Football

Forget The Invincibles, Pep’s Team Will Set New Records

For a brief period, it appeared that England’s gruelling winter period would slow down Manchester City’s march to the Premier League title.

A narrow win over Newcastle United, followed by a draw with Crystal Palace to end their record-winning run, had raised some doubts about this team.

Pep Guardiola has since questioned the way things are done, claiming that the busy schedule of games is affecting the players.

Apparently not his own, though.

Any uncertainties about Manchester City were quickly swept away against Watford, as they returned to their exorbitant best in the most comfortable of wins.

It wasn’t quite the 6-0 scoreline they racked up at Vicarage Road but it was easily as resounding.

From the second the game started, Manchester City had no intentions of allowing a repeat of that frustrating draw with Palace. To describe them as menacing would be akin to describing a lion as a little bit dangerous.

Watford would have travelled to the Etihad with the intention of keeping it tight in the early minutes and looking to nick a goal on the counter. That game plan was tossed out the window with barely 40 seconds on the clock, when Raheem Sterling side-footed the ball home.

It was the fastest goal City have scored this season and the third fastest goal the club have ever scored in the Premier League.

At the rate they’re going, it will likely be the fastest ever title success as well.

None epitomise the effectiveness of Guardiola’s tutelage like Raheem Sterling, who now sits on 18 goals for the season, just three shy of his last two seasons combined.

His opposite number, Marco Silva, was left shaking his head on the touchline, totally dumbstruck.

On the pitch, his players were doing the same. Touch, pass, touch, pass, Watford’s men were left dazzled by the manner in which their opponents played around them.

Goals two and three both came as easily as that first, as the Hornets became the latest team to fail to stop the City juggernaut.

Clinical is a word that best describes this team at present and none more so than Kevin de Bruyne.

The Belgian has found himself on the end of some ‘tough’ tackling of late, as teams attempt to slow him down the old fashioned way, but like City’s title march, he shows no signs of letting them stop him.

His part in the second goal made him the first player to reach ten assists in Europe’s top five leagues this season. Thierry Henry’s record is surely in his sights now.

Focusing solely on the front line would be a foolish exercise, though. What sits behind them is equally important.

The pressing from both Fernandinho and the defence behind him was at its best: suffocating and pressing Watford, stopping them from venturing out their own half.

As a result, Ederson, in goal, was rarely tested, but when he was he did what he is paid to do with assuredness; there isn’t a better goalkeeper than him at this moment in time.

The fact he completed more passes in the first half than the entire Watford team is a further indicator of the control Manchester City aside.

Watford’s late goal aside, this was as near as perfect a performance as Pep Guardiola can expect from his team.

2017 ended with his current entourage being compared to Arsenal’s Invincibles, and that debate is one that will undoubtedly spawn many column inches and opinion pieces in the months ahead.

For some, there is no discussion to be had, that Arsenal team that dazzled over a decade ago will never be matched. People who say so are short-sighted in the extreme. Arsenal’s Invincibles conceded 26 goals in total in their glorious season, Manchester City are on course to concede just 22.

At the other end, the Gunners managed 73 goals in total; City are just ten behind that tally with half a season still to play.

Indeed, before too long, focus will have to be diverted away from The Invincibles and onto other records.

The most wins in a season, the most points in a season, the most away wins, the most goals and the biggest goal difference are just some of the other records this Manchester City team could take for themselves this season.

This comfortable win over Watford was just the latest step towards them doing just that.

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