Because Pep Guardiola’s team demonstrated that they were on another level, Manchester City’s Premier League victory was inevitable.

After Arsenal suffered a 1-0 loss at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, Pep Guardiola’s team formally clinched the championship.

Once again, Manchester City is the English national champion. Despite being so glaringly obvious, it has now been rubber-stamped, but this column could have easily gone live right after they smashed Arsenal’s resistance at the Etihad Stadium last month. Some may even go as far back as a few weeks into the season, when it became abundantly clear that they hadn’t whiffed on Erling Haaland and that the club team that had been the most successful in world football for the previous half-decade had added the elite level goalscorer they hadn’t had since Sergio Aguero’s abilities began to wane.

The season-long development of City has culminated at the ideal time; their thrashing of Real Madrid on Wednesday may go down as the best game of Pep Guardiola’s reign, if not his entire career. They had the strongest underlying metrics at the World Cup break, including the most goals, shots, expected goals (xG), and lowest xG allowed. The main question was whether Arsenal had amassed enough breathing room; given that they had not yet met their strongest rivals, there was always an air of inevitableness, as if the eight-point lead they would presumably bottle only truly existed because they hadn’t yet faced the incumbent champions.

The increase since the World Cup has been dizzying. In 33 games, they have scored 86 goals and given up 22, winning 14 of those games by a margin of three goals or more. One could argue that the only two of the latter to be of any real consequence were those given up to Southampton in the EFL Cup quarterfinals and that Nathan Jones, one of the worst managers in English top flight history, has done the most damage to City’s chances this season.

Noel Gallagher is limited to the position that anyone who has listened to his recorded output over the last 25 years would agree is most appropriate: cheerleader. It’s as if Guardiola has formed his own City band. Ilkay Gundogan has returned to his dual roles as a tyrannical center midfielder and a goal-scoring threat. In addition to that, Bernardo Silva is able to play six positions at once, while Kevin De Bruyne is at his best when whipping in precise crosses. The lockdown defense led by Ruben Dias contains allusions to the almost Champions League champions of 2021. The fullback-midfielder position played by Joao Cancelo is subtly modified by John Stones. Finally, Jack Grealish is performing covers of his favorite Villa songs.

As they have done in every season under Guardiola, City finish this one as the top team in England. Although the actual standings has not reflected this two times, Understat’s predicted points metric has them topping the Premier League on both occasions. In the first year of the new initiative, there was no goalkeeper who could simultaneously initiate play from the back and refrain from making inexplicable weekly errors; Chelsea rose to the top despite only playing 43 games against Premier League opposition. While Leicester’s title-winning season was almost as bizarre as City’s in 2019–20, when they would put up three or more goals against Southampton and still lose, Liverpool took off right away.

In addition to a season of unrelenting excellence—the kind that, on both occasions, left the champions in ruins the following season—City must also cause harm to themselves, whether it be through subpar play in a crucial position or an arctic shooting streak. There were no comparable sways this season. Even making changes to their system to accommodate Haaland was merely a short-term glitch. No one could keep up with City’s tempo as soon as it got going.

It has always been like way. The fifth title in six years is this one. Six out of seven the next year, followed by seven out of eight. You’ll eventually look up and see how similar the Premier League is to Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga. The odd insurrection on the periphery might momentarily frighten the Etihad empire, but given everything is equal, City will win the championship whenever and however they choose to.

Their competitors continue to face increasing expectations. Aside from lucking out in finding a team as financially inept as Barcelona, which was willing to sign Philippe Coutinho without knowing how to use him in order to effectively fund the purchase of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk, Liverpool had to excel at recruitment season after season in order to build one of their greatest-ever clubs. If Arsenal’s academy hadn’t suddenly produced Bukayo Saka and a number of squad players at once, they might have been doomed by their overspending on players like Nicolas Pepe. Both of these teams are unable to spend as much money on English talent as City did on Grealish and Kalvin Phillips, who were then given what amounted to a gap year to become acclimated to the system.

City would argue that they cannot do something that their competitors can’t. In the foggy glimmer of Madrid’s victory, Ferran Soriano insisted as follows: “We are never the club spending the most on players. Chelsea, Manchester United, and Arsenal are just a few of the clubs that are investing more money than us. It’s just untrue to assert that we succeeded because we spent a lot of money. Of course, the other Premier League teams are not overly bothered by City’s transfer fees. Haaland’s €75 million release clause was not what kept him out of most people’s price range, after all. According to reports, after bonuses, he makes £900,000 every week. Even even of the wealthiest people in England cannot afford that.

City outearned Liverpool by €100 million and outearned Arsenal by more than €200 million in terms of commercial revenue, much of which comes from businesses located in Abu Dhabi. According to reports, City, who is mainly controlled by Sheikh Mansour, receives about £67.5 million a year in jersey sponsorship from Etihad Airways. The club’s involvement in that arrangement was one of the things that got them in trouble with UEFA and temporarily disqualified them from the Champions League.

What should clubs do to catch up? Many supporters of opposing teams appear to be hopeful that Guardiola’s Champions League curse at the Etihad Stadium will finally end this year, and that beating Manchester United’s 1999 triple will persuade him to retire. If not for the fact that he has a contract that runs until 2025, it would be the perfect conclusion. Contracts can be broken, of course, but the 52-year-old has never shown any indication that he is eager to move on. Guardiola responded bluntly when word of the 115 allegations the Premier League had brought against his club spread.

“I won’t get up from this chair. More than ever, I can promise you that I want to stay. “There are times when I doubt myself; seven years is a long period in any nation. I don’t want to move right now.

It’s not like the Catalan, which has reigned in Spain, Germany, and England, has some incredibly alluring project elsewhere. Would it really be that alluring to address Paris Saint-Germain’s Champions League hangups after doing the same with City? Exists a club in Italy with strong organizational skills? After all, as Guardiola admitted to CBS Sports in May 2021, it is what keeps him returning to City.

“I have everything I need at the club to be content. Not just the players, but also the managers, should be content. I have everything I need in this place, bar the weather. It’s a fantastic club to be, excluding that, Guardiola stated. “The reasons I feel comfortable are the support from the hierarchy, the good players, the good environment, and the individuals working for the same goals. If we succeed, I stay.

Guardiola’s removal only really opens a window, not a door. Despite the awful weather, this club has had its act together long enough to keep him in Manchester for much longer than anyone anticipated when he first arrived in 2016. They don’t exactly have the appearance of a company that is ready to Moyes up the succession. Because of this, there is no assurance that Newcastle United, the second state-owned behemoth, will be able to compete with City. Early signs of the Public Investment Fund period indicate that Saudi Arabia has learned from the Etihad, but City had to create the ideal framework for the ideal coach to assemble the ideal team in order to advance from perennial competitor to continent-conquering juggernaut. There is no assurance that every level will provide elite-level ability.

This is not a period that will be ended by a simple coaching change. To remove City from the mountain’s summit, there must be an earthquake. That may come from the Premier League’s probe into the 115 suspected rule violations between 2009 and 2018. City insists they are innocent of any wrongdoing. Relegation is a possibility if the Premier League decides otherwise, and there would be no cap on the penalties imposed on the champions. The Times reports that in response, the Citizens have disputed Murray Rosen KC’s participation in the panel as chair since he supports Arsenal. The reaction does not appear to be that of a group that firmly believes in what it called “the extensive body of irrefutable evidence that exists in support of its position.” One also wonders what professed Gooner and £5,000 per hour City barrister Baron Pannick thinks of it all.

Perhaps City understands that if anything is going to halt their hegemony over the English game, it is this, which is why they are so nervous about which side each lawyer supports. They are unbeatable when playing football. But they are exposed at the Premier League offices.