BEVERLY HILLS, April 22, (THEWILL) – The Wednesday night English Premier League victory of Manchester City over Aston Villa at Villa Park ensured City continued on their sure path to the EPL title for the 2020/21 season. Their “champions elect” status confirms what will be a third league trophy in four years for the club and a fifth overall in the previous ten years.
The road to this campaign’s title was not as certain as it seems now because Pep Guardiola’s side were very nearly written off as contenders when they could only manage five wins from the opening 13 games. It was so tough for them making headway that until late November last year, the Etihad club was mixing up with teams at the bottom half of the standings.
It took a reworking of their tactics and game play before the Cityzens rediscovered their rhythm to get back up the table within the festive period of last year’s end. By the turn of the year, a commendable run of 15 consecutive victories in their league matches dating back to December allowed them a clear sight of the top of the table.
One key element of this climb was a defensive advantage. Being more conservative at the back, the team ended matches barely conceding goals, with only five let in during this 15-match victory run. The performance of their centre-back Ruben Dias, and his rigid defensive alliance with John Stones, was instrumental enough for this resurgence that Dias is being considered for the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) Player of the Year.
This worked hand-in-glove with the inspirational goal-scoring display of Ilkay Gundogan. The German footballer suddenly found his scoring boots and stepped up at every juncture the team needed goals to double his best ever career goal tally in a single league season since his senior professional career began. It worked well for playmaker, Kevin De Bruyne, who applied his magic touch in the midfield to make things happen.
This was amply supported by the flourishing coming of age of their 20-year-old Phil Foden. The youngster is blossoming splendidly under the tactical genius of Guardiola making certain to temper his talent with cautious pacing as to keep him from burnout. This turned out perfectly in City’s advance to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League and can only improve as they inch closer to a triple this season.
Only a couple of defeats of late have kept City’s title in the top flight away temporarily. But, they still hold a mathematical chance of clinching the trophy ahead of the final weeks of matches due to the points gap they have amassed for themselves since the turn of the year.
City’s commitments to the EFL title means, it could be a bit longer before this mathematical chance materialises because their rivals Manchester United, who are currently second but 11 points behind, stand the chance of closing it to only eight points if they win their away game to Leeds on Sunday while City are on duty in the Carabao Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur.
The mathematics will then be that United will be able to reach 84 maximum points if they win all six of their remaining fixtures leaving City, who currently have 77 points, needing only eight points from the 15 available in their five remaining games for the title to go to the Etihad trophy cabinet with the others they have won.
If City take their next three matches, that will be the season over before the final two games are played. If that holds as true, City may be champions by Wednesday, May 12, away at St. James Park against Newcastle United. Except United drop points before then and City continues winning, which could make it an earlier title victory, or later, if that is reversed and City drop points while United keeps winning.
As things currently hold, there are no details from City about what their title celebrations will be like especially for someone like Guardiola, who would rather all attentions are laser-focused on the games remaining rather than what is to come much later. It will be possible to have a socially-distanced crowd for the celebrations as, according to the government plans, fans should be allowed back in stadiums for the final two gameweeks of the season based on improvements on the pandemic front.