Pep Guardiola change to English football at Man City shown by Premier League table – Simon Bajkowski


Once upon a time, a draw at Southamton for a depleted Liverpool side knackered from 120 minutes of an FA Cup final days before would have been considered a good result for a team chasing the title.

Win most of your games, and avoid defeat in those that you can’t win has understandably been a successful formula for years. United under Sir Alex Ferguson thrived for a time by focusing on picking up maximum points against the bottom 14 teams and then keeping the rest of their opponents at arm’s length, but the strategy was not exclusively theirs; in 24 Premier League years before Pep Guardiola came to England, there were only four champions who claimed the trophy despite not losing the fewest number of games.

Enter the Guardiola era, sparked by Antonio Conte at Chelsea, and if City beat Villa on Sunday then three of the last six years – and half of City’s four titles – will have been won in that way. City pipped Liverpool in the 2018/19 campaign despite losing four times as many matches, and this year they have been beaten three times as opposed to Liverpool’s two.

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This is one of the major impacts that Guardiola has had on the Premier League, raising the standard and the points total required to win the league to the extent that teams can no longer be happy with draws – although, ironically, City’s point at West Ham has defined the dynamic of this final week. Where once Liverpool would have been happy to leave St Mary’s with a point and regenerate, Jurgen Klopp and his players knew that they could not apply real pressure without picking up all three points.

With City ticking onto 90 points at the weekend, Liverpool can follow them by avoiding defeat at home to Wolves. Both title contenders will be expected to win though, because that is the new normal that Guardiola has helped create. It is no coincidence that the bulk of the highest points totals in the history of the competition have come in the last six years as rivals have pushed each other to reduce the importance of the draw.

There is a wider debate to be had about the disparity in standards between the top and the bottom that the best teams have been able to win more games than ever before. At the same time, the progress of English teams in European competitions during Guardiola’s time at the club suggests that the standards set at the very top of the league are rubbing off on several other sides to make the Premier League the standout competition in the game.

It will only be a footnote in City’s day on Sunday, but should they beat Aston Villa and claim a fourth league title in five years, it would be another fitting example of how Guardiola has changed what is needed to be the best team in England.

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