At the start of the season Man City and Tottenham played out an engrossing 2-2 draw at the Etihad, in which the hosts were denied a dramatic last-gasp winner by VAR.
Few would then have predicted that come four months later, Jose Mourinho would be the incumbent at Spurs - he replaced the sacked Mauricio Pochettino in November - and Premier League hat-trick pursuing City would be a gargantuan 14 points adrift of runaway leaders Liverpool, with Pep Guardiola enduring his worst ever start to a season after 16 games.
This sequence of events is reflective of football’s fast-moving pace and unpredictable nature - both on-and-off the pitch - and come the end of the current campaign a few more surprises could well have occurred.
Who knows: Leicester’s Brendan Rodgers may have prevented his old employers from winning their first title in 30 years, Unai Emery could be the man at the helm of Everton, while Patrick Vieira could be back at Arsenal as manager. There are even reports that West Ham are considering bringing back Harry Redknapp should Manuel Pellegrini be discarded...
Meanwhile, it’s not completely out of the question that come the summer months Guardiola opted to vacate his Man City hot seat after four years at the helm, after it was revealed that the Spaniard has a release clause in his contract which allows him to leave at the end of the season, should he wish (Daily Mail).
Guardiola has never spent more than four years at one club. After the same period of time at Barcelona he took a sabbatical in New York, before he returned to management with Bayern Munich, where he won seven trophies in three years.
He then jetted over to test himself in the Premier League, and despite ending his first campaign at City empty-handed, he proceeded to wave his magic managerial wand and conjured up a record-breaking title-winning campaign in 2017/18, followed by the unprecedented domestic treble triumph last time out.
It looks like Guardiola is likely to fail in his bid to become only the second manager to win three successive Premier League titles - Sir Alex Ferguson achieved this feat twice - however, you simply can never rule him out.
He’s still in contention to lift the League Cup trophy for the third year in a row, he can double up on the FA Cup, and perhaps most significantly he’s once again attempting to become the fourth manager to win three Champions Leagues (European Cups).
Could Mauricio Pochettino return to the Premier League?
Whether City finish the season trophyless or not, should Guardiola decide to leave in the summer then many speculate that the club already have a ready-made replacement in Mikel Arteta, who started life under Guardiola as a coach but has held the title of assistant manager since the summer of 2018 when Domenec Torrent left to take charge of New York City FC.
However, with two of his former clubs - Arsenal and Everton - on the hunt for a new manager Arteta could well be lured back to one of his old stomping grounds.
Guardiola will be desperate to hold onto his lieutenant but wouldn’t stand in his way should his fellow Spaniard want to take the plunge into the managerial arena.
There are a lot of ‘ifs’ on display here but there could be a scenario which sees Arteta depart for Arsenal or Everton, and Guardiola leave for either another sabbatical or a fresh managerial challenge elsewhere.
Step forward Pochettino, a tasty 25/1 shot.
Six months ago Mauricio Pochettino took Tottenham to the Champions League final as the only team in Europe's top five leagues to spend nothing!— The Sack Race (@thesackrace) November 19, 2019
Look at what it meant to him...😢
📹 @BTSportFootball #THFC pic.twitter.com/IxQmtcaLzZ
Since leaving Tottenham Pochettino has been linked with both Arsenal and Everton. A move back to North London appears remote given both the timing and his loyalty to Spurs, while the Argentine has reportedly rebuffed the advances of Everton. He may well have set his sights on an opening at Man Utd, which now appears increasingly unlikely given Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s sudden resurgence.
“My aim is to seek the ability to rebuild myself and get my self-motivation back, Pochettino revealed earlier this month. “It is my intention to return to manage in Europe.”
Pochettino would lose £12.5m (The Sun) if he was to take a job before the end of the season, so a summer return appears the most likely option, and the timing could be perfect should a vacancy at City crop up.
It’s easy, yet naive, to throw the ‘he’s never won a trophy’ line at Pochettino, but while his cabinet is bare he is unquestionably in the top tier of gaffers, and arguably the most attractive available option on the planet.
He completely transformed the culture at Spurs, built an attractive team, and propelled the club into challengers both domestically and in Europe. He gave young players the chance to thrive, and unlocked the potential of the likes of Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen, cannonballing both into world class players. He was also - alarmingly - not able to make a signing for an 18 month period, and had to oversee a switch in stadiums, but still whipped up a memorable journey through to the Champions League final, booting out City en route.
A rebuilding job of sorts could be needed at City who will lose David Silva in the summer, while Fernandinho’s contract expires and a replacement for Vincent Kompany is still needed. City are also likely to be in the market for a new left-back and a striker.
While it goes without saying that the preferred option is for Guardiola to stay until at least his contract expires in 2021, should he depart in the summer then providing Pochettino is still available, he’d be the ideal replacement.