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Man City’s on the verge doing what no team has ever achieved in English football

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manchester city three-peat, four straight

No one side in English football history has ever won four straight league titles. Are City on the verge of completing another monumental piece of history? And who’s gone close in the past?

For anyone tuned to the Premier League recently, success for Manchester City is a matter of when rather than if. Since the dawn of the 2010s, the Citizens have claimed seven league titles, including a three-peat between 2021 and 2023.

Before Pep Guardiola’s side’s most impressive recent run just five sides in English football’s entire history have won three successive league titles. With a title charge looking likely, we look back at history to see how likely an unprecedented four-peat is for Manchester City

Every team to three-peat in English football

Huddersfield 1923-24 to 1925-26

We win the clock back a century for the first time an English side won a domestic three-peat. Led by Herbert Chapman, the revolutionary football manager of the time and one of the first astute tactical footballing minds, Huddersfield’s first title came at the expense of Cardiff City, who were level on points but bettered by Town’s goal average.

Their third and final title, in 1925-26, was their most emphatic victory after they finished clear of second-placed Arsenal by five points. Huddersfield are yet to reclaim the English first-division title.

three-peat pep guardiola, manchester city, next manager, successor
Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, is eyeing an unprecedented four-peat in 2023-24

Arsenal 1932-33 to 1934-35

Almost a decade after his feats with Huddersfield it was yet again Herbert Chapman at the helm of a side to win three successive English league titles. A chief proponent of the W-M formation, an early iteration of a modern 4-3-3 formation, Chapman’s Arsenal were the finest side of their generation.

Their first title in 1932-33, won by four points, came despite losing 8-0 to Blackburn Rovers. A remarkable achievement. In 1935-36, the season where a historic four-peat was possible, Arsenal finished sixth, 11 points off the title, perhaps a by-product of their monumental achievement and not great reading for City fans.

Liverpool 1981-82 to 1983-84

Arguably the greatest English football side ever, Liverpool was the dominant force domestically and in Europe for the entirety of the 1980s, when they won six league titles and two European Cups. Liverpool between 1981-82 to 1983-84, their first and so far only three-peating side, was marvellous, loaded with some of the world’s best players.

Club record scorer and former Sydney Olympic man, Ian Rush, led the line alongside Kenny Dalglish, arguably Liverpool’s greatest-ever player. In midfield, Graeme Souness frightened opponents alongside the elegant Terry McDermott while a defence with Alan Hansen, Phil Thompson and Phil Neal protected Bruce Grobbelaar’s net.

In 1982-83, in the middle of their three-peat era, they won the First Division title by an impressive 11 points, scoring 87 goals in 42 league games. This version of Liverpool is truly one of football’s great dynasties.

Great rivals Everton stole Liverpool’s chance of a historic four-peat in 1984-85, winning the leading by a resounding 13 points. At least Manchester City won’t have to worry about their cross-town rivals knocking them from their perch anytime soon.

Manchester United 1998-99 to 2000-01

Our first entrant from the Premier League era, Manchester United’s first title three-peat began in a treble-winning year. It’s hard to pick which of Sir Alex Ferguson’s United sides were the best, though looking past the treble winners is a tough ask.

However, the following Premier League campaign was far more successful. In 1999-2000, United won the title by a then-record 18 points with a side featuring Dwight Yorke, Andy Cole and Teddy Sheringham up-front, David Beckham and Ryan Giggs on the wings and Roy Keane, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes in midfield.

At the back, Australian Mark Bosnich’s goal was shielded by the Nevilles, Phil and Gary, Jaap Stam, Henning Berg and Denis Irwin. From top to bottom, this era of Manchester United was pantheonic.

Their run was broken in 2001-02 by a rampant Arsenal side. United finished third that season behind the Gunners and second-placed Liverpool. That year was one of change and upheaval at Old Trafford. Ferguson began the season by announcing plans to retire at season end, which he later backflipped on, and Steve McClaren left his post as assistant coach for a head coaching role at Middlesborough.

Manchester United 2006-07 to 2008-09

Another Fergie-era entry. If you have Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, as Fergie did in 2006-07, and add Carlos Tevez to the mix, as he did in 2007-08 and 2008-09, evidently anything is possible.

Fergie’s magic was in his ability to regenerate squads and maintain success in the face of mass changes. United’s second three-peat side was sealed by practically a new generation of stars, with just a handful of veterans from the early 2000s remaining.

At that time, Fergie and the red half of Manchester could’ve been forgiven for believing they’d be the only club in Manchester to pull off a league title three-peat, an impressively difficult feat requiring immense skill and perseverance.

Manchester City 2020-21 to 2022-23

Finally, we’ve arrived at our most recent three-peaters. Pep Guardiola has instilled unprecedented levels of domestic dominance in England with his Manchester City side. With or without a striker, City have been near-insurmountable since the beginning of the 2020s.

Erling Haaland’s arrival at the beginning of the 2022-23 campaign elevated City to a whole new level, adding an extra dimension to their attack and providing them with an easy escape in rare instances they’re unable to break down opposing defences.

FPL gameweek 22, Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne’s return increases Manchester City’s chances of a historic league title four-peat

That’s not to say it’s come easy. Liverpool ran City close in 2021-22, losing the title by a single point, while Arsenal’s resurgence in 2022-23 almost cancelled City’s historic treble before it had a chance to be completed.

Much like Fergie before him, Pep’s an incredible problem-solver, evidenced by his tactical shift in the back half of 2022-23, a move which sparked his side’s form and inspired shifting fortunes, ultimately succeeding.

Can Manchester City win an unprecedented four-peat?

History suggests the chances of this occurring are slim. 2023-24 poses a new challenge to Guardiola’s side, who’ve become more hunted than they’ve ever been. Five teams are within touching distance of the Premier League title at the halfway point with City in the midst of a title fight they’ve not experienced since the mid-2010s.

Crucially for City, there have been significant changes around the club. Off the field, they’ve been marred by 115 charges of financial breaches while their chief football operations officer, Omar Berrada, jumped ship to Manchester United.

If Everton’s financial breaches punishment – an unprecedented ten-point deduction – is anything to go off, City could potentially face immeasurable repercussions for their wrongdoing. Whether that occurs in 2023-24 is another issue, and headache, for the City Football Group.

All this uncertainty cannot be good for on-pitch performance. Not that City’s recent form would suggest that. After losing three league matches by early December 2023, City haven’t lost since their 1-0 defeat to Villa on December 7.

This rich return to form occurred with both Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland, City’s chief playmaker and most dangerous player and their record-breaking, defence-frightening goalscoring machine. De Bruyne’s return in a 3-2 win over Newcastle, where he scored and assisted, put the league on notice, while Haaland’s imminent return is enough to scare the most adept defenders into hiding.

However, even with their all-star lineup, City aren’t invincible, as was once thought. Their left-side defence is weakened this season, with young Croatian centre-half Joski Gvardiol tasked with covering too much grass when enigmatic winger, but terrible defender, Jeremy Doku plays.

Premier League sides, notably Wolves, have targeted that edge, highlighting its vulnerability to the rest of the division. Ilkay Gundogan and Riyad Mahrez’s departures also hurt. Gundogan was their leader and is an expert at asserting control over a game, while Mahrez is a pure game-breaker.

Above all else, Pep Guardiola values purposeful control of football matches. Players who grant him this wish; Gundogan, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Bernardo Silva and Rodri, are his crown jewels. City is without the German in 2023-24 but Rodri remains.

The Spanish pivot’s fitness could be the deciding factor in City’s chances at an unprecedented four-peat. City’s three defeats in the early half of 2023-24 came with the 27-year-old unavailable through suspension. His omission is always crucial, particularly with John Stones, his deputy, struggling for fitness.

Rodri goal image
Rodri, like Sergio Busquets before him, is the Spanish midfield pivot most trusted by Pep Guardiola

Pep Guardiola certainly has the talent at his disposal to win a fourth consecutive Premier League title. Then again, so did every three-peat side before him. Getting over that unprecedented hurdle will be no easy feat, especially considering the strength of Liverpool, as well as the overall improvement in the Premier League.

City certainly has the ingredients to do so. Whether the execution evades them, as it did their forefathers, can only be answered in time.

Picture of Kyle Robbins
Kyle Robbins
Kyle is a senior sports writer and producer at Only Sports who lives and breathes sport, with a particular burning passion for everything soccer, rugby league, and cricket. You’ll most commonly find him getting overly hopeful about the Bulldogs and Chelsea’s prospects. Find Kyle on LinkedIn.

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