Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions for the third time in seven seasons on Sunday afternoon, as Manchester United’s defeat to bottom club West Bromwich Albion mathematically confirmed what many of us knew for most of the season.
Pep Guardiola’s side have dominated from start to finish, beating all 19 of their competitors in at least one of their two meetings this season and three wins from their last five games will also see them break the record for most points in a Premier League season.
The 2004/05 Chelsea team currently hold that record and, being the perfectionist that he is, Guardiola will undoubtedly have his eyes on snatching the milestone.
City’s performances and relentless superiority over this season’s league has left many to question where this team ranks amongst those who have competed in the Premier League since its inception in 1992.
In modern history, the 1998/99 treble-winning Manchester United team, Arsenal’s 2003/04 Invincibles and the aforementioned 2004/05 Chelsea double winners are generally considered to be the greatest we have witnessed.
There is no doubt this City side has now joined that trio of teams on the Premier League’s ‘Mount Rushmore’, but where do they rank alongisde the greats?
All four teams have their own justified argument as to why they deserve to be heralded as the best ever. Manchester United won the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League in the space of two weeks, Arsenal remain the only team to have gone through a Premier League season unbeaten and Chelsea recorded the highest ever points total.
Yet none of them did it in the manner City have. Both the Arsenal and Chelsea sides were far more pragmatic and while United’s teams under Fergie are celebrated for their attacking style of play, not even they could compete with the quality on display from the 2017/18 champions.
They are set to comfortably surpass the 100-goal mark for the season and credit is due right through the squad for that achievement. Finding a way of stopping this team from scoring has proved to be a near-impossible task - with Crystal Palace being the only side successful in doing so in the league this season.
Star man Kevin De Bruyne is the motor behind their success, spraying passes across the pitch like an artist. He has been well supported by the experienced Fernandinho and David Silva, who often fail to get the recognition they deserve for the job they do.
Guardiola recognised weaknesses in his squad and quickly upgraded them in the summer, with Ederson and Kyle Walker both substantially improving the side, both defensively and in possession.
Then we have the fearsome attacking line-up of Leroy Sane, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Sergio Aguero, who have scored 61 league goals between them to date.
Liverpool have proved during their three victories over City this season just how outstanding you need to be to defeat them. Jurgen Klopp’s side are arguably the fittest in the Premier League and it took every ounce of that stamina to produce the requisite workrate to stop City from playing.
The Champions League argument is one many may use against this team being the best Premier League side of all-time, yet it is not held against Arsenal or Chelsea, who were eliminated at the quarter-final and semi-final stage in their respective title-winning seasons.
In truth, Guardiola hasn’t got much wrong this season, but their premature elimination from Europe may well be held against him after he made the surprising decision to drop Sterling in place of Ilkay Gundogan. It ultimately backfired, forcing him to go gung-ho in the second leg and play right into Liverpool’s hands, as they ruthlessly exploited them on the counter-attack.
United were the only side to win the Champions League of the team’s mentioned, yet they did it with 79 points to their name - the third-lowest total of a team to win the Premier League.
To put that into context, should Jose Mourinho’s current team win three of their last five games this season, they would surpass that total and would have won the title in 1998/99, as would Klopp’s Liverpool if they were to win three of their last four games.
It does not take anything away from their incredible achievements, but they weren’t as dominant on the domestic front as this City team has been alongside their own cup commitments. United went down until the final day of the season before winning the title in 1999 - this City team have done it with five games to spare.
Perhaps one of the most concerning aspects of Guardiola’s team is they still have both the motivation and room to improve for next season. Still a young squad, you can only presume that the likes of John Stones, Aymeric Laporte, Benjamin Mendy, Bernardo Silva, De Bruyne, Sterling, Sane and Jesus will get better under the tutelage of Guardiola, as well as with any potential new recruits in the summer.
There will be some regrets about not going all the way in the Champions League, having missed out on a semi-final clash against Roma - but the consolation of being the greatest Premier League team of all-time and winning a league and cup double will suffice for many City supporters.