There is another word to describe Manchester City's dominance: unhealthy | first division


tThey were here, perhaps, being generous, for about 20 minutes on Sunday, between Mohammed KudusThe goal of shooting western ham inside one and Rodri putting city ​​of manchester 3-1 up, when there was something that, if you looked closely enough, looked a little dangerous. But in truth, the last day was practically over after 76 seconds when Phil Foden put City ahead. The great title race ended with a clear sense of anticlimax.

When Arsenal tied at City at the end of March, Arsenal They led the table by four points having played one more game. It was then thought that a goalless draw was better for Arsenal because they maintained their lead. Win their remaining seven games and they will be champions. But given how the March game went, its monotony and the relative comfort with which Arsenal controlled City, there was also a feeling that it represented a missed opportunity for Arsenal. With City winning just two of their 10 games against the top six this season; Could Arsenal have been a little more proactive? Could they have put clean water between them and City? Because it turned out they needed it.

Last season there was much debate about whether Arsenal had bottled up the title race or whether their late-season stumble was a natural result of their comparatively thin squad. In reality, it was probably a bit of both: collapses from comfortable positions in Liverpool and West Ham had little to do with the available players. This season there has been no similar capitulation. They will look at the defeats to Fulham and West Ham during Christmas and then in the match against Aston Villa and I know that a victory in any of them would have given them the title, but all teams lose games. Or at least they should. A total of 89 points with a goal difference of +62 would have won the league last season and in more than half of the seasons of 20 Premier League teams.

But what City are doing is out of step with what used to be considered normal. They have won nine of nine since that draw against Arsenal, all of them by at least two goals. They are undefeated in 35 games. They have become the first team in the 136-year history of the English top flight to win the title four seasons in a row. They have won six of the last seven championships, an unprecedented level of dominance. You can attribute it to the brilliance of pep guardiolathe resources behind the club, its expenditure on salaries, the acuity of its recruitment or the 115 charges related to alleged violations of financial regulationsBut such superiority is not healthy for a league that has historically prided itself on its competitiveness.

As Barney Ronay noted on SaturdayThis season's top being the same as last season's and the three teams promoted, all relegated – with three of the worst 20 points in Premier League history, what looked like a relatively entertaining season ended in a feeling of futility. What was the point of all this?

Aston Villa, of course, deserve huge credit for securing Champions League qualification for the first time in the tournament's modern form, and perhaps particularly for the peculiarity of doing so despite starting and ending the season conceding five goals. crystal Palacewho have improved a lot under Oliver Glasner and since the return of Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze from injury, have been fun in recent weeks, and Brighton, Bournemouth, Wolves and Fulham have had their moments, but none of it really comes as much of a surprise.

Even Chelsea, reliably comical for several months, it seems the fun is over: they finished the season with five straight wins. Only the top three have scored more points than them since Boxing Day and the feeling is that Mauricio Pochettino has finally sifted through the mess left by an unfocused £1bn spree to find a workable system.

Thank God, then, for manchester unitedstill boldly defying reality by repeatedly being a complete disaster despite the league's highest wage bill, although even that may be under threat if it turns out that Jim Ratcliffe has more knowledge of how to run a football club than he did. possible consequences of Brexit.

City may have won the title by just two points, but this is a bit like 2018-19, when they edged Liverpool by a single point by winning their final 14 games of the season and Liverpool won the last nine: apparently evenly matched but essentially equally dramatic. as the final stage of the Tour de France while the general leaders parade along the Champs-Élysées.

It turns out that English football could handle oligarchs, hedge funds and foreign states running its clubs when they were reckless and inefficient. However, phenomenal wealth plus supreme competence (and, perhaps, depending on what happens with those 115 positions, something more), equals an excellence that is predictable and perhaps a little boring.

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Barcelona's victory over Sampdoria at Wembley in the 1992 European Cup final marked a turning point in the club's modern history. Photograph: Mark Leech/Offside/Getty Images

Barcelona It has not always been the club it is now, impoverished and desperately chasing old glories. They have not always been a team that even knew glories. It was only after returning to the club Johan Cruyff in 1988 they were elevated to become one of Europe's undoubted elite. Cruyff led them to four consecutive games the league titles between 1990-91 and 1993-94; In the previous 33 years they had only won the league twice.

But the most important thing was the European Cup. real Madrid It had won the first five editions and, although it had only achieved it once later, when Cruyff returned, it seemed like its competition, something from which Barcelona was excluded. Barça had lost in the 1961 European Cup final and again, unthinkably, against Steaua Bucharest in 1986. But with Cruyff they reached the final again in 1992. On May 20, 1992 at Wembley, a free kick by Ronald Koeman in extra time gave a surprise to a Barcelona team that included Guardiola, Michael Laudrup and Hristo Stoichkov a 1-0 victory Sampdoria. The curse was lifted and Barcelona won the trophy four more times.

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