Sunday’s match against Huddersfield Town was far from the most entertaining we’ve seen from Manchester City this season, but it may have actually been the most satisfying because of what happened after the game. The scoreline finished 0-0 and the amount of high quality scoring chances was limited for both sides. This result is slightly frustrating based on the fact that dropping points against a team battling for its Premier League life may ultimately cost City some single season records. All that frustration immediately went away, at least for me, as soon as the postgame trophy ceremony began and all the success this team has had this season finally brought us to the moment where Vincent Kompany was raising the Premier League trophy once again.
Make no mistake, most of the records I’m referring to are still well within reach and the only one not in City’s control is the point difference between first and second place. I must admit that I have a lot of emotion invested in this team getting to 100 points, it’s just such a clean number and being the first team to that point total would be the cherry on top to this season. Either way, breaking more records can be for another day while today is simply a celebration of this team’s brilliance despite the draw.
Based on Pep’s lineup decision in this game, it is obvious that he wants to finish this season strong and get this team at the top of the record books because City came out in full force against Huddersfield Town. There was certainly some thought that Pep would let Yaya Toure play his final season out or that some youth players would get some run. Not quite, as the default starting 11 was chosen and the substitutes were season-stalwarts Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan, along with Benjamin Mendy.
The Sky Blues faced a Huddersfield side that looked far from the team struggled to maintain its status in the Premier League, as they looked comfortable in defense and had a capable attacking plan when the opportunity presented itself. David Wagner’s squad showed more aggression than may have been anticipated despite the lopsided possession (80% for City) but did set up with a 5 man backline throughout. Huddersfield’s attacking players, especially center forward Steve Mounie, had incredible work rates that made up for the lack of numbers in the final third. Ederson was actually tested several times throughout the match and could easily have been beaten with some more precise finishing from the opponents.
During the first 45 minutes of the match, Pep didn’t reinvent the wheel and set his team up in their standard 4-3-3 with the attack concentrated primarily down the left side. This freed Raheem Sterling from his nominal right wing position to drift central and find pockets of space inside where he has had a tremendous amount of success recently. City was able to create a couple of good chances early, most notably a shot on goal from David Silva off a nice buildup with Gabriel Jesus that was saved by Huddersfield keeper Jonas Lossl. Overall, David Wagner’s defense maintained their shape and didn’t allow City to pass through them.
City had a hard time stretching out the Huddersfield backline in the first half, so Pep brought in Benjamin Mendy in the 57th minute and pushed Kyle Walker forward to provide additional width. This move also pushed Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling into the inside channels giving City targets in the box at centrally along with the near and far post. Again, the domination in possession didn’t manifest itself in many chances despite the change as the Huddersfield midfield did a good job in providing cover in the corners and filling in when the fullbacks were pulled wide.
Pep eventually brought in Ilkay Gundogan for De Bruyne, as you could argue that Gundogan is more adept at getting forward into the box during bouts of sustained possession. The final substitution entered Bernardo for John Stones, leaving City with a single center back. At this point in the game, Huddersfield Town were hanging on for dear life and Guardiola didn’t see much risk in going for broke. Kyle Walker was pulled back from the right wing and sat close in with Nicolas Otamendi. Huddersfield actually did create a couple of decent counter attack chances during this phase of the game but City was able to recover adequately.
Viewing this game in a vacuum is far from exciting, but the real event started after the match. I’m not going to break down what happened during the trophy ceremony because there’s no need for that and I’m sure everyone reading this has already watched it. But it is these moments where the stress and angst we have felt all year with this squad is justified. All of the successes and the few failures have built up to this result and reminds all City fans how lucky we are to support this team. The absolute joy these guys showed as they raised the trophy is something that will register with all of us forever. We may be in the midst of the greatest team the Premier League has ever seen and the camaraderie between the players and coaches makes this championship all the more gratifying. I personally can’t get enough of this team and every single thing that Manchester City does from this point on until the start of next season is a celebration to the greatness of this squad. So party on City fans, you’ve got every reason to.