As Manchester City seal their third Premier League title of the decade, we look back on an unforgettable season by celebrating some of the best performances by Pep Guardiola’s side.
It wasn’t easy narrowing a selection of over forty victories down to a fifteen-game shortlist, and even harder ordering a top ten, but, much like Guardiola, I made the difficult decisions and left out some crowd favourites. As with most footballing articles, this list is inevitably subjective, so to make my choices easier to understand here are the criteria I’ve used to rate the matches:
- Quality of City’s Overall Attacking Play
- Quality of City’s Defensive Play
- Quality and Number of City’s Goals
- Quality of Opposition
- Consistency of Performance Over the Course of the Game
With these five points in mind, here’s how I ranked Manchester City’s ten best performances of the 2017/18 season.
- Manchester City 1-0 Chelsea (Premier League, 04/03/18)
- Everton 1-3 Manchester City (Premier League, 31/03/18)
- Feyenoord 0-4 Manchester City (Champions League, 13/09/17)
- Manchester City 5-0 Crystal Palace (Premier League, 23/09/17)
- Manchester City 5-1 Leicester City (Premier League, 10/02/18)
10. Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City (Carabao Cup Final, 25/02/18)
It feels appropriate to kick off the countdown with the game that won City their first trophy of the season. After scraping past Bristol City in the semi-finals, the blues faced Arsenal in the Carabao Cup final at Wembley as clear favourites despite injuries to Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling.
The highlight of an otherwise dull first half was a superbly crafted opener from Sergio Aguero, who latched onto a long goal kick before lifting the ball over David Ospina. Things livened up for City after the break, with an emotional goal from Vincent Kompany giving Pep’s men some breathing room before David Silva capped off the win with a fine low strike.
The glorious sight of a half-full Wembley Stadium provided the perfect setting for the team to lift the trophy after the final whistle blew. It wasn’t one of the trickiest games of City’s season, but our third League Cup win of the 2010s was certainly an occasion to savour.
Man of the Match: Vincent Kompany expertly marshalled his defence all game, playing the role of a brick wall in front of Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang and getting on the scoresheet with a fine poacher’s finish.
Moment of the Match: David Silva’s goal, which put the game beyond doubt for City, was one of the highlights of an incredibly difficult season on a personal level for the Spanish magician, who’s performed magnificently all campaign.
9. Tottenham Hotspur 1-3 Manchester City (Premier League, 14/04/18)
We stay at Wembley Stadium for one of the more recent games on the list, as City faced Spurs away off the back of three consecutive defeats. It would have been understandable for Pep to adopt a more pragmatic approach due to the poor run of form, but he stuck to his guns and defensive football was certainly not on the menu.
Pep’s youthful front three, backed by De Bruyne and Silva, attacked from the first whistle. Leroy Sané hit the post early on before Gabriel Jesus bagged clinically from Kompany’s long pass. Minutes later, a cool Ilkay Gundogan penalty doubled City’s lead and even a fortunate Christian Eriksen consolation couldn’t put out City’s sparks, who scored through Raheem Sterling to seal the deal after the break.
This win has the huge significance of being City’s last before being officially crowned Champions, as Manchester United lost the next day. It was certainly a good way to wrap up the title, showcasing the team’s style and resilience in equal measure.
Man of the Match: Raheem Sterling, who terrorised the Spurs defenders for the duration of the game, could have scored a hat-trick before finishing the game off with a powerful strike.
Moment of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne’s incredible volleyed pass which he flicked first-time over his shoulder into the path of Sterling, who was unlucky not to finish.
8. Manchester City 7-2 Stoke City (Premier League, 14/10/17)
City’s highest-scoring game of the season came straight after the second international break of the campaign. The blues welcomed Stoke City to the Etihad looking to retain their place at the top of the league, and supporters didn’t go home disappointed.
Excellent team moves finished by Jesus, Sterling and Silva put the blues three ahead before Stoke grabbed two fortunate goals to bring themselves back into the game. The loss of the clean sheet, however, only seemed to make City angry, and they responded in glorious fashion with four more goals – including Bernardo Silva’s first for his new team.
The sensational scoreline was made even scarier by the fact that City could’ve had more goals. Powered by De Bruyne, the home side tore through Stoke like the plague. Mark Hughes’ men left Manchester wondering what on earth had just happened.
Man of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne was stunning from start to finish, grabbing two wonderful assists that few players in the country are capable of, as well as an unmissable reverse pass to Sané which set up City’s second goal.
Moment of the Match: Fernandinho’s screamer was one of the goals of the season, flying past Butland and smashing off the crossbar on the way in.
7. Manchester City 5-0 Liverpool (Premier League, 09/09/17)
City’s first genuinely great performance of the season was one for the history books as Guardiola got one over on his secondary rival Jurgen Klopp. Liverpool, who have been something of a bogey team for the blues over the years, came to the Etihad with high hopes having just beaten Arsenal 4-0 at home. Nobody expected what came next.
Despite a fairly strong start from the visitors, City grew into the game and took an early lead through Sergio Aguero. They could’ve been 2-0 up by the time Sadio Mané was sent off for a high boot on Ederson and the home side cruised through the match from there. A Gabriel Jesus brace put the match beyond Liverpool before Leroy Sané came off the bench to compile Klopp’s misery with two lovely goals.
This was the game that established City as title favourites, one of the most one-sided games between two big-six sides that the Premier League has ever seen. Despite Liverpool’s good form since then, this demolition in Manchester meant they never really had a chance of pipping Pep to the title.
Man of the Match: Gabriel Jesus netted once in each half to remind the world what a promising young striker he is, including a fantastic header from close range.
Moment of the Match: Aguero’s assist for Jesus stood out for me as a piece of play that proved how well these two South American strikers could play together, as the Argentine squared selflessly for his Brazilian teammate to score.
6. Arsenal 0-3 Manchester City (Premier League, 01/03/18)
One of the best first-half performances of the season carried City to victory in a toxic Emirates Stadium to move City just a few wins away from the Premier League title. Coming just a few days after the Carabao Cup final victory, Pep’s team returned to the same city to play the same opponents – and the same scoreline would ensue.
After several days of heavy criticism, Arsenal’s players were keen to redeem themselves and prove a point, meaning it was up to City to quash their fight early on. Bernardo Silva duly obliged with a wonderful curling strike past Cech, before two breathtaking team moves were finished by David Silva and Leroy Sané to seal the deal for the away side.
A glimmer of hope for the Gunners was unceremoniously extinguished in the second half when Ederson saved Aubameyang’s penalty, preserving an important clean sheet for City and putting further pressure on Arsene Wenger and his side.
Man of the Match: Leroy Sané put in an incredible shift, tormenting Hector Bellerin for forty-five minutes with his unrivalled pace and dribbling abilities and setting up the first goal with a magical run before bagging the final goal.
Moment of the Match: City’s third goal was one of the best team moves you’ll see anywhere this season, with Aguero and De Bruyne heavily involved before Kyle Walker played a low ball into Sané – who couldn’t miss.
5. Manchester United 1-2 Manchester City (Premier League, 10/12/17)
The first performance of the top five is, for some people, the game that set City away as the uncatchable Premier League winners. Manchester United hadn’t lost at Old Trafford since the last time City played there, but that impressive record didn’t seem to bother the blues.
Two set-piece goals ended up being the difference for City, despite Marcus Rashford’s equaliser on the stroke of half-time. Oddly, one of the most memorable moments of this incredibly decisive game was the final few minutes, in which De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and others held the ball by the corner flag, infuriating the home fans.
When the final whistle blew, City were eleven points clear at the top of the Premier League – and the gap would only get bigger. What followed that evening, though, was an unprecedented tunnel brawl involving loud music and a carton of milk…
Man of the Match: David Silva, who reminded the 70,000-strong Old Trafford crowd just how far out of Paul Pogba’s league he is with a string-pulling performance, including a close-range volley to open the scoring.
Moment of the Match: Nicolas Otamendi’s goal was, for me, the most important that City scored all season long as the General acrobatically rifled the ball home to put the visitors back in front.
4. Watford 0-6 Manchester City (Premier League, 16/09/17)
The game that put City atop the league table in the first place comes in at number four on my list – a demolition of Watford at Vicarage Road. The Hornets were unbeaten going into this game and had conceded just three goals, but they were no match for Pep’s side, who came out gunning and came away with a comfortable win.
Sergio Aguero got the ball rolling with a good header from a De Bruyne delivery, before adding a second thanks to David Silva’s cross. Then, the Argentine turned provider as he set up Gabriel Jesus for the third. Half-time provided the only respite for Watford’s defence as Otamendi grabbed his first of the season before Aguero secured a hat-trick and Sterling scored from the spot late on.
Still the biggest away win of the season by any team in the Premier League, this methodical destruction speaks out as one of the defining games of City’s electrifying campaign. Watford were a strong team in impressive form, but City swatted them away like they were flies instead of hornets.
Man of the Match: Sergio Aguero, who got his first league hat-trick of the season after a summer in which some pundits suggested he was surplus to requirements.
Moment of the Match: Aguero’s third goal was a thing of beauty as he danced past almost the entire Watford defence before sliding the ball in perfectly off of the post.
3. Napoli 2-4 Manchester City (Champions League, 01/11/17)
One of the landmark wins of City’s slightly underwhelming Champions League campaign was this heroic effort in Naples, against a side who were at the time in some of the best form in Europe. A point would’ve been more than satisfactory for most fans, but Pep had his sights set on all three…
City started sloppily, going 1-0 down before two lovely headers from Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones turned the game in their favour. Napoli equalised, but their joy was short-lived as Sergio Aguero netted an historic goal to reclaim the visitor’s lead. Now on top, De Bruyne and Gundogan began to tear the Italian side apart with relentless energy, before Sterling added a fourth for City late on to secure the win that saw them progress to the knockout stages.
In a campaign that saw City destroy the vast majority of Premier League teams, this game was a huge test to see if they could replicate those levels against Europe’s best, in one of the most intimidating atmospheres in football. It was a test they passed with flying colours.
Man of the Match: Nicolas Otamendi had more touches and completed more passes than any other City player and, what’s more, scored the crucial equaliser that turned the tides in City’s favours.
Moment of the Match: Sergio Aguero’s record-breaking goal saw him overtake Eric Brook as Manchester City’s all-time top goalscorer, as well as putting City back in the lead in Naples.
2. Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City (Premier League, 30/09/17)
It was an incredibly tough choice for me between the top two, but using the criteria I mentioned earlier I’ve decided that City’s win over Chelsea in September just misses out on top spot. Now top of the Premier League, the in-form Citizens went to Stamford Bridge for a tricky-looking fixture against the reigning champions Chelsea.
This game from Pep Guardiola has to go down as one of the best managerial performances I’ve ever seen. Despite the immense quality on display for the opposition, his tactics were perfect down to the finest details and the away side dominated from start to finish. Despite some fantastic play, Chelsea’s defence stood firm and was looking increasingly difficult to break down until Kevin De Bruyne’s stunning strike won the game for Manchester City in the second half.
That goal was symbolic of City’s attitude this season: that no matter how the opponent plays, Pep and his side will find a way to win. For many supporters (myself included), this game will live long in the memory as the first time they knew that this City side was just too good not to win the title.
Man of the Match: Kevin De Bruyne, the match-winner, wrote another chapter in his campaign to become the best player in the Premier League as he powered City’s fifth league win in a row.
Moment of the Match: De Bruyne’s winning goal was sensational, as he latched onto a Gabriel Jesus lay-off before rifling an unstoppable strike into the top corner.
1. Manchester City 4-1 Tottenham Hotspur (Premier League, 16/12/17)
Coming in at number one is one of the most comprehensive dismantlings of a top side that I’ve seen in years. City had had a dodgy recent record against Spurs for the previous two seasons, particularly in a 4-1 thrashing at White Hart Lane in 2015, but revenge was on the cards at the Etihad last December.
A big surprise before kick-off was the exclusion of David Silva, who had to rush to Spain for personal reasons, prompting many blues to announce that we had almost no chance of winning without him. How fitting, then, that Ilkay Gundogan scored the opening goal with a free header from a corner in which the Spurs defence had apparently forgotten about the German altogether.
City ripped Spurs to shreds all game, surviving two horror tackles in the process, but they had to be patient to get their real rewards, when De Bruyne doubled the lead before a late Sterling brace piled the humiliation on Spurs. Even Eriksen’s very late consolation couldn’t take the shine off of a remarkable City win.
This was a game that summed up City’s season like no other, with some unbelievable passing play, a variety of top-class goals and an unmatchable team spirit. Of the countless slick wins Pep and his players have orchestrated this season, this night in Manchester stands out to me as worthy of a place among the all-time great Manchester City performances.
Man of the Match: Fittingly, Kevin De Bruyne claimed this accolade in the list-topping match, as he has done on countless occasions this season.
Moment of the Match: For me, this is also the moment of the season. Kevin De Bruyne’s celebration after scoring the second goal of the game was a powerful tribute to David Silva as he held the number 21 up to the crowd on his fingers. This summarised the vital team spirit and togetherness that the players have cultivated – surely a key ingredient in every great team.
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