Manchester City’s clinical dismantling of Nottingham Forest in the first half of the match had a familiar feeling about it. The dominance of Pep Guardiola’s side in the Premier League has become so routine that one does not even get enthralled it by any longer.
City’s seventh win in the season not only maintained their perfect record in the league, but also heightened the aura that surrounds them these days. As for Guardiola, he continues to scale newer heights with his team and keeps adding to his already enviable collection of silverware.
However, some watchers probably could not help having a feeling of dèjà-vu, as their performance was reminiscent of Guardiola’s legendary Barcelona side that won two of UEFA Champions League titles in three years.
With the exception of Ederson and Erling Haaland, every other Manchester City player tried to win the ball back religiously immediately after losing it. They knew that they were up against a team that would defend with 11 men and hence, they did not have enough time to lose.
This made them try to regain possession desperately every time they lost it inside the opposition half. This is something that Pep’s Barcelona also used to do. City had 86% ball possession during the first 20 minutes against Nottingham Forest – a kind of statistics that is unthinkable in a match involving two teams in the top flight.
There are other similar cities, too, between this Manchester City team and the great Barcelona side managed by their current coach. Rodri is the guy who pulls the strings for this team, much like the master conductor Xavi for that Barca team.
If Andres Iniesta came up with the quick, silky touches for Barca, the now-injured Kevin de Bruyne does so for City. The likes of Phil Foden and Bernardo Silva are well capable of continuing the wizardry in de Bruyne’s absence. And then, there is Haaland, who keeps scoring goals with Lionel Messiesque frequency.
However, with the evolution in the game, Pep’s Manchester City have developed some added attributes. They have a clinical No. 9, who enjoys scoring with headers from inside the box _ something that no Barcelona forward under Guardiola preferred to do.
Then, there is Rodri’s ability to ping long balls into the opposition penalty box on a regular basis, which Xavi or Sergio Busquets never did for Barca. That Barca team did not have as many players with the powerful physical attributes this City team does, either.
Barcelona’s game was built around short ground-passes only and they were never as direct as Pep’s Manchester City can often be. City also have a more flexible back-four(or back-three, as the case may be), with a number of players being capable of playing in multiple positions. They are of a squad team than Guardiola’s Barcelona ever was.
Moreover, this Manchester City plays with formations ranging from a 4-2-3-1 to a hybrid 3-2-2-3 to a more attacking 3-2-4-1 owing to the versatility of players like Kyle Walker and John Stones. In contrast, Barca played under a definite 4-3-3 under him. Guardiola’s City can be compared to a well-oiled, perfectly functioning machine. As great as Barcelona 2008-2011 were, they were not like a machine, with individual brilliance shining through amid their disciplined, possession-oriented approach.
It definitely will not surprise many if this team goes on to win the treble for the second successive season – a feat that no team in history has achieved yet. A few years down the line, this team might also go down as one of the finest and most decorated of all time.