Pep Guardiola says Manchester City’s 20-match winning streak is ‘one of the greatest achievements in our careers’ – but is it merely a step towards becoming the first side to complete the quadruple?
Some of the statistics around City’s recent success are staggering.
The 2-1 win against West Ham was Guardiola’s 200th victory in 273 games as City manager. No-one has reached their top-flight double century in England in fewer games.
City have not dropped a point since 15 December, they have not lost since 21 November. Michail Antonio’s equaliser was the first goal they have conceded to an opposition player in open play at Etihad Stadium in the Premier League since James Maddison curled in a 25-yard effort for Leicester on 27 September.
If City avoid defeat at home to Wolves on Tuesday, it will equal the 28-game unbeaten they put together under Guardiola from May to December in 2017.
They are now 13 points clear in the Premier League, play Tottenham in the EFL Cup final at Wembley on 25 April, Everton in the FA Cup quarter-final on 20 March and hold a two-goal lead from the away leg of their Champions League last-16 tie with Borussia Monchengladbach.
And the world is still in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Twenty victories, in this era, with this situation around the world, is maybe one of the greatest achievements we have done together in our careers,” said Guardiola.
City’s awesome strength in depth
The strength of City’s squad was on show against West Ham.
Guardiola made seven changes to the side that beat Monchengladbach on Wednesday. Sergio Aguero started his first Premier League game since October. Oleksandr Zinchenko took over the new full-back/midfield role Joao Cancelo has excelled in. Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva, Benjamin Mendy and Aymeric Laporte did not contribute a single minute to this latest triumph from a bench that cost £305m.
“It doesn’t matter who he plays with,” former England defender Martin Keown said on Final Score.
“Fake full-backs, fake midfielders, fake nines. The two central defenders have been magnificent and now they are scoring goals.”
In 2019, City completed a domestic Treble, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup, but failed against Tottenham in the Champions League quarter-finals, the stage they have exited the completion in their last three attempts.
Manuel Pellegrini remains the only City manager to reach a semi-final. On current evidence, only Bayern Munich and Paris St-Germain on a good day, look capable of matching them.
“This is their best chance to do the quadruple,” added Alex Scott. “Manchester City fans won’t be getting carried away yet but when I look around Europe, they are one of the strongest teams.”
Former England and West Ham midfielder Joe Cole added on BT Sport: “We have seen the champions elect. The numbers are staggering. To win 20 in a row is incredible. They have raised the bar again.
“They are favourites in all three English competitions. If they could win all four it would be the greatest achievement of any English team.”
West Ham manager David Moyes said his side – who remain fourth – had performed well against “probably the best team in Europe”.
City run is ‘an exception’
In addition to his goal, Antonio struck the outside of a post, Jesse Lingard had a shot blocked and Issa Diop came close to claiming a point for West Ham with an injury-time header that bounced narrowly wide.
But City always seemed to have a little bit in reserve even though they were enduring one of those Wednesday night-Saturday lunchtime turnarounds that Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and his Manchester United counterpart Ole Gunnar Solskjaer have complained about this season.
Aguero looked off the pace and even Kevin de Bruyne failed to reach his usual high standards on a consistent basis.
The Belgian did deliver an outstanding cross that invited the header from Ruben Dias to open the scoring, while John Stones clinched victory when he clinically finished first-time from Riyad Mahrez’s lay-off.
“What we have done so far is unusual, an exception,” said Guardiola. “Normally you drop points, a draw or defeats.
“In the last four seasons we were so consistent. Three years ago we got 100 points and were unstoppable. Last season as well, when we finished second, we earned enough points to be champions in any other year but we faced a team that was exceptional like we were in the previous two seasons.
“We didn’t drop much. We won the Carabao Cup and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup. We didn’t finish fifth, sixth or seventh.
“But what we have done in the past doesn’t count for anything. Every season is a new chapter and we don’t have time to rest.
“We can enjoy this victory today, then tomorrow, we start to prepare for Wolves.”