Pep Guardiola isn't just cruising the Premier League; he's building a Manchester City dynasty
There are simply not enough superlatives to describe the explosion that has been Pep Guardiola's Manchester City this season. While well on pace to obliterating both the Premier League goals and points record, they have dropped only four points, in an early draw to Burnley and one to end the year against Crystal Palace. Between was a record 18-match win streak.
In all of English football history the gap between first and second place at this stage has never been so wide. In fact, the Citizens could lose every single game from now until February and still be atop the Premier League.
Meanwhile, they face perhaps the best draw in the Champions League Round of 16, against Basel. Guardiola's squad is expected to glide through to the quarterfinals. It would be a brave person that bets against the Sky Blues at this point.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know most of this by now. More important is the club's future. It is with confidence that, a year-and-a-half in advance, I suggest that we could see the first title retention since 2009. There are a number of factors suggesting City will thrive at the top of English and European football for years to come.
Most immediate is the cohesion under Pep and the emergence of leaders within the squad. Kevin De Bruyne is the first player who springs to mind. Commanding an immense attack with a superb goals and assists tally, the Belgian also puts in the hard yards, putting up respectable numbers in terms of tackles and interceptions. What's more, throughout the game he constantly looks to Guardiola for instructions, then relays them seamlessly onto the pitch.
Aside from the commanding Belgian, Nicholas Otamendi has also stepped up massively in the regular absence of injury-prone captain Vincent Kompany. The Argentine has been performing at a level that recalls his sublime form at Valencia. He's contributed at both ends. In the Premier League, at least, he is pacing United wunderkind Marcus Rashford on four goals.
Pep's biggest achievement is achieving cohesion and confidence that sees the side work together flawlessly while regularly spoiling us with moments of individual brilliance.
But the future. Gabriel Jesus (20), Leroy Sane (21), and Raheem Sterling (23) have all yet to hit their respective primes. Keeping them together promises years of excellence. De Bruyne, whom many consider the game's best midfielder, is still only 26. He grows better by the week. John Stones (23), Kyle Walker (27), and Benjamin Mendy (23) are a young defensive unit that could arguably be City's rearguard for some time.
Roles held down by older players, Sergio Aguero and Otamendi (29), Fernandinho (32), and David Silva (31) are not a concern. City undoubtedly have the personnel and financial backing to plug these gaps when the time arrives. Young Portugese maestro Bernardo Silva is already being groomed to step in for Spanish namesake David. Furthermore, if a prospect doesn't come good, the club has the resources to acquire the services of budding stars such as Lazio's Sergej Milinkovic-Savic or Bayer Leverkusen's Jonathan Tah.
Considering the tender age of this frightening side and its ability to rebuild when necessary, the rest of the top six cannot afford to wait out a single lost season. They must do more to compete in coming seasons. Bringing in Guardiola has brought City to the verge of greatness. Antonio Conte, Jose Mourinho, and the rest will have to bring their teams to another level to match this City squad.