed the same desire as at Stamford Bridge. That's what pleases me.

"To have the distance, 25 to Chelsea, 33 to Arsenal. Tottenham, Liverpool and United... We are so far so good... It is a consequence of the way we play."

  • Premier League talking points

  • DON'T CALL SPURS THE HARRY KANE TEAM

    Son Heung Min scored his ninth and 10th Premier League goals of the season against Huddersfield, while his team-mates also shone. Dele Alli, the subject of so much finger-wagging, laid on a superlative assist and Christian Eriksen made things tick in the middle of the park.

    Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura, who caught the eye again, also got minutes off the bench. With greater attacking options than before, Spurs are firing their way to a top-four place.

    MISERLY MAGPIES DO BENITEZ A DISSERVICE

    Newcastle fans endured the familiar regret of what Rafa Benitez could have delivered this term with decent investment in his squad.

    "A Championship team with a Premier League manager," was Steven Gerrard's description of the Magpies, even though their collection of modest talent restricted Jurgen Klopp's flying Liverpool side to just three shots on target.

    "We have a very good team in front of us. We got into some good positions and we were running full pace but still we couldn't beat them," Benitez said.

    WENGER NOT ARSENAL'S ONLY SCAPEGOAT

    The frantic search for blame is a key part of football. But even though Arsene Wenger is Arsenal's lightning rod and with good reason, the malaise is far from all his fault.

    Owner Stan Kroenke is not as interested in a winning team as he is a profitable business, part of the reason Wenger has been retained so much longer than made sense while a succession of talented players have shrunk and failed.

    Which is to say that the sooner Wenger leaves the better for everyone, him included - but plenty of others have failed in bringing the Gunners to this miserable point.

    THE GUARDIAN

With nine games remaining, City who are on 78 points, can become the first team to break the 100-point barrier in the history of English top-flight football.

Guardiola said, though, that his sole focus was on securing silverware.

"We are not going to play for the records. They are not the main thing. What really matters is to be champions," he said.

He has had a tense relationship at times with Sergio Aguero but he enthused that the Argentina striker was at peak form since his appointment last term.

"Since we were together here with Sergio, the last 11/2, two months, is the best Sergio I have seen. Okay, he didn't score (against the Blues) but he will score in the future," the Spaniard added.

In contrast, Chelsea forward Eden Hazard ploughed a lonely furrow and he would have looked on wistfully at the support Aguero received.

He told Belgian daily HLN : "We (Chelsea) could have played on for three hours, and I (still) wouldn't touch a ball. For me, it's difficult to play a good game, when you only touch the ball three times."

The Belgium international also hinted that he was frustrated playing as the team's false nine, with the position not being his natural game.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 06, 2018, with the headline 'City title runaway a surprise for Pep'. Print Edition | Subscribe