City’s coach has already listed Chelsea and Arsenal as potential title contenders next season, and while some of that can be put down to pleasantries the two London clubs have both defeated the Blues in the last six weeks.
Saturday’s FA Cup final is being billed as the chance for one nascent regime to be rewarded with silverware, with Frank Lampard coming towards the end of his first season in charge at Stamford Bridge and Mikel Arteta having only taken the Emirates reins in December. Two projects with a lot of potential, and one about to be vindicated further with silverware.
There can be no denying how important a trophy is for a manager and their squad.
“We have to lift titles to give more value to what we have done,” Guardiola said ahead of the Carabao Cup final in 2018.
“When we started [the season], we said the same – that we would be judged on how many titles we win, in the big clubs, in the five or six contenders, it’s always the same: ‘How many titles do you win?’
“We don’t expect to win titles to be happier but, of course, we’ll be judged on this and for the club it is so important because it is a club that, every year, needs to grow and win titles and, hopefully, after the day after tomorrow, we’ll have the first one.”
City were well on their way to winning the Premier League that season but had shown a flicker of weakness in losing to League One side Wigan in the FA Cup. Their Wembley final with Arsenal began cagily, but Sergio Aguero got the team on their way and that would be the first of eight domestic trophies the Blues hoovered up out of nine available.
Whoever wins this FA Cup final won’t automatically determine which of Chelsea or Arsenal provide the stiffer challenge for City next season, but it will undoubtedly make it more difficult for the Blues than it needed to be after they failed to turn up for too long of their semi-final last month.
If Liverpool will be the team everyone most wants to topple next season, they are largely taken as a pair with Guardiola’s side when discussing the chasm that chasing teams are trying to close. Having given two rivals the chance to move nearer with the confidence boost that a trophy win can provide, City will have to ensure that they take significant steps forward of their own this summer on the pitch and in the transfer market.