By 90Min
October 26, 2017

When Pep Guardiola arrived as Manchester City manager ahead of the start of the 2016/17 season, he was almost immediately hailed as one of the greatest managers ever to grace the Premier League.

Twelve competitive games into that reign, it seemed as though Guardiola was taking no time in living up to that billing. 

City were unbeaten under their new manager, a thrilling 3-3 draw at Celtic in the Champions League was the only time City had failed to win. Then however, the wheels started to come off.

The weekend after that Celtic draw, City were outplayed at White Hart Lane as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham, and from then on in the impetus seemed to slowly but surely drain from their season.

After that, City's progress from the Champions League group stages was unconvincing - two wins and three draws from six games, albeit in a group that contained Guardiola's first football home of Barcelona. 

Then, in the Round of 16, City were knocked out on a away goals by a Monaco side that, inexperienced in challenging for trophies and with a league title race to focus on, should really have been there for the taking.

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In the league meanwhile, City's title challenge was slipping away, an inconsistent middle period saw them record eleven wins from twenty three games meant that a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at the start of April left them twenty points adrift of the champions elect, rendering a subsequent eight game unbeaten run was ultimately irrelevant. City eventually finished third, fifteen points behind Chelsea, and eight behind second placed Tottenham. 

With domestic cup competitions also failing to yield any silverware, it seemed for many as if Guardiola's mask had fallen.

Questions began to circulate about Guardiola's managerial credentials, and how much of his success was actually down to the quality of the players he inherited, or, in the case of Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski at Bayern Munich, bought from his closest title rivals.

It meant that in the eyes of many, the equation for Guardiola was simple: no trophies = no third season at The Etihad.

This season, that push for trophies has started in spectacular style. Liverpool; Watford; Crystal Palace and Stoke have all been beaten by margins of five or more, while Guardiola's side also overcame their biggest challenge in the shape of a trip to Chelsea, with Kevin De Bruyne getting the only goal of the game at Stamford Bridge.

Other competitions have also shown promise, City have a 100% record in the Champions League, while progression to the Fifth Round of the League Cup has also been secured.

What has been perhaps more telling than results is the way City have been playing. With that man De Bruyne pulling the strings from midfield with a spectacular array of passing and the front three of Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane already have the look of the most dangerous attacking trio in the country, with eighteen league goals between them already, while a rejuvenated Raheem Sterling's performances should not be discounted, particularly given his impressive six goal return from seven league appearances.

With eight wins and a draw from their opening nine games and a goal difference of +28, a win at West Brom on Saturday would see City secure the best record from the opening ten games of the season. 

That would by no means guarantee a return to the Etihad for the Premier League trophy, but it would put Guardiola and co. in an overwhelmingly favourable position.

In some ways however, this may be one of the toughest challenges of the season. It was after Celtic ended City's winning run last season that the wheels started to come off, and having needed penalties to overcome Wolves in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday, how City bounce back from that stumble will be telling.

If City are able to bounce back, you feel that Guardiola will be able to push on, and in a league where anyone really can beat anyone, prove once and for all that his managerial quality is more than simply being in the right place at the right time.

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