Manchester City is nine games away from the treble. Their manager, Pep Guardiola, doesn’t want to talk about it, a feat that has only been achieved once in English football by Manchester United in 1999, but City have given themselves the chance to lift the Premier League, the Champions League. and the FA Cup in the same season.
Guardiola and his team have succeeded a lot, but they also faced hurdles to overcome and still have tough return matches, especially against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-finals and Manchester United in the FA Cup final. Completing the treble this season would write City’s 2022-23 class into the history books, and could launch an era of dominance at home and abroad that few teams have managed before. So as City chase a treble, here’s a breakdown of their ups and downs this season, their remaining fixtures and whether they can prevail on all three fronts.
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What went right?
The obvious place to start is Erling Haaland. In the past, big signings like Rodri and Jack Grealish have taken a year to settle in, but Haaland is just nine months into his City career and has already scored 51 goals in all competitions.
At times, early in the season, Guardiola suggested his players were still trying to figure out the best way to find him, but the Norway striker scored on his Premier League debut against West Ham in August and didn’t stop. Crucially, Haaland has also kept fit. He participated in only 30 matches in all competitions with Borussia Dortmund last season, but he missed only three matches in City due to injury.
City have done a good job of keeping their other key players healthy. Robin Dias, Phil Foden, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Aymeric Laporte and Calvin Phillips all had brief stints on the sidelines, but for most of the season Guardiola had a full squad to choose from. They also got into shape just in time. City have now claimed 14 wins from their last 15 games, building momentum at the perfect point in the campaign.
What problems did they encounter?
Not everything was easy sailing. The renewal of the team last summer was greater than expected after the departure of Raheem Sterling to Chelsea and the signing of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko for Arsenal. City had more players at the World Cup mid-season in Qatar than any other club in Europe, and in January Joao Cancelo was a shock departure when he left for Bayern Munich on loan, leaving Guardiola with Nathan Ake – usually a centre-back. As a first choice left back.
Then, in February, the club was charged with more than 100 breaches of the Premier League’s financial rules. This caused such uncertainty within the team that director of football Txiki Begiristain addressed the players in a meeting to address their concerns. City insist they are innocent of any wrongdoing, although the legal process can take years to run its course, and the range of penalties if found guilty – everything from points deductions to relegation – could create uncertainty.
The news broke as City were in the middle of an inconsistent run of five wins from 10 matches in all competitions, including league defeats to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur. After a 4-2 win at Tottenham in January, in which City were forced to come back from 2-0 down, Guardiola accused his players of being “happy flowers” and wondered if his side had the drive and determination to compete with Arsenal for another. Title. It turns out that they do.
Can they win the treble?
The simple answer is yes. Guardiola is a fan of saying that achieving a hat-trick in England is almost impossible as only Manchester United in 1999 managed it, but City are just nine games away. With Chelsea in shambles, the biggest hurdles in the title race are back-to-back matches against Brighton and Brentford in the space of four days at the end of May. Guardiola has already highlighted the danger posed by Brighton, a team he says are “the best in the world” in the way they develop their game.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid stands in the way of reaching the Champions League final for the second time in three years. Guardiola will not take anything for granted after his dramatic semi-final exit at the Bernabeu a year ago. City dominated much of that encounter, winning 4-3 at home only to lose in Madrid by three goals after the 90th minute; They will fancy their chances of getting the job against the Spanish giants this time around.
The FA Cup final against Manchester United on June 3 is a complication because any Manchester derby is a hectic and frenetic occasion and the first cup final between the two teams will be exciting. City won 6-3 at the Etihad Stadium in October and lost 2-1 at Old Trafford in January. City will start as favourites, but it’s not that simple.
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what happened after that?
What is troubling for the rest of England and Europe is that whether or not City win the treble, there are plans to build up strength over the summer. Two midfielders could arrive, though, as Real Madrid jumped ahead in the race to sign long-term target Judd Bellingham. There was interest in Ben Chilwell before he signed a new contract with Chelsea, and City will also try to sign the left-back if the right opportunity arises. They have already been linked with Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich and Theo Hernandez at Milan.
We are already in a period of city dominance and it shows no sign of ending. Guardiola’s side have won the Premier League – considered the toughest domestic tournament in the world – in four of the past five years and have reached at least the semi-finals of the FA Cup every year since 2019.
The Champions League is historically unpredictable, but City have now reached at least the last four in three consecutive seasons, and whatever happens between now and this year’s final in Istanbul in June will start next season as favorites.
City have handled the treble before, and if they are stronger next season, the challenge for the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup at the same time could start to look more routine.