Football: Five players that led Manchester City to Premier League glory

 Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates winning the Premier League.
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates winning the Premier League.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Manchester City became the first side in a decade to retain the Premier League on Sunday (May 12) as a 4-1 victory at Brighton capped a remarkable 14-game winning run which saw them edge out Liverpool in a thrilling title race.

Here, Agence France-Presse Sport looks at five of the key players that led Pep Guardiola's men to the title:

Sergio Aguero

City have now won the title in four of the past eight seasons and one of the few common strands has been Aguero's goals.

The Argentine has shrugged off the doubts Guardiola had about his suitability for the Catalan's style of football when he first arrived in Manchester to reinstate himself firmly as City's first-choice striker.

Aguero has now scored at least 20 Premier League goals in five straight seasons, the first player to do so since Thierry Henry.

 

And many of his 21 this season were the most important ones in City's run to the title.

His instant response as Brighton threatened a final-day surprise settled nerves on Sunday; he bagged hat-tricks against Chelsea and Arsenal; scored the opener at home to Liverpool; and the winner in a hard-fought 1-0 win at Burnley by forcing the ball a mere 30 millimetres over the line.

On such small margins, the title race was won.

Aymeric Laporte


 Manchester City's Aymeric Laporte. PHOTO: REUTERS

The French defender was signed for a then club-record £57 million (S$101 million) in January 2018 and after settling in during the second half of last season, has become the mainstay of Guardiola's defence.

The 24-year-old has played more minutes in the Premier League this season than any other City outfield player and was rightly rewarded with a place in the PFA's team of the year.

Laporte's ability to distribute the ball accurately from the back is why Guardiola was so keen to bring him to the Etihad from Athletic Bilbao, but he also possesses the pace and physical power to cope with the rigours of the Premier League with ease as he showed in scoring the goal that put City in front at Brighton.

Fernandinho


Manchester City's Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho. PHOTO: AFP

City's strength in depth has been key to holding off Liverpool's charge despite going deep in four competitions, but if there is one player that Guardiola's squad does not have a natural replacement for it is Fernandinho.

The Brazilian's presence was badly missed in December defeats by Crystal Palace and Leicester that threatened to kill off City's title defence.

He was rushed back to steady the ship and was outstanding in the 2-1 win over Liverpool on January 3 that ultimately proved the difference between the sides.

Bernardo Silva


Manchester City's Portuguese midfielder Bernardo Silva. PHOTO: AFP

The diminutive Portuguese playmaker had to wait patiently for his chance to shine, having spent most of his debut season on the sidelines, but from the first game of this campaign Guardiola claimed his preferred line-up was "Bernardo and 10 more".

Silva's seven goals and eight assists in the Premier League have helped make up for Kevin De Bruyne's lengthy absences.

However, he is far from a luxury player who adds a final flourish. In the decisive January victory over Liverpool, he ran 13.7 kilometres, then a season-high for distance covered by any player in the Premier League.

"I love him, it's simple like that," said Guardiola.

Raheem Sterling


Manchester City's English midfielder Raheem Sterling. PHOT: AFP

His status as a frontline campaigner in the fight to rid football of racism played a big part in his crowning as the football writers' player of the year.

But the England star has grown in stature both on and off the pitch this season.

His 23 goals in all competitions matches his personal best for a single season and Guardiola's insistence in using him in almost every game, despite having Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez in reserve, speaks volumes of how important Sterling has become to City's fortunes.