Manchester City were crowned Premier League champions after Arsenal lost to Nottingham Forest.

Manchester City: Can anyone stop Pep Guardiola’s Premier League winners?

MANCHESTER City’s fifth Premier League title in six years and the manner in which it was achieved must send a sense of dread through those seeking ways to unseat Pep Guardiola’s magnificent champions.

City retained their crown as Nottingham Forest beat Arsenal on Saturday and it will be ominous for any rivals looking for signs of a reduction in their ravenous appetite for success.

Indeed, City’s desire to inflict and sustain their supremacy on those they have chased down and steamrollered appears to be sharpening, rather than offering any hints familiarity with silverware is breeding contempt.

City are the first team to win the Premier League for three seasons in succession since Manchester United in 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09.

They are also on course to emulate United’s historic feat of 1999 and become only the second English side to secure the title then also win the FA Cup and Champions League.

Guardiola’s genius has built a dynasty that will only get stronger. This is a machine without an obvious weakness assembled by one of the greatest managerial figures the game has known.

The club were charged earlier this year by the Premier League with more than 100 breaches of its financial rules between 2009-2018, but City, who have always denied financial wrongdoing, say they “look forward to this matter being put to rest once and for all”.

They will already be strong favourites to win the title again next season – so other clubs with their eyes on the prize have a short summer window to come up with a plan to knock this seemingly unstoppable footballing juggernaut off course.

Can anyone survive City’s relentless pressure?

City’s relentless ability to exert pressure and break even the strongest challengers has become their trademark, a 24-game unbeaten run securing the league and setting up an FA Cup final against Manchester United at Wembley before a Champions League final meeting with Inter Milan in Istanbul.

Their track record exerts such a psychological hold on their challengers, in recent years Liverpool and this season Arsenal, that a draw can drain emotions like a defeat.

Liverpool’s brilliant resurgence under Jurgen Klopp has brought only one title – admittedly their first in 30 years – in what is justifiably regarded as a golden Anfield renaissance.

The Reds twice lost out by one point on the final day – to a streak of 14 straight City wins in 2019 before three late goals in five minutes saw Guardiola’s side come from 2-0 down to beat Aston Villa on the final day last term.

Arsenal were pursued this season, beaten twice by City in convincing fashion, before being worn down and overhauled with a growing sense of inevitability.

It is not just football strain City put on their rivals. It is also mental and physical.

Who will step up to rival City next year?

Liverpool may have fallen off the pace in title terms this season, ending the season empty-handed after winning the FA Cup and League Cup – during their chase for an historic quadruple – last year.

Klopp’s side seemed almost physically and psychologically broken for a time by those exertions, missing out on the title so dramatically then losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid.

At the start of next season, however, expect Liverpool to be rejuvenated and refocused with fresh faces in a midfield requiring renewal, the recovery already under way with a string of victories towards the end of this campaign.

Jude Bellingham, to the disappointment of many Liverpool fans, will not be arriving at Anfield but powerful reinforcements will land, with Chelsea’s Mason Mount, the Argentina World Cup winner Alexis Mac Allister and Bayern Munich outcast Ryan Gravenberch on the radar.

Klopp has made his intentions clear with a demand to start pre-season as early as possible in readiness for a fresh attack on trophies. It would be no surprise to see Liverpool renewing their battle with City at the top of the table and emerging as their sternest challengers.

Arsenal have had a taste of a title charge, albeit one that carried bitterness after slipping up with a first Premier League since 2003-04 in their own hands, and will now want more.

Manager Mikel Arteta will demand the improvements required after an outstanding season in which the Gunners were expected to have to fight for a place in the top four at best, not push City for the title for so long.

Arsenal hope the next phase of development will include West Ham United’s outstanding captain Declan Rice.

If the 24-year-old can be signed, this will not only be an indicator of their determination to challenge once more but signal even more strongly that Emirates Stadium is once more a destination for those with great ambition seeking the biggest prizes.

Manchester United have made slow strides towards emerging from the wilderness years overseen by the likes of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer under Erik ten Hag this season.

They won the League Cup, the first trophy since 2017, while chasing a top-four place and reaching the FA Cup final, but far more strengthening needs to be done before they can challenge City over a long title quest.

Ten Hag’s next priority has to be a goalscorer to provide United with a cutting edge they have lacked, particularly away from home.

It is no surprise England captain Harry Kane has been strongly linked with a move from Tottenham, with Napoli’s prolific Victor Osimhen also attracting attention.

Ten Hag has moved United forward, building an initial base impressively, but it is still hard to see them challenging City in the Premier League barring a spectacular summer – although it will be intriguing to see what impact potential new owners might have?

Newcastle United have made a march towards Champions League football under manager Eddie Howe, fuelled by the mega-riches of their Saudi Arabian ownership and smart work in the markets, which has come at a rate that has probably surprised even them.

It is hard to see their ambition being reeled in now so expect a summer of bold activity on Tyneside. The title challenge may not come next season but it is undoubtedly the long-term goal.

And then there is the great unknown – Chelsea.

The Blues have had a truly abysmal season under new co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Egbhali.

They have spent about £600m wildly and without structure, manager Thomas Tuchel was sacked and successor Graham Potter lasted only 31 games. There has been fan unrest as an over-sized, unwieldy and expensive squad became rooted in mid-table obscurity.

Mauricio Pochettino has agreed to clear up what looks like a mess but there is undoubtedly talent in the squad.

If Pochettino is allowed to make the big decisions, not have signings inflicted on him, and brings the brand of exciting football and shrewd man-management that made him so beloved by Spurs fans, then there might just be a successful team inside Chelsea waiting for the Argentine to let it out.

City will remain the team to beat

For all the ambitions of City’s rivals, it is still very hard to make a case for them not to be celebrating another title this time next season.

Guardiola’s side will not be standing still waiting for others to catch up – he will not only be aware of rivals’ desires but will already be making plans to snuff them out.

There may be change ahead with the likes of Aymeric Laporte and even the brilliant captain Ilkay Gundogan having their futures debated but Guardiola’s own quest for perfection makes it likely they will start next season stronger than they ended this.

Bellingham looks en route to Real Madrid but City will be waiting to pounce if there is any hitch while Croatia’s outstanding young defender Josko Gvardiol is another name linked with a move to Etihad Stadium. Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic is another being mentioned.

The remarkable Erling Haaland has been a game changer even for this all-conquering City team and Guardiola will be on the lookout for another who can switch the dial still further in their favour.

This is the equation those with hopes of putting at least a temporary halt to City’s overpowering dominance have to solve. –

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