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Football Whispers
 By Simon Curtis

Manchester City, Pep Guardiola still chasing history after winning title

ESPN's Mark Ogden and Jonathan Smith discuss whether Pep Guardiola can break even more league records after Manchester City won the Premier League.
Pep Guardiola delves into his high standards for his Man City players in training, when in possession and their decision making.
The FC crew delve into Man City's evolution during Pep Guardiola's second season in charge and debate whether winning the Premier League put his critics to bed.
Joleon Lescott talks about Manchester City's new generation and what to expect from Pep Guardiola in the coming seasons.

So, what now for Manchester City after the early conclusion to their quest for a third Premier League title?

It seems reasonable to expect any side coached by Pep Guardiola to maintain the same level of performance through to the end of the season. There are several reasons why this is almost certain to happen.

First, in respect to the other clubs in the league and especially those still struggling to conclude their own seasons positively, City must not back off. All five of City's remaining games pitch them into battle against clubs whose safety is not yet confirmed. Swansea, West Ham, Huddersfield, Brighton and Southampton are all involved in the relegation scrap and each one will expect City to provide their rivals with the same level of challenge.

Second, City's season has already been crowned with the acquisition of two domestic trophies, the League Cup and now the Premier League, but failure to get beyond the Champions League quarterfinals has left a slightly sour taste in the mouths of some. To offset this and stamp their 2017-18 season with the authority it merits, City can chase down a number of long-standing Premier League records before the season ends.

City are closing in on Chelsea's high-water mark of 95 points, achieved in 2004-05. With 87 points as the home game with Swansea approaches, they would glide past that landmark total with three wins in the last five games. Four wins and a draw would smash the 100-point barrier for the first time.

If City can extend their lead at the top by a further three points, they would also produce the biggest winning margin. Eleven more goals would also beat the goal-scoring record. If they manage that, the goal-difference record will be broken at the same time, as City sit just plus three away from breaking Chelsea's plus-71 from 2009-10.

Third, there has been much talk of where this City side fit in the grand scheme of things. The scintillating football, as beautiful as it has been efficient, has swept many aside this season. How they sit in the pantheon of English football's greatest sides will not be decided by one season of startling achievement, however.

To cement what may well be one of the most memorable football dynasties, European success must at some point come, too, as must further domestic triumphs. For next season to start in similarly coruscating form, City should keep the accelerator pedal pressed hard to the floor. A winning finish has been part of almost all of City's recent seasons and would have a relevant effect on how the team hits the ground in August for the start of 2018-19.

Manchester City have swept all before them in the Premier League but there's still work to do.

As far as individual players are concerned, many have their own reasons to keep on motoring. There will be an abundance of City representatives in Russia this summer to take part in the World Cup. As a warmup for the tournament and a show window for their talents, some notable end-of-season performances could shoot players into contention and cement others' participation in the greatest football show of all.

Some of these players also have something still to do to be included in the delivery of Premier League winners' medals. There is a five-match cutoff point for medal winners and of the 40 medals that have been delivered to the Etihad store cupboard, not all have a firm destination. Claudio Bravo, Phil Foden, Brahim Diaz and Benjamin Mendy each need to feature in the final games to qualify for their medals.

While City's unstoppable progress to the 2017-18 title has catapulted many players into the public's conscience, it is unlikely that each one of them will manage to hold on to their places next season. Inevitably, Guardiola will want to bolster the squad for the various challenges ahead. Despite the Catalan's penchant for sensible squad rotation and tactical tinkering, there is a strong feeling within City's first-team group that if you drop out of contention, it might be a little while before you can force your way back in.

Ilkay Gundogan and Bernardo Silva, perhaps still seen as replacements despite notching a creditable 56 appearances between them -- 31 and 25, respectively -- are typical of the players who might wish to consider themselves as more than just fringe operators for the next campaign. The same can be said of the defensive positions, where the central partnership of Nicolas Otamendi and Vincent Kompany, which has closed out the last weeks of the title push, might not ultimately be the one Guardiola rates as his best pairing for the future. Aymeric Laporte and John Stones will want to have some say in this matter. With Mendy returning to fitness, will Fabian Delph -- probably the most improved player of all in this gifted squad - also see his place in danger?

Ominously for Swansea, West Ham, Huddersfield, Brighton and Southampton, there seem to be plenty of reasons for City to keep motoring right to the finishing line.

Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.


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