Manchester (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Manchester City sealed the Premier League title on Sunday when local rivals Manchester United suffered a shock 1-0 home defeat to West Brom.
Despite blowing the chance to win the league against United last weekend, City still matched United’s record by claiming the title with five games to spare.
Much of the praise has gone to manager Pep Guardiola for moulding a side being compared to the greatest-ever teams to win the English top flight.
But backed by free-spending Abu Dhabi owners, Guardiola has had plenty of talent to work with.
AFP Sport looks at five of the key players in City’s title triumph.
Guardiola showed his ruthless streak after a disappointing first campaign in charge, snapping up goalkeeper Ederson for £35 million ($49 million) within three weeks of the end of the season.
Much of the blame for Guardiola’s first-season struggles was pinned on a series of errors from Claudio Bravo, brought from Barcelona to replace the ostracised Joe Hart.
In contrast to Bravo, Ederson has been solid when called upon to make saves. But, crucially, he is even better with his feet, which suits Guardiola’s style.
The Brazilian’s long-range passing to launch City on the counter-attack and beat any high press employed by opponents has been a regular feature of the season, adding another weapon to City’s frightening attacking arsenal.
Kevin De Bruyne
The man most often picked out by Guardiola himself as the heartbeat of this City side, Kevin De Bruyne looks set to battle with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah for the Premier League player of the year awards.
The Belgian leads the league in assists but he offers far more than raw numbers.
“He is the best example and he helps us to be a better club, a better institution for the future,” Guardiola said after De Bruyne led a 4-1 destruction of Tottenham Hotspur in November.
If De Bruyne doesn’t get you, David Silva likely will. Having two natural playmakers in the same midfield has made City almost impossible to stop in the same way Guardiola harnessed the brilliant best from Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta in a glorious four-year spell at Barcelona from 2008 to 2012.
“I think David is also one of the best this season,” said De Bruyne.
“Since I came here he has been unbelievable. He helped my game in a lot of ways.”
Silva has also chipped in with his share of important goals — opening the scoring in the first Manchester derby of the season at Old Trafford.
His telling contribution is all the more outstanding given the Spaniard has had to spend a lot of time back in his homeland between games after the premature birth of his son in December.
The beneficial effects of Guardiola’s coaching are clear-cut in the case of Raheem Sterling as the 23-year-old has come of age this season to deliver on his abundant potential.
The England international is City’s second-highest scorer behind Sergio Aguero but his goals have also come at some key moments on their road to the title.
Guardiola’s men were on course to drop points in two of their opening three games until Sterling’s 97th-minute winner at Bournemouth back in August kicked off an 18-match winning run in the league.
That streak was kept alive as Sterling also struck late twice in three days in late November to edge out Huddersfield and Southampton 2-1 to demoralise the chasing pack.
In City’s mega-rich era, managers and players have come and gone but one constant has largely remained — Sergio Aguero’s goalscoring.
The Argentine, who joined the club in 2011, is now City’s all-time leading goalscorer and has enjoyed another bumper season.
Initially challenged for his place in the team by Gabriel Jesus when the Brazilian arrived last January, Aguero has reestablished himself as City’s number one striker.