Manchester City – Why Their Start Has Been So Strong
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As I write this, Manchester City currently sit atop the Barclay’s Premier League table, the only team to take nine points from their opening 3 games and yet to concede a goal. A perfect start to the season, you’d have to say, especially since one of those three afore mentioned victories was a convincing 3-0 win over current champions Chelsea at the Etihad. So, this really begs the question – what’s behind the barnstorming start for Pellegrini and co? What’s happened to make the Citizens look like the surest bet to be lifting the Premier League trophy in May? There are more than a few reasons, that’s for sure.
The most obvious contributing factor to City’s excellent opening spell has to be the return to form of captain and fan favourite Vincent Kompany. In fact, he almost embodies the form of the team for which he has become a permanent fixture since signing from Anderlecht in his native Belgium back in 2008. Spending the majority of last season in the shadow of a dominant and ultimately triumphant Chelsea side, City were seen as an ageing side entering the ‘transitional phase’ that is so often used by some as a euphemism for what they see as a poor run of form. Pellegrini’s future was constantly under question and Kompany, himself, became a figure of ridicule amongst the many bloggers and journalists documenting his and his club’s apparent fall from grace. The Boot Room’s very own Jonathan Wallace acknowledged Kompany’s form last season as being ‘out of sorts’ in a piece for this very site but, in the same piece, acknowledged that the previously stellar performances of the big Belgian could return – and it seems he was right. Kompany has been nothing short of outstanding so far, leading the line with a confidence and determination which led Thierry Henry, in his role as Sky Sports pundit, to describe the defender as looking like ‘a man on a mission’. Throw in the key second goal that effectively wrapped up the aforementioned win over Chelsea and Kompany has everyone wishing they’d splashed out on a him for inclusion in their fantasy football team.
Another key player for City so far this season is Spanish international David Silva. An obvious statement, you might say, but there appears to be a renewed vigour in the former Valencia man, possibly brought on by his move into a more central role since the start of this season. With £49 million signing Raheem Sterling terrorising defences on the left and Jesus Navas so far putting in more than adequate performances on the right, Silva has been freed up to do what he does best – finding holes between the opposition’s midfield and defence and using them to deliver killer passes that are often as unpredictable as they are wonderful to watch. The numbers back this up, too. With 4 assists in the opening 4 matches of the season, he’s averaging 71 passes and 3.3 key passes per game. With the finishing prowess of a man like Sergio Aguero to utilise such assistance to it’s fullest, there’s no doubt that City look a danger every time they come forward.
So with Silva and Kompany on form for the Citizens, it’s easy to see on the pitch why the Blue half of Manchester will be happy with how things are progressing this early on in the season. But one factor that shouldn’t be forgotten in having contributed to this appears to be the new-found stability on the bench at the Etihad. City announced on 7th August that Chilean manager Manuel Pellegrini had extended his contract until June 2017 which, if fulfilled, would see him serve the longest tenure of any City manager for over 30 years. Points to anyone who can name the last manager to stay at the helm in for City for more than four years (answers on a postcard/in the comments).
The above point may seem to some to be a laboured one. But, considering the antics at some other clubs in recent times, most notably Jose Mourinho and his infamous spat with the Chelsea medical team, combined with the ever-shortening average tenure of Premier League managers, Pellegrini’s apparent desire to stay and continue to build at City is one which should not be underestimated. As alluded to earlier, City were so often berated last season as ageing and reaching the end of the era that had brought them their first Premier League title. It would have been easy for Pellegrini to walk away at that point, to happily add his League Cup and Premier League titles to an already vast managerial trophy cabinet and say enough was enough. But to stay, to regroup and rebuild, shows a consistency and stability the club has found hard to come by. They have had no less than 7 managers in 14 years and, while this is probably repeated at clubs up and down the country, it’s probably fair to say that such constant and unrelenting change is not conducive to success. You only need to look across to the other side of Manchester to see the best example of modern times that trusting in a manger can reap its own rewards.
There’s no doubt Manchester City have started strongly and set their agenda. They remain the only unbeaten team in the Premier League and showed terrifying intent only to strengthen, with the acquisition of Wolfsburg and ex-Chelsea player Kevin De Bruyne on the last day of transfer window. With a manager who seems comfortable where many before him have not been, a team full of player on great form or showing signs of returning to it, City look, at this point, to be the surest bet to be lifting the league trophy in May. Whether they have the ability to finally capture that elusive and much-coveted first Champion’s League title remains to be seen, but they’re certainly going the right way about it. Maybe they just need Paul Pogba to take them to that next level? No? Ok, I won’t go there.
Featured image: all rights reserved by Smabs Sputzer.
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