There was something unnerving about the way in which Manchester City dismantled Watford in the FA Cup Final on Saturday. The evisceration of The Hornet’s backline bordered on cruelty as they were relentlessly exposed by a rampant opponent at Wembley.
We have used all the superlatives in our possession to praise the footballing side of Manchester City’s success over the past couple of years. They are quite simply, one of the finest sides assembled in the history of the game in this country, and yet, as the referee blew for full time on Saturday you couldn’t help but feel more than a little underwhelmed by it all.
While we can all tip our caps in admiration, there is latent concern for everyone else in the chasing pack, that the routine nature of this final rout, could well be the only start of City’s domination of our domestic game.
No drama no sport
For many a year, the fans and administrators of the Premier League have sat back and poked fun at other European top flights for their predictability and general lack of real competition at the top of the table.
Indeed, the French title has gone to PSG in six of the last seven seasons. While in Italy and Germany; Juventus have won eight titles in a row and Bayern Munich seven. This lack of drama leads to dour predictability which threatens to undermine the integrity of a domestic league.
This season’s showpiece finale at Wembley may well prove that we are hurtling toward that eventually in our own back yard, if we haven’t gotten there already.
The cup final was played out almost at a pre-season exhibition tempo as City, bordering on the casual, knocked the ball around Watford with startling ease. Yes, there were chances for Watford to take a shock lead, as a penalty shout against Kompany’s raised arm went unanswered, and Roberto Pereyra wasted a really good chance when clean through. But if we are being honest, this game only looked like it was going one way.
Once City had the lead, the cavernous gulf in class between the sides, was clear for all to see. A ludicrous final scoreline of 6-0 should have the rest of the football fraternity duly worried about the sheer ferocity at which the treble winners have raced ahead of the chasing pack.
Not since 1903, when the game was still in its relative infancy, has such a scoreline been recorded in the final of the world’s oldest knockout competition. There have been mismatches in the final before; Manchester United v Millwall in 2004 springs to mind.
Yet this was supposed to be two Premier League sides contesting a major final, but in the end it looked like anything but. While there have been plenty of other indicators this season; this result is a sobering reminder that our game is being rapidly terraformed by Manchester City.
While Watford are not immune from criticism; they sat too deep in the first half and allowed City’s gifted players far too much possession, it is still hard to see how even with flawless tactics they could have beaten the reigning Champions.
City have won 80% of their league fixtures in the past two years as well as their last nine games against Watford, since the Hornet’s promotion in 2015. 198 points amassed over the course of their last two Premier League campaigns is further proof, if more were needed, that Pep Guardiola has buckled and bent England’s top flight to his will.
He did so in Germany and in Spain, but to repeat this feat in the Premier League, has required the immense riches and near boundless backing of City Football Group. This wealth in resources has enabled Guardiola to put down the roots required for dominance of the game in this country.
You only need to look at the calibre of player he left on the bench going into a cup final. When you consider that this was a rotated starting XI, it makes it even more daunting, near impossible even, for clubs like Watford to lay a glove on this City side.
Whether we are in for a decade of City titles, as some have predicted, is still up for debate. Liverpool pushed them all the way for the title this season, keeping the pressure on until the final kick of a ball in anger. The other four clubs in the top six are sure to shake off the malaise that has hindered them in recent seasons sooner or later.
The current investigations over alleged UEFA Financial Fair Play breaches and talk of disqualification from the Champions League could well serve to distract club officials this summer. However, given City’s immense infrastructure for success it is hard to see this impacting them too much on the pitch and with player recruitment.
The Premier League has adapted and survived potential break away sides looking to dominate in the past. Chelsea did not pull away after Roman Abramovich torpedoed the league with his financial wealth back in 2003.
City’s current riches have so far proven more domineering, and the only hope others may have is that their ageing contingent of players may take some time to replace in the coming seasons and slow their momentum. Although even this a mere kernel of optimism for the rest of the sides currently in the Etihad’s shadow.
What we saw on Saturday, was a newly founded football superpower showcasing its lethal potential to dominate with relative ease. A historical treble was secured at Wembley as City rounded off their immaculate domestic campaign. While this treble win was previously unprecedented, we could have just witnessed what is to become the new normal in English football over the next few years.
It was a shortened pod this week, but still a solid listen. 🎧👌
— Football Faithful (@FootyFaithful_) May 14, 2019