Brighton 1-4 Manchester City: Talking points as Premier League champions reign and retain

Aditya Devavrat 20:50 12/05/2019
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Aymeric Laporte and Man City celebrate the title-winning goal.

Manchester City became the first team in a decade to retain the Premier League title after a nervy end to the season, beating Brighton 4-1 to pip Liverpool to the crown by a point.

Brighton gave them a scare by taking the lead on Sunday, raising Liverpool‘s hopes after they had gotten an early strike against Wolves, but goals from Sergio Aguero, Aymeric Laporte, Riyad Mahrez, and Ilkay Gundogan ensured Pep Guardiola’s side completed a feat not done since Manchester United won a third straight title in 2008/2009.

Here are the talking points from the win which brought an end to a gripping title battle.

LAPORTE HAS HIS SAY IN VAN DIJK’S SEASON

The word on Laporte this season has been that he’s the second-best defender in the league. That’s high praise in itself, but constantly hearing that there’s a player better than you can’t be fun.

Virgil van Dijk has been immense for Liverpool, arguably the sole reason City even had title rivals, and when Laporte’s mistakes cost his team a shot at the Champions League as he gifted Tottenham two goals in the madcap second leg of the quarter-final, the contrast between best and second-best could not have been starker – not least because Van Dijk’s team have made the final of that competition, for the second straight season.

Liverpool’s main man would win the PFA Player of the Year award soon after Laporte’s horror show, as if to rub it in. But ultimately, although Van Dijk ends the season having anchored the best defence in the league, he doesn’t have a Premier League winner’s medal to show for it. Laporte does, having had the final word on that front. It was his goal that put City back in front on Sunday after Aguero had cancelled out Glenn Murray’s opener.

MAHREZ’S SWEET REDEMPTION

Until Sunday Mahrez’s most significant contribution to the title race was actually in Liverpool’s favour. He missed an 85th-minute penalty at Anfield in October in a 0-0 draw, a moment that was looming large when the Reds took the lead on Sunday.

No one knows how much that miss has played on the Algerian’s mind this season, his first at the club after he became City’s record signing last summer. Scoring the winning penalty in the shootout in the League Cup final against Chelsea would not have counted for much as consolation had Guardiola’s side lost out on the title.

So assisting the go-ahead goal and then scoring what was essentially the title clincher, a vintage strike – albeit on his right foot – as Mahrez left a defender for dead with a dribble before shooting from outside the box to make it 3-1 and put the doubts to bed, must have been a satisfying moment.

CITY TAKING PREMIER LEAGUE TO NEW HEIGHTS

Until two seasons ago, the record for points in a Premier League season was 95. This year, a team has topped that mark and not won the title.

That’s the standard City have set. Last year it was becoming the first team to earn 100 points. This time, they’ve lost two games more in comparison but still ended the campaign on 98 points, as they matched the previous season’s win total of 32 – a Premier League record.

Going by those stats, a team has the leeway to fail to win just five games to beat this City side. For the record, Arsenal’s Invincibles side drew 12 games, the Chelsea team that hit that 95-point mark drew eight and lost one, and Manchester United’s Treble winners drew 13 and lost three. Liverpool this season matched that 2004-05 Chelsea side by losing only once, but drew seven times.

The bar has been well and truly raised. Liverpool may have pushed them to the brink this season, but a year after winning the league by 19 points, City have taken a punch from the best England had to offer and still ended up on top.

The message to everyone else is clear. It’s going to take something monumental to beat Guardiola’s all-conquering side.

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