Five key games which won Manchester City the Premier League title

The key moments in Man City’s triumphant Premier League campaign

Dylan Terry
Tuesday 11 May 2021 19:52
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<p>Man City have strolled to a fifth Premier League crown</p>

Man City have strolled to a fifth Premier League crown

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Manchester City have coasted to a fifth Premier League title in emphatic fashion, their third in four years under Pep Guardiola.

Since the turn of the year the Spaniard’s side have been largely unplayable as they raced away from all other potential challengers with ruthless efficiency.

But it is easy to forget that it wasn’t all going so swimmingly earlier on in the campaign, with the club finding themselves down in sixth place midway through December.

So how did Man City turn their struggling season into a title procession?

Here are five key matches that have shaped their Premier League campaign.

Manchester City 2-5 Leicester

After getting off to a routine start to the season with a 3-1 win over Wolves, Man City were brought back down to earth with an almighty bump as they were thrashed 5-2 by Leicester in their first Premier League home match.

Jamie Vardy tore Guardiola’s back line to pieces, while clumsy defending led to the Foxes being gifted three penalties on their way to a famous win.

The result sparked a run of just one league win in four games for City and highlighted that a defensive re-think was in order.

As leaky as they looked – it was the first time Guardiola had let in five goals in his 686 games of management - City would go on to concede just five times in their next 13 Premier League games.

Vardy scored a hat-trick at the Etihad in a rout for the visitors

Manchester City 1-1 West Bromwich Albion

Although on the face of it this does not look like a major moment in the champions’ season, it was actually perhaps the key turning point.

A Ruben Dias own goal typifies how much this 1-1 draw with West Brom subverts what we would see from City for the rest of the Premier League campaign as it would be the last league match they fail to win for nearly three months.

Looking back on that game, Guardiola said: “After that game, I felt this is not the team I can recognise myself. I didn’t like what I watched, I didn’t like what I saw. We could have won but Tottenham... West Bromwich, I didn’t like it.

“We talked with Juanma [Lillo, his assistant], with Rodo [Borrell], with Manel [Estiarte], with Txiki [Begiristain]. And we said OK, we have to come back to our first principle and we had to reconstruct the team from that point. What we are as a team, how we had success in the past. We had to come back to our game, move the ball quicker, do more passes, stay in position, run less with the ball, do it together.

“We don’t have a specific player to win games, we have to do it together. But above all that was the commitment of the players. They talked, they think OK, we have to do more and they did it. After that we didn’t press ourselves too much. We just said to win the next game, don’t think we are in a position to win the Premier League or whatever, we are not good enough to compete right now.

“Win the next game with our principles and see what happened. Everyone dropped points and we didn’t do it. What we want to do is continue with those principles as long as possible.”

It was also Ilkay Gundogan’s first goal in 22 Premier League games as he prepared to become Man City’s main goal threat from midfield.

Guardiola has identified this game as a major wake-up call

Southampton 0-1 Manchester City

This match came four days after the disappointing West Brom draw as Man City looked to close the gap to Liverpool at the top of the table to eight points.

A Raheem Sterling goal after a quarter of an hour gave them a much-needed victory over Southampton, but in the wider context of the season it kicked into gear a side who were robust, resolute and refusing to concede goals.

The win at St Mary’s would trigger a run of eight clean sheets in nine Premier League matches, a mentality shift which took them from mid-table obscurity to the top of the pile.

“I think Southampton was one of the turning points with how difficult it was because Southampton were in incredibly top form and we were able to beat them at a difficult stadium,” Guardiola said.

“After, the game against Newcastle and the process we started to play better and the results gave us a lot of confidence. We saw that we were far from the top of the league and every week we started getting closer.

“The team has slept better, eaten better, trained better and has picked up the results to give us successive wins but now we have another game. You always ask about the past, I’m not a big fan of this because it is the past and the next one is important.”

This was the first victory in what would become a ridiculous winning run

Chelsea 1-3 Manchester City

Most people would agree this is the match when the rest of the title contenders stood up and took note.

The win only closed the gap at the top to four points, but it was the manner of the performance that signalled a statement of intent.

A breathtaking 45 minutes from Man City saw them 3-0 up at the break following goals from Gundogan, Phil Foden and Kevin de Bruyne.

Chelsea had started the day above their opponents in the table and would have felt supremely confident after a coronavirus outbreak left Ederson, Gabriel Jesus, Kyle Walker and Ferran Torres all unavailable.

But the hosts were totally outclassed by Guardiola’s side at Stamford Bridge as the 2018-19 champions really began to find their feet.

“That was the moment we believed ‘if we can do it there, we can do it every day’,” Guardiola said. “That was one of the three important moments at the beginning of the season that helped us to stay there. Chelsea made us feel like we could do it like we have done in the past in previous seasons.”

Man City eased past Chelsea at the beginning of 2021

Liverpool 1-4 Manchester City

Manchester City had not won at Anfield since 2003 coming into this clash at the beginning of February. City knew that a win would take them five points clear of Manchester United and ten ahead of Jurgen Klopp’s reigning champions Liverpool.

Goals from Gundogan and Mohamed Salah left the game level with 20 minutes to go, but three strikes in ten minutes saw City stylishly canter away with all three points.

The fourth goal from Phil Foden – a thumping drive into the roof of the net – was also the mark of a 20-year-old who was fast becoming one of Guardiola’s most cherished possessions.

Man City went on to win another five Premier League games in a row as their rivals began to fall away, unable to keep up with their relentlessly impressive form.

The gap to second place has never dropped as low as five points since that match at Anfield and can be seen in retrospect as the afternoon City’s status as champions-elect became universally acknowledged.

Man City solidified their position at the top of the table with victory at Anfield

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