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Are Manchester City the best ever Premier League team?

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Pep Guardiola Manchester City Premier League champions
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Pep Guardiola Manchester City Premier League champions
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Pep Guardiola has won the Premier League title in his second season at Manchester City

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Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
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Pep Guardiola Manchester City Premier League champions

Pep Guardiola’s champions being compared to the legendary Man Utd, Arsenal and Chelsea sides of the past

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Monday, April 16, 2018 - 2:44pm

Manchester City have wrapped up the Premier League title despite five games still left to be played this season. 

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Pep Guardiola’s side have won 28 of their 33 games so far, while only losing twice and drawing three times on their way to the title. They are on course to break records and in doing so have played a brand of football so good that they are being compared to some of the best sides in Premier League history.

So, where does this City side stand in terms of the Premier League’s best ever teams?

Are they as good as Manchester United’s treble-winning team of 1998-99, the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ of 2003-04, or Chelsea’s all-conquering side that lost only one match in the 2004-05 season. Or is this City side better than them all?

We look at how the UK football writers rate Guardiola’s current crop of stars.

City’s season so far

They were beaten in the Champions League quarter-finals by Liverpool, but in the Premier League City have been unstoppable across the course of the season.

BBC Match of the Day pundits describe City’s performances as “sensational”, and with 15 points still left to play for City’s title-winning season, it could get even better. According to Sky Sports, in this campaign City have already broken records for consecutive Premier League wins (18) and most passes in one game (902).

Potential record breakers

City have already equalled the record for winning the Premier League, with five games remaining. But they are also closing in on six Premier League records set by Chelsea during their title-winning seasons in 2005 and 2010. 

The London Evening Standard reports that Chelsea won the title in 2005 with a tally of 95 points - City need just three wins from their last five games to beat that record. City are currently on 87 points from 33 games. 

Other Chelsea records within City’s reach are most goals scored (103), best goal difference (+71), and most goals scored at home (68). With games against Swansea, West Ham, Huddersfield, Brighton and Southampton, City should build on their current tally of 93 goals and a difference of +68. They also need 16 goals from their home matches against Swansea, Huddersfield and Brighton.

City are also within reach of records for most wins (City 28; record is 30); most away wins (City 14; record is 15) and most away points (City 44; record is 48).

How to City compare with other great sides?

Goal.com says that this current City side “have arguably played the most adventurous football with the most fluid system that the English top flight has ever seen” - but Pep’s team is “not perfect”. Mark Doyle writes: “Indeed, they may not be the best side in Premier League history, but they are arguably the most beautiful.”

The 2017-18 City rank fourth on Goal.com’s list behind third-placed Arsenal (2003-04), Manchester United (2007-08), and United’s 1998-99 team, who take top spot. 

Sky Sports has asked readers to rank the best ever Premier League sides of all time. United’s 1998-99 side again take top spot, ahead of Arsenal’s 2003-04 Invincibles. In third place is Leicester City’s title side from 2015-16, which has more votes than City in fourth.  

‘An insult to United and Arsenal’

While many fans and pundits are comparing this City side to past legends, ESPN’s Alex Shaw says it’s an “insult to Manchester United and Arsenal” to call City the greatest Premier League side ever.

Shaw writes: “Everyone has their own definition of what constitutes the ‘best’ Premier League team in history but winning with style is only half the battle. This Manchester City side are aesthetically beautiful but they have a weakness about them that can be exploited.

“They wilted at Anfield in the Champions League and collapsed at their own title party a few days later, caught in a whirlwind as Manchester United swarmed all over them, back from the dead when all hope had looked lost.

“City’s mental fortitude remains in doubt and their defence in vulnerable. It’s a weakness, which pales in comparison to United and Arsenal’s best. Those two teams barely had a weakness between them.”

What does the future hold for Pep and his City slickers?

Writing in The Times, Henry Winter says that if “genius” Guardiola wants to join the greats of English football then he must keep winning Premier League titles. “They are a joy to watch,” says Winter, “delivering winning football in every sense, but Guardiola and his players know, as all ambitious teams do, that retaining the trophy will fully set them apart.”

Winter’s colleague at The Times, Oliver Kay, believes that if City are to “create the dynasty they crave”, European success must be achieved.

Kay writes: “City have never had it so good, not even in their late 1960s pomp under Joe Mercer, but, ten years into Sheikh Mansour’s ownership, it is time they set their sights even higher.

“For Pep Guardiola, that means not just trying to perfect their playing style, which is on course to break so many records this season, but trying to win back-to-back titles, something that Roberto Mancini and Manuel Pellegrini never came close to doing, and finally establishing City as a serious force in the Champions League.”

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