Emery favour, wasteful Diaz and key return: Five moments that won Manchester City the PL title

Lewis Oldham
Man City Prem title
Stefan Ortega, Luis Diaz and Oscar Bobb contribute to Man City (probably) winning the title.

Manchester City beat an on-the-beach West Ham United (as expected) on the final day to clinch their fourth Premier League title in a row.

Seeing as our article that picked out moments that cost Arsenal the Premier League title went down so well *nose grows in size*, here are five events that have contributed to Man City becoming champions once again…

Moments that sealed the Premier League title for Manchester City


Ortega keeping out Son
Starting with the obvious, we have a moment that will be replayed in Premier League highlight reels for many years to come and will also be infixed in the nightmares of Arsenal supporters, who – a la Ange Postecoglou – will come out in cold sweats as soon as the words “Stefan, Ortega and save” come up in conversation.

There was a unique atmosphere at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium last Tuesday as a large portion of Spurs supporters – to the frustration of their manager – were at least feeling conflicted over whether to support their team knowing that a home win (or even a draw) would likely result in arch-rivals Arsenal winning the Premier League title.

Spurs had something riding on the game themselves, but their already slim Champions League hopes were dealt a further blow by Aston Villa’s late comeback against Liverpool a day earlier. However, this was seemingly outweighed by the prospect of all but ending Arsenal’s title dreams so the hosts did not have the benefit of having full backing from the 12th man against City.

Despite this, Tottenham’s players – as they often do as City‘s bogey team – did their bit and certainly had enough chances to earn a point against Guardiola‘s uncharacteristically nervy side.

The popular opinion suggests otherwise, but there was plenty of jeopardy for Man City and substitute goalkeeper Stefan Ortega – who was brought on after Ederson suffered a suspected concussion – was called into action at several heart-in-your-mouth moments to save his team.

Dejan Kulusevski forced City’s superb backup ‘keeper into a couple of solid saves, but arguably the defining moment of his and his side’s season came as a rare defensive lapse from Manuel Akanji allowed Son Heung-Min a free run at goal for a one-on-one against Ortega.

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has subsequently admitted that Son would be the one player in the Premier League he’d “pick” to score in this scenario and the South Korea international is usually ice-cold in front of goal, but Ortega stood firm to make a stunning save as City ended up winning 2-0. And with that, his legend’s status at the Etihad is secured.


Bobb’s 91st-minute winner vs Newcastle
Most of Man City’s Premier League title-winning campaigns have followed a similar script, with a stop-start first few months to the season preceding a trophy-clinching unbeaten run towards May.

Before City fully find their relentless winning rhythm en route to another title, there is often a moment around the New Year when their title rivals are made to go: ‘Oh f***, here we go again’.

In this season, this came on January 13 as Man City travelled for a very tricky away game at St James’ Park against Newcastle United.

At the time, talk of Eddie Howe being sacked felt genuine as Newcastle were enduring a mid-season slump, but they are often a different animal on home turf than they are on the road and they had Man City on the brink of a potentially damaging defeat in January.

Bernardo Silva’s early opener set Man City up for a typically routine victory, but quickfire goals before the break from Alexander Isak and Anthony Gordon turned the game around.

Man City’s frustration grew as the second-half wore on but this changed following the introduction of Kevin De Bruyne in the 69th minute as he made his return from a hamstring injury.

It took De Bruyne less than five minutes to level the game via a trademark finish from the edge of the penalty area. Then in stoppage time, he added an assist as Oscar Bobb scored from close range to break the hearts of Newcastle United, Arsenal and Liverpool. Man City went unbeaten in the games since this dramatic 3-2 win, as they have 15 victories and three draws from their remaining 18 league matches.


De Bruyne return
Man City were boosted in the run-in by their early-season injury woes subsiding as Guardiola has been pretty much back to full strength for a few weeks.

Their inconsistent start to the campaign came about while they were without De Bruyne, who (barring Rodri, perhaps) is their most important player as the 32-year-old is showing no sign of slowing down and is still arguably the best midfielder in the world.

De Bruyne’s sensational cameo appearance against Newcastle proved to be an ominous sign of things to come as he has been freakishly good in recent months.

Collecting six goals and 18 assists in his 25 appearances (14 goal involvements in 18 Premier League outings), it goes to show how good De Bruyne has been that despite playing half the amount of games than most rivals, most right-minded onlookers of the division cannot begrudge him of a place in the league’s Team of the Year.

Premier League Player of the Year Phil Foden stepped up in the Belgium international’s absence, but De Bruyne’s timely return provided the shot in the arm his side needed ahead of kicking on towards the tireless title run-in.

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Wasteful Luis Diaz
Remember when there was a three-horse race for the Premier League title? That was fun, wasn’t it?

March was a defining month for Man City as they had Premier League games against Man Utd, Liverpool and Arsenal. At the time, two of their opponents were well in the fight (not United, obviously) and these matches were widely expected to play a decisive role in determining where the title ended up.

Before Arsenal produced a defensive masterclass to earn a respectable 0-0 draw at the Etihad, Man City travelled to Anfield to face Liverpool.

The Guardiola vs Jurgen Klopp rivalry has defined this era of English football and the likely last Premier League meeting between the two great managers did not disappoint.

Man City have consistently struggled at Anfield, but they were widely backed to defeat Liverpool, who were seriously impacted by injuries heading into this huge game.

A well-worked corner resulted in John Stones finding the net early on but Man City were unable to take the game away from Liverpool while they had the chance.

A rash challenge from Ederson on Darwin Nunez shortly after the interval resulted in Liverpool being awarded a penalty and summer signing Alexis Mac Allister converted from the spot. This set up a frantic finish to the game as an inspired home side had City on the ropes and *should* have won.

Winger Luis Diaz has been a shadow of his best self since recovering from his serious knee injury, but he was at his breathtaking best against City. The only thing his performance lacked was the final product as he let his team down in front of the goal.

After failing to hit the target with a shot just outside the penalty area, Diaz had an even better chance in the second half but he wasted that as well. His one-on-one with Ederson resulted in the Colombia international opening up his body a little too much while attempting to find the far corner as his effort went wide.

Two months apart, two one-on-ones in huge moments were missed against Man City as they picked up four points. Yet had Diaz and Son scored, their points return would likely have been just one and Arsenal would have gone into the final day as Premier League leaders. Fine margins and all that…


Emery favour
Aside from the Spurs game, the other big test remaining for Man City during the run-in was against Champions League-chasing Aston Villa at the Etihad at the start of April.

Unai Emery’s side proved they can trouble City as they won 1-0 at Villa Park in December, but the elite coach opted against giving former club Arsenal a helping hand in their return fixture at the Etihad.

With a Europa League quarter-final against Lille and more winnable Premier League games looming, Emery picked the Man City game out as an ideal match to rest players.

Top scorer Ollie Watkins missed out through injury, Emiliano Martinez dropped out of the squad due to illness and John McGunn was suspended. But Pau Torres, Youri Tielemans and Leon Bailey started on the bench as a Foden hat-trick helped City run out comfortable 4-1 winners.

11 days later, Villa had most of their top performers back for their trip to the Emirates and Emery’s team did a job on Arteta’s side in a 2-0 away win, which has been Arsenal’s only misstep during the run-in.

As proved over various years, perfection is required to halt Man City’s march to the title. This solitary loss was enough for Guardiola’s supreme team to retain their status as champions.

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