With his reputation as a serial title-winner reinforced by Manchester City’s outstanding, single-point success ahead of Liverpool, Pep Guardiola admitted this triumph — his eighth championship in 11 years — was his toughest yet.
Guardiola’s side held their nerve to join Manchester United and Chelsea in becoming only the third club to retain the title since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.
The numbers confirm the quality of this City side.
Eighteen wins and one defeat in the second half of the season confirms their remarkable consistency while a run-in of 14 straight victories ensured there would be no late wobble. Champions last year with 100 points, they top the table this time with 98. Most tellingly, though, they remain clear of Jurgen Klopp’s side by the narrowest of margins, highlighting that they have been operating with no margin for error as the campaign drew to its close.
Little wonder Guardiola, winner of a hat-trick of titles in both Spain and Germany, believes this success ranks as his hardest to achieve. “The feelings are that this is the toughest Premier League and title we have won, and in my career so far,” he said.
“Last season Man City made the standards higher, that’s the new standards of the Premier League and Liverpool helped us be there all the time. Now to win the title you have to win 14 games in a row. We knew for two months we couldn’t lose a point. We did it to the end apart from the Champions League. Normally you have a tendency to go down and Liverpool helped us be consistent.
We did 100 points last season. Teams realised that, but only Liverpool handled it. We have to thank them because they helped us be better this season. They had an incredible season, but we did a little bit better.
He added: “The line between success and failure is so, so tight. Today we are here and incredibly happy, but if Liverpool had won it, they’d have deserved it as well. That is the reality at the high level. That’s why we have to pay attention to those small details.”
Vincent Kompany, who has now won four titles with the club, agreed with his manager but insisted he was convinced the team would deliver back to back success before the season started. "
Yes this was by far the hardest and most draining,” said the City captain, 33, who admitted he doesn’t know where his own future lies.
“We defeated one of the all time great teams in England.
“I had no interest in what Liverpool were doing all season. We didn’t come this far having to worry about someone else. I knew we could win back to back titles straight away. The first meeting of the season it was all about how we tried to get back to back. I’m just so proud they gave everything.”
Brighton took the lead through a Glenn Murray header after Liverpool had gone ahead at Wolves but Sergio Aguero hit back immediately and Aymeric Laporte headed City into a first-half lead before second-half goals from Riyad Mahrez and Ilkay Gundogan completed a comfortable win.
“I didn’t know Liverpool had scored,” said Guardiola.
“I knew Brighton had, and at 1-0 down... not because the game was uncomfortable. We lost easy passes in the first 10-15 minutes because the grass was so slow and took rhythm from the game. We know they are stronger than us, but we were fortunate to equalise immediately.”
Guardiola insisted it is too early to decide whether this current side can be ranked alongside the best in English football.
“If people suggest we could be one of the best, that’s enough,” he said. “If people are talking about this team in 10, 15, 20 years, then it’s because we are a really good team. It’s like books or movies sustaining the passing of time. The big competitors are never satisfied. It’s never enough.”
The status of this City side will only be enhanced if they can beat Watford in next weekend’s FA Cup final and complete an unprecedented domestic treble. “No teams in England have done that before,” added the Spaniard. “We have the chance.
“We’re so, so tired. But at the same time winning the title gives you a lot of energy. It’s so addictive. We have the FA Cup in a few days’ time, and we’re ready to compete against Watford to win the four titles (including the Community Shield) in one season.
“Then we will prepare well, to come back stronger. Liverpool will maintain it, and the others will be better: United must come back; Chelsea under Sarri will be better; Tottenham are in the CL final, and Arsenal will be better as well. We accept the challenge and next season we will be back stronger, I promise you.”