Manchester City's Quadruple chances unlikely but not impossible
Manchester City's pursuit of an unprecedented four-pronged success in 2017-18 moves up a level in the next three weeks, with the Champions League restarting, a League Cup final with Arsenal and an FA Cup sixth-round berth beckoning if third-tier Wigan can be dispatched. Add that little lot to a 13-point lead atop the Premier League, and maybe it's time to start taking a quest --- which Pep Guardiola insists is impossible -- a little more seriously.
With John Stones, Phil Foden and Leroy Sane reported back in training today, it may not be long before City's squad is close to full strength and chomping at the bit to surpass the feats of English football's other multi-trophy winners of the modern era. As can be seen here, City are already heading into uncharted territory on this subject:
Leeds United 1973-74: This was a season where Leeds also raced away with the league. They were already seven points clear in December; they would hold, more or less, the same lead right through to the end of the season. Some stuttering results toward the end meant the final margin over Liverpool eventually closed to five points. However, Leeds lost in the fifth round of the FA Cup, losing surprisingly to this season's League Cup heroes Bristol City.
Leeds would go all the way in the European Cup the following season, but on this occasion exited the UEFA Cup limply to Vitoria de Setubal in a December third-round tie. The Yorkshire side had already been knocked out of the League Cup by Ipswich Town as early as Oct. 8, meaning by the time they reached February, they were actually fighting on only two fronts.
Liverpool 1976-77: This was the season that found Liverpool chasing the fabled Treble of League, FA Cup and European Cup, and, by late April, they were indeed on the point of scooping the lot. As with City today, much talk surrounded the possibility that tiredness and the heavy concentration of crucial games might finish off their chances, but they kept ticking the matches off one by one. The league title only went to Anfield by a slender one-point margin (over Man City as it happens), however, with that matter settled, Liverpool found themselves facing two finals in five days with the FA Cup at Wembley against Manchester United (lost 2-1) and the European Cup against Borussia Monchengladbach (won 3-1).
To add to their incredible haul, they had also beaten Southampton 1-0 in the Charity Shield season opener at Wembley but had already exited the League Cup in September at West Brom.
Everton 1984-85: Having turned Everton's dismal fortunes around in the early 80s, Howard Kendall set about doing quite a lot more than that in 1984-85. Winning the Charity Shield against Liverpool in August, they set off on a league campaign that would end with the club 13 points clear of nearest challengers Liverpool and Tottenham come May. In that same month, Everton played Manchester United in the FA Cup final (lost 1-0) and Rapid Vienna in the triumphant Cup Winners' Cup Final (3-1). They were, however, already out of the League Cup in November, after losing to Grimsby Town
Manchester United 1998-99: Alex Ferguson's Treble winners swept all before them in 1999 and clearly, as winners of three trophies, were fighting a three-pronged attack right through to May, where they ended up league champions a point ahead of Arsenal, winners of the FA Cup in a 2-0 victory over Newcastle, and claimed the European Cup in a late burst in the final vs. Bayern Munich. A League Cup defeat at Tottenham (3-1) in December had, however, reduced their pursuit to three before the end of the year.
Arsenal 2003-04: The famous Invincibles side went through the entire league campaign unbeaten and went as far as the FA Cup semifinal before bowing out to Manchester United (1-0). The title eventually came to Highbury with a comfortable 11-point gap over second-place Chelsea, meaning it was sealed with a week or two to spare.
In Europe, they reached an all-English quarterfinal with Chelsea, but there they went out 3-2 on aggregate. Still, they had made it through until April on that front. Once again, it was the League Cup that was the stumbling block, with a semifinal defeat to Middlesbrough (3-1 aggregate), meaning they only made it to the beginning of February fighting on all four fronts.
Nottingham Forest 1978-79: The 1-0 European Cup win against Malmo was the second trophy of a wonderful season for Brian Clough and Peter Taylor's men. In the spring, they had carried off the League Cup, beating Southampton 3-2 and, although they fell short in the league, finishing second to Liverpool, they were only five points behind and were still in contention going into the final weeks of the season. In the FA Cup, Forest did not exit the competition until a home defeat to eventual winners Arsenal in the fifth round at the end of February, meaning they were the last side to still be in all four competitions so late in the season.
Thus, if City manage to win their next two domestic cup games (vs. Wigan and Arsenal), they will become the first side to enter March still in all four competitions.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.