Last season was another record-breaking campaign for Manchester City as they became the first ever men’s team to win the League, FA Cup and League Cup all in the same season, and were also a VAR goal away from reaching the semi-final of the Champions League. Of course, blues fans would love to see that happen again, but where should the club’s priority lie next season?
When Raheem Sterling crashed home his penalty at Wembley to lift the League Cup, no one quite realised what the blues had started. Of course, City had been tipped all season to win the quadruple; those stories started way back in August when the Champions League groups were announced. And after the home defeat to Lyon, it was even questioned by some areas of the media whether the quadruple would be achieved…in September!
As the heartrates settled after that nervy Wembley shoot-out, more drama was on the way. The blues were winning their league matches, while progressing nicely in the FA Cup, until Swansea almost put a large spanner in the works as they attempted to wreck City’s dreams. Thankfully, the absence of VAR helped the blues overcome the Swans and City progressed to the FA Cup Final.
But before that, they had to keep the pace with Liverpool and also attempt to overcome Spurs in the Champions League. Losing the first leg 1-0, City led the North London side on the night 4-2, meaning they were through on aggregate. But Var would take its revenge for the Swansea game not once, but twice as it allowed Fernando Llorente’s goal, which was suspected to be handball, to make it 4-3, then the system was used to disallow a fifth goal for the blues which would send City through. Their Champions League dreams were finished or another year.
The blues kept pace with Liverpool in the league right up until the final day, when all they had to do was win. A nervy moment where Brighton took the lead was cancelled out immediately by Aguero. The blues then went on to score another three to lift the league title, and a win against Watford in the FA Cup final would secure another place in the history books.
And how they did it. After surviving an earlier scare, the blues ran riot, scoring six without reply to add the famous old trophy to their collection. But despite that success, the Champions League still eluded them.
So, should City prioritise the Champions League next season, or carry on as they are?
City were praised last season for fielding full strength, or close to full strength sides, in all competitions. Despite playing lower division sides such as Oxford United, Burton Albion, Rotherham and Newport County, the blues resisted the urge to field understrength sides and play most of their big-name players. The outcome was a goal fest, putting four past Oxford, nine past Burton, seven past Rotherham and four past Newport. Not only that, but the blues also put six past Shahktar Donetsk and hit seven against Schalke in the Champions League, which showed just how much emphasise City put into each competition they played in. There is an argument for just allowing the blues to compete in all competitions and win whatever they win
But there is no doubt that the Champions League, Europe’s top* competition, is the one trophy the blues hierarchy are desperate to get their hands on, and is probably the main reason for hiring Pep Guardiola. The Catalan won the competition twice with Barcelona, but failed to win it during his tenure at Bayern Munich. City fans too, would love nothing more than to see their team lift the trophy to put an end to the constant jibes from opposing supporters, who try to belittle City’s success by claiming they should be winning the Champions League.
To prioritise one trophy over another though is not Guardiola’s style, and we saw last season with Liverpool what happens when you prioritise one trophy over all others. The Merseysiders were desperate to take the Premier League trophy to Anfield and were not too concerned when the exited the League Cup to Chelsea and the FA Cup to Wolves. Whereas Pep would have been disappointed, Klopp seemed like he couldn’t have cared less. The Premier League was the big one, yet they missed out on it by one point to the blues. Yes they won the Champions League, but they could have ended up with nothing.
If City do decide the Champions League is more important this time around, Guardiola needs to make sure they are ready to win it. Last season, he claimed his team were not mature enough to win the competition, so this time around, the blues have no room for errors.
But you can guarantee that Pep will not settle for one, when he can have more.
What do you think? Should City prioritise the Champions League over all others, or just go for it in every competition? Let us know your thoughts.
*Top competition according to UEFA, not to some supporters, especially the writer of this article!