Over the past few seasons, Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City have firmly cemented themselves as one of the greatest Premier League teams in history. The 100 points they racked up during the 2017/2018 season remains a record and retaining the title the following season was even more impressive, considering the big lead that Liverpool enjoyed at one point in the campaign.
However, last term they faltered badly, with the Reds cantering to their first top flight title in 30 years. The rot seemed to be continuing this time out with Leicester tearing apart Guardiola’s charges during their second game of the season, a match the Foxes eventually won 5-2. In recent weeks though, the Citizens have managed to get back to their imperious best. A 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace on Sunday represented their eight straight win in all competitions and they are now just two points adrift of Premier League leaders Manchester United with a game in hand.
How has Guardiola managed to orchestrate this remarkable turnaround? We analysed all the latest football stats to find out.
Change in Style
Last season, City’s occasionally leaky defense cost them the title, it is as simple as that. As all great managers do, Guardiola recognised this and has adapted his tactical system accordingly. The real turning point was Leicester’s dominant win back in September. Despite enjoying 72% possession, City never looked like winning. The key problem was that it was far too easy for the Foxes to tear through their midfield in transition. Individual errors also played their part with Leicester winning three penalties. Since then, Guardiola has sacrificed attacking freedom for more control. As a result, one freak defeat to Tottenham aside, the amount of fast breaks they have allowed has drastically reduced, as has the number of individual defensive errors.
Attacking Mojo is Back
A welcome return of City’s attacking gusto has complemented their defensive improvements nicely. Despite club record scorer Sergio Aguero remaining absent with injury, City have finally started to find the net with some regularity in recent weeks. Towards the start of the season, the once free scoring Citizens only managed to find the net five times in a dismal run of six Premier League games. In stark contrast, their last four league games have returned 10 goals, with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Phil Foden stepping up to fill the void left by Aguero’s continued absence.
While systematic changes implemented by Guardiola have been very important, City’s improved fortunes is also down to several players’ personal improvement. In no squad member has this been more evident than John Stones. Last season, Stones endured a pitiful campaign plagued by personal errors and limited playing time. This campaign, he and Ruben Dias have forged the most fearsome centre-back partnership in the Premier League. He has even been among the goals, bagging a brace in City’s most recent 4-0 victory over Crystal Palace. The aforementioned Foden has also developed significantly and both players are looking like certainties for Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad next summer.