Can Anyone Stop Manchester City?
Man City continued their sensational run of form by beating Burnley to move five points clear at the top of the table on Saturday. They are still unbeaten after nine games and have posted the most outrageous goal difference ever seen at this stage of the season: plus-28. They have been playing with real swagger and blowing teams away, racking up some huge scorelines along the way.
On Saturday they showed they can grind out results in testing conditions too as they battled through a heavy downpour to put away stubborn opponents. It is a hallmark of champions to win ugly as well as pretty and they have benefitted from a new defensive strength that has seen them keep clean sheets in two-thirds of their games so far. While City beat Burnley, their closest rivals lost to Huddersfield and Man Utd’s capitulation has seen the blue half of Manchester emerge jubilant from the weekend. The big question is: can anyone stop Man City winning the title?
Right now it looks unlikely. They have been by far the best team in the country and have been equally impressive against the minnows and the giants of the Premiership. They have already beaten Chelsea and Liverpool in a comfortable fashion, and they have thrashed the smaller clubs with astonishing regularity. Their rivals are all faltering – Chelsea has lost to Crystal Palace and Burnley, Man Utd was beaten by Huddersfield, Spurs have been poor at home – while Pep Guardiola’s men seem to get better with every passing game.
They have remarkable strength in depth in attacking positions. Sergio Aguero is leading the line with customary aplomb, but Gabriel Jesus is also chipping in with plenty of goals and looks one of the most exciting youngsters the Premiership has ever seen, while Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling have been excellent in front of goal and Bernardo Silva provides great competition for places. Fernandinho has been strong and disciplined and shielded his defence to great effect, while John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi have cut out the mistakes that typified their previous campaigns.
But the greatest plaudits have to go to midfielders Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, who are simply on fire this season. Both players are benefiting from the tutelage of Guardiola, who turned Xavi and Andres Iniesta from talented midfielders to world-beaters. He has transformed De Bruyne from an effective winger into an outrageously brilliant deep-lying playmaker.
The Belgian has a peerless range of passing and reads the game exceptionally well, so he is able to pull the strings, set the tempo and send his teammates away on wave after wave of attacks. Silva is simply doing what he has always done – dazzling with the ball at his feet, playing sumptuous through balls and unlocking defences – but he too is playing deeper than ever before and he is enjoying more touches and more scope to influence the game. They have six assists each in the Premiership this season, more than any other player, and they show no signs of slowing down.
City are excelling in all departments – even Ederson looks a massive upgrade on Claudio Bravo – and they seem destined to win the title. The bookmakers believe they will pull it off with ease as they are now just 1/5 in the fixed odds markets.
Meanwhile, over at https://www.sportingindex.com/spread-betting/football they look set to obliterate their points target for the season, and they are favourites to win all their upcoming games.
There is one caveat: last season they won their opening 10 games in all competitions, only to fall away, finish third in the table and end the season trophyless. However, last season their campaign hit the skids when they lost to Spurs on October 2, whereas now we are heading into late October and they are still excelling.
They also look a different animal to last season as Guardiola has had an extra year to bend the group to his will and they have adapted to his philosophy. City have spent an absolute fortune in the transfer market and they have been rewarded with some electrifying performances. Man Utd are missing Paul Pogba badly and they lack the attacking dynamism of City, while Chelsea are wildly inconsistent and Liverpool and Arsenal are well off the pace.
Tottenham could be a dark horse to make the title race interesting, but they have been hampered by playing at Wembley and their home form has let them down. Right now no team can match City for consistency, strength in depth and swagger, so the title is theirs to lose.
Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and has been covering the Premiership for many years.