Spoiler: It's all about Guardiola and accusations against the club.
Manchester City's victory over Arsenal and the subsequent end of the season sent a clear signal to English football: it's the era of the 'City,' and any club wishing to snatch the championship trophy from the firm grasp of Pep Guardiola will have to deliver something extraordinary over the course of 38 matches.
This season, Mikel Arteta's team made a good attempt. They did everything possible to change the color of the ribbons on the coveted cup from blue to red. Without the Londoners, the English Premier League in the 2022/2023 season would have lost even petty intrigue, but the last few weeks have been a harsh reality check for the Gunners. It was like that before, and it will be in the future if Guardiola remains at the club and the owners of City continue to invest powerfully.
Why does the City dominate like this
This should seriously bother their rivals, especially considering it took something close to a miracle for Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool to prevent Manchester City from winning the title for the only time in the last five years. The Reds collected 99 points that season; a year earlier, they had 97. Never before in the history of the top English division has a team with such a high number of points finished in second place.
After the defeat to City, Arsenal had theoretical chances to accumulate 90 points and equal the greatest team in the club's history, the 'Invincibles.' However, more than this would likely have been needed for Arteta's men to conquer the trophy. City had 85 points with three matches remaining, and their points accumulation dynamics confidently predicted surpassing the 90-point mark.
In recent years, the bar has significantly been raised, primarily thanks to the insane class of 'City.' After a crushing victory over Arsenal with a score of 4-1 and a display from Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland, a logical question arises: who or what can stop this team?
Over the course of several years, City is superior to the rest
Newcastle, with owners from Saudi Arabia, likely dreams of someday occupying the hegemonic position currently held by City, but it is unlikely to happen shortly. Manchester United will always have championship ambitions, and Arsenal can take inspiration from Liverpool's championship season when the Merseyside club responded to a disappointing second-place finish the previous year.
But these are merely ambitions that are shattered by dry statistics. In the previous five seasons, City has finished, on average, 27.8 points ahead of Arsenal and 22.6 points ahead of Manchester United—a mind-boggling difference. Before this season, only Liverpool managed to stay within a 10-point deficit of Guardiola's team in each title race involving these teams.
When will City stumble?
In the current circumstances, only two scenarios are capable of disrupting Manchester City's transformation of dominance in English football into something more significant.
The first scenario: Guardiola's thirst for adventure returns, and he decides that his current contract with City, which runs until 2025, will be his last. Many speculate that winning the Champions League or replicating Manchester United's treble in 1999 would allow Pep to breathe and feel satisfied. The Spaniard would complete his final gestalt and contemplate a new challenge.
It is not wise to make a hundred percent bet on this outcome: over the seven years of Guardiola's work at City, there have been many discussions about his possible departure, but each time it ended with a contract renewal. He enjoys being at City and values the opportunity to create a successful team and a true dynasty.
The title this season became the club's third in a row and the fifth for Guardiola – Pep has equaled Sir Matt Busby, who won five English championships with Manchester United. Only two coaches have taken the trophy more frequently in the post-war era. One of them is Bob Paisley, who won six titles with Liverpool. The other is Sir Alex Ferguson, with 13 victories at Old Trafford.
The second scenario is linked to a long, complex investigation into possible financial irregularities. If the club's guilt is proven, it could become the biggest scandal in English football since the formation of the Premier League. Currently, no one can accurately predict how this story will end. It is only known that the club will have to answer numerous allegations.
City is suspected of more than a hundred breaches from 2009 to 2018, including providing false information about the club's income and player salaries. Another accusation relates to the club's unwillingness to cooperate during the four-year investigation.
This story has accompanied City throughout the season, and the championship will be the first for the club following the official accusations of potential wrongdoing. Years may pass before a final verdict is reached in this case. In the meantime, it only creates an unpleasant undertone to any match in which the players appear splendid.
Arsenal was impressive but didn't deserve the title
Let's make it clear: Arsenal was very impressive this season. The Londoners surprised many, perhaps even themselves. Regardless of what is said or written about Arteta's team in the coming days and weeks, they demonstrated class and character throughout the season. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough, and Arteta and his players will have to fend off speculations that they got scared.
It's not hard to believe: within 17 days, they squandered a two-goal lead against Liverpool, did the same in a game against West Ham, and miraculously salvaged a 3-3 draw at home against Southampton. A few days later, the third opponent officially lost their chances of staying in the Premier League.
Nevertheless, credit should be given to Arsenal: their defeat to City was the first since February 15th, although that loss was against City, but at their stadium. It isn't easy to count on winning the league when you lose twice to your main rival, especially if it's Guardiola.
This season, Arsenal defeated Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, and Tottenham, but they lost to City for the 12th consecutive time. Arteta and his players cannot compete with Guardiola's team, as Liverpool did when Klopp's gang fought for the top English trophy.
After the away defeat to City, Arteta did everything possible to remind everyone about Arsenal's position at the top of the table, despite the wild celebrations of the Etihad Stadium stands. Mikel noted that he has been in football long enough to know that there can be many surprises in the remaining matches of the season.
Of course, he had to say that, but at that moment, few believed in Arsenal's chances for the trophy, and after the Spaniard's speech, the surprises happened more in matches involving his boys: the team lost two games in a row, denying City the pleasure of winning the title at their stadium and celebrating a triumph with the fans right away.
It's disappointing, but in a couple of weeks, Guardiola and the City players will be preparing for a possible parade through the streets of Manchester – they have already guaranteed victory in the Premier League, and now the finals of the FA Cup and the Champions League are up next. As David Moyes once said during his time at Everton, sometimes football is like going into a gunfight with a knife. As long as Pep is at City, and the club successfully fends off allegations of fraud, league rivals will find themselves in that position.