Style and Substance in the City Title Charge

By Terry McCulloch, Fri 06 October 2017 12:54

Style and Substance in the City Title ChargeConvincing win at Stamford Bridge suggests that Blues are serious title contenders

Manchester City have made a remarkable start to the 2017/18 campaign in the Premier League, but before getting too carried away, it’s worth remembering that in August and September of last season, Guardiola started his Etihad reign with six straight wins heading into October and leading the table.

The first defeat of the 2016/17 season came in October away at Tottenham, followed by two draws at home against Everton and Southampton, with the only win of the month coming away at West Brom. The remainder of 2016 was inconsistent in terms of results and the wheels seemed to fall off completely at the start of 2017, as City crashed 4-0 away at Everton.

Things certainly picked up from there, but having lost important ground on Chelsea and given the parity amongst the chasing pack, the fight became more about finishing in the top four and securing qualification for the Champions League. Meanwhile, questions were raised about whether Guardiola’s style was suitable for the Premier League, or if the players at his disposal were the right fit.

This season, with the latest football betting placing City as the outright 4/6 favourites, bookmakers couldn’t be any more confident that Guardiola’s men will be lifting the Premier League trophy at the end of the campaign. This in spite of United being level on points and just one goal separating the two sides for leadership of the table.

There is a significant difference this time around, given the huge expenditure for new additions this summer, with a much firmer belief that City now have the strength and depth to last the pace. Perhaps most importantly, key defensive reinforcements are already making an important contribution not only at the back, but also adding to the overall cohesion and solidity throughout the whole side.

Some of the thrashings that City have handed out thus far are, of course, pleasing to the eye. However, the most impressive result so far came at Stamford Bridge against Chelsea. Although the narrow looking 0-1 score might suggest on paper that there was little between the two sides, in truth, Guardiola’s men successfully navigated their way through a very difficult encounter with style and substance. The exquisite finish by Kevin de Bruyne was simply the icing on the cake of a marvellous team performance.

The challenge now is maintaining the overall consistency established so far, especially as the fixture list begins to tighten and stretch fitness levels, so the strength and depth available will be tested to its very limits. Six matches in October are followed by another six in November, then a whopping eight encounters in December with barely any time to breathe between games. Guardiola will need to rotate his squad with the utmost certainty.

There will be knocks and injuries to work around along the way, such as the unexpected loss of Sergio Aguero for several weeks after a car accident in Amsterdam, but from front to back, City genuinely have enough cover to deal with all but the very worst injury crisis that would hamper any team.

Every component of the squad is ready to step in at a moment's notice and play their part. Guardiola has the all the tools to do his work and this season, there's an authentic belief the Premier League title can be won.