Manchester City beat West Ham to win fourth Premier League title in a row

Manchester City teams celebrates winning four in a row. Photograph: Getty Images / Naomi Baker

Pep Guardiola had predicted that he and Manchester City would suffer; it would be emotional, the nerves stretched taut because this is how it is supposed to go on the final day of the Premier League season when so much is at stake.

It had been that way in 2022 when City needed to beat Aston Villa here in the last game. They were 2-0 down with 15 minutes to play, flirting aggressively with disaster before the Ilkay Gündogan-inspired comeback for 3-2. City have previous for doing things the hard way. But did anybody truly believe that the occasion would get the better of them?

It had certainly been hard to find anyone connected to Arsenal who thought it would. The London club had kicked off two points back against Everton; they were praying for a miracle. It was never going to happen and the truth was that despite the best efforts of the West Ham winger Mohammed Kudus, who scored a ridiculously good overhead kick for 2-1, it never felt remotely likely. City did not even go through the wringer. The key takeaway was the absence of drama.

The more reliable narrative about the team that Guardiola has built is that when the title is in sight, they zero in on it remorselessly . City now have four in a row – English football league history – and of the club’s 10 in total, Guardiola has six. He has collected them during eight years in charge.

Phil Foden was the star turn yet again, scoring the first two goals to take him to 19 in the league and 27 in all competitions and, when Rodri made it 3-1 just before the hour, it was the prompt for City to coast. It looked to have been their default setting for the entire afternoon.

Phil Foden celebrates after scoring. Photograph: Getty Images

There was a moment on 88 minutes that summed things up. Tomas Soucek appeared to have scored with a header after a corner for 3-2 and yet it felt like a trick of the imagination. Nobody seemed to believe it had happened. And guess what, it had not, the replays showing that Soucek had handled, prompting a VAR overrule. The scripts had been written. They probably could have been before kick-off.

The only note of jeopardy came in the final seconds of stoppage-time because there had not really been much after Kudus’s goal-of-the-season contender. It felt like a lightning bolt; West Ham would surely not be striking twice. A gaggle of City fans had lined up behind one of the goals ready for the pitch invasion and a clutch of Guardiola’s players, led by Bernardo Silva, rushed over to implore them to stay back until the final whistle. For a few seconds, there was the worry that exuberance could get the better of a small minority. It soon passed.

City knew that it did not matter if Arsenal won, if their rivals recorded an 89-point season with a 16th victory in 18 matches. It was purely about them and with their eyes on the prize – a 17th trophy under Guardiola – they were not going to disappoint.

The double Double is on; City face Manchester United in Saturday’s FA Cup final. Here, it was all about savouring the most important domestic trophy, the truest test of a team over the course of a season. The camera phones were out across the Etihad, blue flares and confetti exploding as Kyle Walker hoisted aloft the trophy.

Guardiola had referenced the Villa game from two years ago immediately after City’s win at Tottenham last Tuesday, as did Walker. How to avoid that from happening again? “Don’t go 2-0 down and get yourself in that situation where you need Gundo to come up with prime Zidane moments,” Walker said.

Maybe score after 76 seconds, too. That usually helps. Foden’s opener was a stunning statement of City’s intent and his talent, a feint on the edge of the area followed by a vicious blast into the far top corner. We have seen that goal a few times this season.

Foden’s second came after a marvellous piece of footwork by Josko Gvardiol, who picked his way through traffic and fed Erling Haaland. He released Jérémy Doku, whose cutback was made to measure for Foden. That felt like that. And yet there would be only one-goal in it at the interval; it was one of the riddles of the season.

City had poured forward, bristling with intensity, not giving West Ham so much as a breath. Doku subjected anybody in his vicinity to a torrid time. Kevin De Bruyne was everywhere. City had big chances, too many to mention. Doku forced Alphonse Areola into a fine save; Rodri fizzed wide after good work by De Bruyne; Haaland could not convert after Rúben Dias had volleyed back across. They were the clearest ones.

When Kudus forced Ortega into a save on 38 minutes, it almost demanded a double take. Yes, West Ham really had crossed halfway and created something. Then Kudus sculpted his masterpiece following a corner. Nobody, though, believed in the implausible comeback.

Haaland missed a clear chance for 3-1 in first-half stoppage-time after yet another Doku burst and it was all over bar the shouting when Rodri threaded a low shot through a crowd after Silva’s layoff. City might have had more. Over the course of another imperious season, they had done more than enough.