BEVERLY HILLS, February 12, (THEWILL) – There is no unbiased follower of the English Premier League that will argue against the choice of the Spanish manager of Manchester City, Pep Guardiola, as the Premier League manager of the month for January, especially when the progress of the City side is critically appraised.
In an unusual season that, between when the session began in September to the end of January, already had nine different table toppers, it was presumed that the cyclic nature at the top would persist to the very end of the season.
Arsenal, Everton, Leicester City (in September), Liverpool (in October), Southampton and Tottenham (in November), Chelsea (in December), Manchester United and City (in January) had all been at the top of the table and before long were looking behind their shoulders as the chasing pack picked up points.
It seemed the leadership at the top will continue changing until City took timely advantage of the faltering form of other title contenders like Liverpool’s goal drought, Manchester United’s poor home form, Chelsea’s decline and Tottenham Hotspur’s questionable losses to pull away from the competition.
Presently, the men from the Etihad are comfortably five points clear at the top of the division, are playing at a more consistent level than they did at the start of the 2020/2021 season, and have a game in hand. This is all largely thanks to a perfect January, where they picked up six consecutive victories including a 3-1 win at Stamford Bridge.
That Chelsea beating was how the month started for Guardiola’s charges and Callum Hudson-Odoi’s late consolation effort was the only goal the City side concede for the entire January, even after dispatching neighbours Manchester United out of the FA Cup with a 2-nil win at Old Trafford.
They asserted their serious title contending claim like at no other time when they won their next five matches by an aggregate scoreline of 13-0. City effectively brushed aside a sizeable quarter of the top flight with minimal fuss to assert themselves as the clear favourites to stake ownership of the summit of the EPL.
As a nod to their dominance of the League, City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, who scored five goals in six appearances in January, completed the Etihad-double by taking the Player of the Month award as well. He was at the centre of everything ticking in the middle of the park for City and has added a fair share of goals to his already-packed armoury.
Casting aside their lethargic start, Guardiola’s team more and more resemble their older selves, that team that romped to successive 2018 and 2019 league titles with the EPL’s two highest point totals ever recorded, 100 and 98 points respectively for each of those seasons. It was the height of Guardiola’s City powers, a time when they were nigh impossible to beat.
When they could only manage just two wins of their first five games this season and were in the bottom half of the table as recently as November, many believed English football had seen the best of Guardiola, and that the golden age of City was in the past. But, with 38 points taken from 42 available, Guardiola once again looks on course to lead the charge to yet another EPL trophy.
It is for these that Guardiola easily left the competition from West Ham’s David Moyes, Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta, and Graham Potter of Brighton & Hove Albion behind to claim the best manager award for January. And why it will take a disastrous decline for their season to tank.