Manchester City’s winter has been something to behold. Ten Premier League wins in a row has seen them score 31 goals and as a result they have blown the competition away, and now sit eight points clear at the top of the table. As other teams struggle with injuries, the upcoming AFCON, or Covid-19 related issues, Guardiola’s juggernaut just keeps on rolling - and it isn’t by coincidence.
Yes, he is hugely backed financially, but that doesn’t always lead to success and can often mean players with big egos disrupt the dressing room. In his sixth season, one of Guardiola's big successes has been his ability to maintain a sense of respect, even when multi-million pound signings come through the door as regular as clockwork.
Even when it seems that he has fallen out with players, or cast them to one side, they seem to come back and make an impact for his side. Take Raheem Sterling as a prime example this term. Last season he was seen as a fringe player, who many critics believed shouldn’t even be in Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad before the tournament, yet after a successful summer with England, he has battled his way back into Guardiola’s thinking.
Now he has scored five goals in his last four starts and his return to the starting XI has coincided with City’s winning run. Aymeric Laporte is another name that was in and out of the squad last season, but this campaign, he has come in and made himself a great partner for Ruben Dias. Last season it was John Stones, who still has a big role to play, but now Laporte has stepped up and improved the side further.
Nathan Ake may have been seen as a waste of money for many, but even he has made 12 appearances this campaign, as Guardiola has used 26 players at various points during this season in all competitions. As Phil Foden has emerged as a key player and £100m Jack Grealish is still finding his feet, the Spaniard’s use of youngsters in this testing season has been sensible.
He has given minutes to the likes of Cole Palmer and James McAtee who look like the next stars from City’s remarkable academy, following in Foden’s footsteps. Talking off the Englishman and his mate Grealish, Guardiola’s disciplinarian stance on their misdemeanours seems to have paid off and with them back in the fold, a precedent has now been set for the rest of the squad.
This is a remarkably talented group of players, one that looks set to win another Premier League title, but Guardiola’s rotation policy, so hated by fantasy football managers, is keeping his squad happy during this tricky spell. Sure, they have more squad depth than any other team in the league and arguably this season more than ever before, that is what will win them the title - but managing individual players’ gametime and keeping his side sharp is all down to the boss.
He won’t admit it until it is over, but with Betfred already paying out on a title win, four Premier League titles out of five will mark a period of dominance not seen in the Premier League since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United ran riot at the turn of the century.