Manchester City: Can Pep Guardiola’s side win the quadruple?
4shares (Photo credit: Богдан Заяц) Premier League Complacency doesn’t seem to be a problem for
Complacency doesn’t seem to be a problem for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. Having opened up a 13-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, they could have eased up in the title race since it seems to be just a matter of time until Vincent Kompany is lifting the trophy. However, they went all guns blazing for a second-half romp against Leicester, turning a decent showing in a 1-1 draw at half time into an excellent display of attacking fortitude in a 5-1 win 45 minutes later.
That result extended their lead to 16 points, with Manchester United’s losing 1-0 at Newcastle the following day. It means that six wins from their final 11 matches will be enough to get over the line.
With the focus now switching to the Guardiola’s pursuit of the cup competitions in his hunt for an unlikely quadruple, City’s record should frighten their FA Cup opponents, Wigan. While the Latics have twice beaten the new-look City in the competition, spectacularly triumphing 1-0 at Wembley in the 2013 final and 2-1 at the Etihad in the sixth round the following campaign, they’ve not faced anything like the side which Guardiola will take to the DW Stadium on Monday.
Not to underplay Wigan’s achievements in their recent victories over City – City fans can have no complaints, their side was twice bettered on the big occasion – it’s also fair to say that there were mitigating circumstances.
The 2013 final almost became a sideshow when rumours of Roberto Mancini’s impending sacking spread like wildfire. Supporters hadn’t gossiped that much at a game since word wrongly got to the players that one of Coventry or Southampton were losing and that a 2-2 draw with Liverpool was enough to stay in the Premier League in 1996.
For many, that was a horrible afternoon. City never got out of first gear and Wigan’s performance caused them enough problems to ensure Pablo Zabaleta was sent off for two yellow card offences, the latter for cynically stopping a late breakaway. Ben Watson’s stoppage time winning header felt more than inevitable – and it ensured a grim 24 hours where fans waited for the news that Mancini’s time was up.
Even the Italian knew as he left the rain-soaked pitch, staring up at the stormy skies, that he was a dead man walking.
The following season, City had the chance to put things right. Of course, beating Wigan at the Etihad in the quarterfinal wouldn’t have been total “revenge” for losing at Wembley, but it would have sent new manager Manuel Pellegrini back to the national stadium for the semifinals. His side had won the League Cup final there just a week earlier and it would have put City in a strong position to potentially secure a domestic treble.
But Pellegrini bizarrely chose to prioritise a virtually unwinnable tie with Barcelona in the Champions League, over attempting to beat a Wigan team that had been relegated the previous campaign. Barcelona had won 2-0 at the Etihad in their first leg, meaning City needed to score at least twice in the Nou Camp – so why Pellegrini rotated his team with an FA Cup semifinal on the horizon was a mystery.
All it took was an off-day from a few of his players and a plucky, courageous, and game-raising performance from the Latics and before the Chilean knew it, his side were 2-0 down there as well. It finished 2-1, as Samir Nasri pulled a goal back, but it was too little, too late.
City inevitably lost to Barcelona, too.
Under Guardiola, City surely can’t make that same mistake again. There is little distraction from off the pitch, while their lead in the Premier League must make the manager’s selection for the cup competitions easier. Knowing it’s an all-or-nothing tie, he can afford to go stronger than he might have done had the chasing pack been closer in the top flight.
If the Catalan is going to make history in England and become the first manager to win the Champions League alongside the three domestic trophies, then he’s now got to prioritise the knockout competitions. The Premier League should take care of itself by this stage – and with a healthy 4-0 lead, and four away goals, from the first leg of their tie with Basel on Tuesday, his team can already have half en eye on the next phase in Europe, too.
It feels like a season-defining week. Ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final with Arsenal, a victory against Wigan in the FA Cup would go a long way to making the quadruple a reality.
Guardiola has understandably played down the idea all season. If his side keeps winning in the way they have been doing, surely he’ll have to start talking about it as a serious possibility. That may start if he can win his next two matches.
Can Manchester City be the first English side to win the quadruple? Let us know in the comments below…