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Treble Trophies

Are Manchester City on the brink of a memorable treble?

We have reached the business end of another football season and talk turns to who will win the major honours. With Manchester City again in imperious form, fans and pundits alike are starting to ask an inevitable question: are they on the brink of the Treble?

What is a Treble?

The term ‘Treble’ refers to a team winning three major trophies in a single season. This itself is an expansion of the earlier concept of The Double, i.e. winning both the league and the FA Cup in the same season.

Three teams have won a Treble in the history of English football. However, not everybody regards all Trebles as being equal.

Previous Trebles in English football

In 2000/01, Liverpool won a Treble of the FA Cup, League Cup, and UEFA Cup. These are all major trophies and it is unusual for one club to win them all in one season. However, some argue that this is a less great Treble than one that includes the league. Winning the league requires sustained form throughout a season. Especially in the modern day, many consider the league winner to be the best team in the country.

More recently, in 2018/19, Manchester City won English football’s first domestic treble. They won the Premier League, FA Cup and League Cup in a single campaign. A team achieving this feat obviously has a great claim to being the best team in the country. However, in an odd quirk, Liverpool actually won the Champions League in the same season. Manchester City appeared to be the top team in England, but it wasn’t definitive.

Given all of the above, the definitive Treble in English football consists of the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League. Manchester United won this greatest of Trebles in 1998/99, becoming the only team to do so in English football. But could we be about to see it happen for a second time?

City’s Credentials

Manchester City have been the most successful club in English football over the past decade. City have won 12 of the 35 major trophies collected by English teams in that time. The Treble would be a magnificent feather in their cap. It would also be a major change in Manchester’s football history and balance of power. City would be able to say that they had matched United’s feat. They would be on their way to becoming as successful and historic a side.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola has a Treble pedigree: he achieved the feat with Barcelona in 2008/09. If City pull it off this year, Guardiola will be the first coach to win two Trebles in European football.

What do City need to do?

By being in the running in all these competitions, Manchester City will generate discussion of a Treble. We saw the same last year when Liverpool won the League Cup and were still in the other three major competitions late in the year. Talk quickly turned to a Treble or even Quadruple being achieved.

However, whilst Doubles and Trebles are often discussed, achieving them is another matter altogether. Even by their own recent standards, Man City will have to produce something quite special.

Starting this evening, Man City play up to 12 games between now and the end of the season. But can they put it together into the below 3-step plan to go down in history forever?

Step 1: Win the Premier League

The first order of business for Manchester City is to win the Premier League. This is where they will play 8 of those 12 games. Former Man City coach Mikel Arteta and his young Arsenal side have been challenging Guardiola’s City all season long.

However, Arsenal have had a wobble of late, only drawing their last three games. This has opened up the opportunity for Manchester City to take firm control of their own destiny. They can start tonight with victory over Arsenal at the Etihad Stadium. Whilst City will still be behind Arsenal if they win the game, the gap will only be two points and Manchester City will have two games in hand over their rivals.

In total Man City’s run-in is as follows:

  • Arsenal (H)
  • Fulham (A)
  • West Ham (H)
  • Leeds (H)
  • Everton (A)
  • Chelsea (H)
  • Brighton (A)
  • Brentford (A)

This list makes worrying reading for Arsenal fans, containing many struggling teams that City will be overwhelming favourites to beat. This especially true because they seem to have hit a great patch of late-season form. City have won eight of their last nine games in the league including a win over Arsenal in London.

In the reverse fixtures against these eight opponents, Manchester City only failed to beat Everton (drawing 1-1) and Brentford (losing 2-1). Repeating their results in the second meeting with each team would take them to 92 points. This total would be beyond Arsenal’s reach unless they can get a result in tonight’s game.

Step 2: Reach the Champions League Final

Mixed in with their league run-in, Man City face Real Madrid in the Semi-Final of the Champions League.

Madrid have been the dominant force in Europe over the past decade, winning the competition a remarkable five times. They are always a threat in the competition. Last year they eliminated Manchester City at the same stage and went on to beat Liverpool and win the competition.

However, this year Manchester City have added the superb Erling Håland to their ranks. The Norwegian is emerging as one of the top players in the world. City will be hoping he can make a big difference in what should be a close two-legged tie.

Step 3: Win the Cup Finals

We know that Man City will face local rivals Manchester United in a Cup Final for the first time on Saturday 3rd June.

Whilst their form this season and trophy-winning pedigree means they will be favourites for the game, Manchester City cannot take the game for granted. United already won a trophy at Wembley this season by defeating Newcastle in the League Cup Final. They also have the motivation of trying to preserve their club’s unique Treble history. Their manager Erik Ten Hag has promised that they’ll do everything possible to retain that status.

If they have been able to deal with Real Madrid as we discussed above, an even bigger game will follow a week later at the Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on 10th June. Manchester City will face Italian opposition if they reach the Final. They would play the winner of the other Semi-Final, between AC Milan and their city rivals Internazionale. AC Milan played in the previous Champions League Final in this stadium back in 2002. That game memorably saw Liverpool come back from 3-0 down to win the trophy on penalties after a 3-3 draw. Whilst City fans wouldn’t relish that emotional rollercoaster, they’d certainly take that result now if offered.

Will they do it?

It’s hard to say whether Manchester City will pull off the Treble. It’s a rare achievement for a reason. Although many teams get to stages late in the year where they have the chance, an extreme level of performance is required to not only win a league title race but also individual huge matches in Semi-Finals and Finals.

However, if any club can achieve it, it’s Manchester City. Their squad is packed full of quality. They have added a sensational goalscoring talent this year in Erling Håland. Their number 9 could make the difference in these huge games.

Manchester City the favourite for each of the three competitions when taken individually. The question is whether they can put it all together in a single season to write a remarkable piece of history.

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