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Pep Guardiola’s initial challengers have united. The Spanish manager’s initial loss as Manchester City’s head coach was caused by Mauricio Pochettino, and his second defeat was against Chelsea. In his first year in England, 2016-17, City finished in third place, behind both Chelsea and Tottenham led by Pochettino. His goal to secure the Champions League trophy with City finally concluded in June, with two key factors being Pochettino’s Spurs eliminating them in 2019 and Chelsea defeating them in the 2021 final.
Despite this, Guardiola will be heading to Stamford Bridge on Sunday with the achievement of knocking Chelsea off their dominant position. Chelsea had won their fifth Premier League title in 14 seasons in 2017 and finished 15 points ahead of City. However, they have not been able to mount a title challenge since then. In contrast, City have accumulated 154 points more in the following six seasons and are currently 12 points ahead after 11 games.
During that time, under the leadership of Thomas Tuchel, they were able to secure the Champions League victory. However, it is important to note that they were not contenders for the Premier League title during those seasons. Guardiola acknowledged this and mentioned that Chelsea, who had a significant influx of funds and subsequently became champions in England and Europe, now serve as a cautionary example.
This week, City secured their spot in the knockout rounds of the Champions League with two games remaining. Chelsea, on the other hand, did not qualify for any European competitions due to their 12th place finish last season. This serves as a reminder that success cannot be guaranteed indefinitely.
Guardiola stated that he does not want to comment on Chelsea, but it is important for his team to constantly remind themselves of their success. He reminds his players to celebrate their accomplishments because there may come a time where they are no longer at the top. It is possible that their opponents may surpass them and they will no longer be in that position. Just because they have had past successes and are currently performing well, does not guarantee future success. Being named Manchester City and having a successful track record does not guarantee continued success in the future.
In 2023, Chelsea has experienced a continuous downward spiral. So far this year, Brentford’s Ethan Pinnock has played in the same number of Premier League victories at Stamford Bridge as the former record-breaking British player Enzo Fernandez. The current holder of that title is midfielder Moises Caicedo, who has achieved three wins for his new team Brighton as well as Chelsea at their home ground.
The city’s achievements have not been achieved easily, but they were not guaranteed either. Chelsea is a perfect example of this. Simply spending money is not a solution without a well-thought-out strategy. Their downfall was accelerated by Todd Boehly; although they spent over £1 billion on players, there was very little planning involved, unlike Guardiola’s successful treble. Furthermore, there was no sense of consistency. Pochettino inherited potential, but also a chaotic situation.
Chelsea’s financial support has contributed to City’s business. It is uncertain, but if Chelsea’s comeback has indeed started, it could be accelerated by two players that Guardiola previously let go. Raheem Sterling has only been outscored by Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero under Guardiola, with a total of 120 goals. However, in his first year at Stamford Bridge, he only managed to score nine goals. City’s Cole Palmer scored in the Community Shield and Super Cup matches this summer before being sold.
Palmer has scored three goals and provided three assists in his past five games, while Sterling has already scored four times this season. Guardiola commented, “Sterling is playing exceptionally well and is back to his best form. He has always been a threat to the opposition, which was crucial for our success in the early years. Raheem was a key player.” However, Guardiola was less enthusiastic about Palmer, simply stating, “He wanted playing time and now he has it. Congratulations.”
All were crucial in what could be considered the top outcome of the Boehly era, along with last year’s two victories over AC Milan, who eventually reached the semi-finals of the Champions League. Monday’s 4-1 triumph against Tottenham, who were at the top of the league, was a standout. However, it had a comical tone, as the game was influenced by red card penalties that left Pochettino’s former team with only nine players. This remains Chelsea’s sole win against any of the supposed top six teams or Newcastle since the previous season began. In that time, they have lost four matches to City without scoring any goals.
The city team is expected to head to Stamford Bridge as the favored team. However, Guardiola believes that despite their recent decline, Chelsea will make a comeback. He stated, “Sooner or later, Chelsea will be competing for the title; there’s no doubt about it.” He also acknowledged the team’s overall talent in every position. However, the last time Chelsea was in contention for the title, Guardiola was still adjusting to his first year in England. Now, with their domination established and Chelsea transforming into the most expensive underachievers in Premier League history, it seems like a distant memory.
On Sunday, November 12th at 4:30pm, the Chelsea vs Manchester City game will begin airing on Sky Sports.