Is Pep Guardiola’s Premier League dominance down to Manchester City’s riches alone?

Guardiola has already led Manchester City to five Premier League titles in seven seasons

MYTHBUSTER Is Pep Guardiola’s Premier League dominance down to Manchester City’s riches alone?

Seye Omidiora 15:15 - 26.05.2023

This week’s edition of ‘Mythbuster’ examines the consensus that Pep Guardiola's Manchester City resources outdo his competitors, scrutinising each club’s yearly business in the transfer market.

For all of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City success, there seems to be a tendency to water down his achievements at the Etihad Stadium.

There is a consensus that the five-time Premier League winner’s success is par for the course, owing to the assistance of the Cityzens’ yearly recruitment drive.

The Abu Dhabi United Group are the majority shareholder of City Football Group, with Sheikh Mansour the faraway leader that has transformed the club’s fortunes since 2008.

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Guardiola took charge of Man City in 2016, replacing 2014 Premier League winner Manuel Pellegrini, whose Cityzens netted 102 goals in that 2013-14 championship success.

However, Guardiola’s team have taken the club’s dominance to a higher level. City could neither retain the title after Roberto Mancini’s 2011-12 season nor under his successor Pellegrini, but the Spaniard has held onto the league twice — in 2018 and 2019 and 2021 and 2022.

They have matched Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side that won three consecutive Premier League titles twice — from 1999-2001 and 2007-2009 — and could equal the Red Devils’ treble-winning 1998-99 campaign if they beat their local rivals in the FA Cup final and claim a maiden Champions League crown against Inter Milan. But the inclination to play down this City iteration endures. 

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Given that a major stick used to beat Guardiola is the transfer outlay across multiple seasons under the two-time Champions League winner, is that criticism valid?

We consider the business done by Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United since the summer of 2016.

Manchester City

A repeated mistake made by observers tends to focus on transfer expenditure alone rather than net spend. According to Transfermarkt, the Cityzens have splurged about €1.2billion in seven seasons under the former Barcelona manager, second to Chelsea in that time.

Manchester City's transfer income and expenditure (Transfermarkt)

However, their net spend (€-666 million) falls below the Blues and Manchester United, underscoring the flawed nature of the argument against the current Premier League champions.


While Chelsea’s net spend (€-781 million) is higher than all but Manchester United, the argument must be nuanced.

The Blues’ recruitment drive under Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital has increased their expenditure over the last few years, with an extravagant summer and winter spending taking the West London side to €1.4 billion in the last seven campaigns.

Chelsea's transfer income and expenditure (Transfermarkt)

A net spend of €-543 million in 2022-23 alone surpasses the number from the six years preceding Boehly and Clearlake (€-263.4 million), indicating the Blues were comparatively prudent in the transfer market in the final years under Roman Abramovich.


Surprisingly, Arsenal’s net spend in the last seven years is closer to Guardiola’s men than most observers would realise.

Under three managers — Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta — the Gunners’ transfer income minus expenditure is about €-643 million, showing that the North London club have been busy in the market in the last seven seasons.

Arsenal's transfer income and expenditure (Transfermarkt)

Acquisitions in the last two seasons have contributed to the negative net spend, with Arteta’s men bringing in Thomas Partey, Ben White and Gabriel Jesus in each of the last three summers under the Spaniard.

All three players played vital parts in the North London club’s Premier League challenge, even if the three-time champions ultimately fell short.

Manchester United

The Red Devils are a bit of a curious case.

Even though the Glazers’ knack for not investing their money but taking from the club has dominated headlines in the last 12 to 18 months, the Manchester giants’ net spend has eclipsed every top side in the last seven years.

Manchester United's transfer income and expenditure (Transfermarkt)

Despite fans of the Red Devils constantly reminding anyone who cares to listen of the Cityzens’ spending, they outspend every Premier League club.


Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool are probably the side deserving of the most credit.

Under the former Borussia Dortmund boss, the Reds have been the lowest spenders (€754.5 million) and have the lowest net spend (€-267 million), evidenced by their sales in the last seven years.

The fact that the Merseyside club have been Manchester City’s closest challenger under Guardiola points to the commendable work the German boss has done since he took over.

Liverpool's transfer income and expenditure (Transfermarkt)


While the nuanced argument shows that Chelsea’s net spending is second behind Manchester United, their splurge over the preceding years is below all but Liverpool.

Manchester City have spent heavily but so has every club in the top flight. The smart spending at the Etihad pales in comparison to their rivals who have spent on the wrong profile of players.

On the other hand, the Cityzens’ targets seldom fail to fit into the group, thus leaving their rivals barking up the wrong tree, when they just need to work smarter.