It is the shift of power that was always going to happen. Manchester United and Chelsea continued to ignore the flaws in their respective sides. Manchester City were always going to power through with their deep pockets and reach the very top.
The Manchester derby scoreline was surprising but the result was not a shock. A cynic would suggest that City should be at the top given how much money they have spent;. A general view of opposition fans is that City are buying there way to the Premier League title.
But that doesn’t take away the fact that Roberto Mancini has the strongest squad in the top tier. A sad reflection on the state of world football that in football, the team with the most money – as long as they are run and managed well – will win. It is barely a relevant criticism to say City are buying the League and therefore devaluing the competition. This has been the case with various teams since 1992, and City are utilising this method to great effect – both on and off the pitch.
Last season the main disparagement with Mancini’s side was that they were too defensive, that they refused to release the handbrake. This season, City have kept the defensive resoluteness but added full-throttle attack.
Sergio Aguero (10 goals this season), Edin Dzeko (9) and Mario Balotelli (6) are strikers who would fit into any of the top sides in Europe on their day. Samir Nasri and Adam Johnson are players deserving of more recognition than a spot on the bench. Indeed, Man City have the best player in the Premier League: David Silva. An average of 3.6 goals per game this season doesn’t even tell half of the story; when Manchester City attack, they look like they’re going to score every single time.
An all-guns-blazing attacking force would usually result in weaknesses at the back. But this is a Mancini side. When City defend, they defend as a unit – and this is a unit that has been built over a short period of time, despite the fact that all defensive components look comfortable with one-another as they if they have been playing together for years.
Joe Hart must now be seen as one of the top goalkeepers in the world. The way in which he can command his area, distribute early and cleanly – not to mention his excellent shot-stopping – which is majestic at times.
In Micah Richards and Gael Clichy Man City have wonderful attacking full-backs who can defend as competently as well. While in the middle the supreme Vincent Kompany keeps them all in line, while the ever-improving yet always-mocked Joleon Lescott looks a lot more comfortable than he has done in recent years.
It is easy to laugh at Gareth Barry. But the defensive midfielder’s ability to play an unspectacular role is sometimes confused with ineffectiveness; the England man is vital to City’s efforts.
Yaya Toure was restricted to a more subdued role on Sunday to sure up the defence further, while James Milner appears to have converted himself into a first-class central midfielder. Both must be seen as two of the most in-form midfielders in the world right now.
Sunday’s derby was hardly a thrashing in the traditional sense, though. 3-1 would have been a fair reflection on the game but, nevertheless, a fantastic last few minutes from City and an appalling showing from United meant that three more goals were scored.
There is not a gulf between the two Manchester clubs. But there is sizeable gap between the two.
United need a creator in the middle; Tom Cleverley could be the man to fill this role but it is simply not possible to rely on such a young and inexperienced player, nor is it logical to depend upon the inconsistent Wayne Rooney to ignite a spark into any match. Patrice Evra has endured some torrid form for quite a while now, while Rio Ferdinand seems to edge closer towards the MLS with every passing minute. No empire is permanent. It seems as if the domination of Manchester United is coming to an end, either through fault of their own accord or the sheer relentlessness of their closest rivals.
City’s other main challenger has major problems too. Chelsea’s defence is weak, with John Terry and Ashley Cole struggling more as age catches up with them, while David Luiz still shows signs of rawness. Strikers Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba still aren’t the deadly forwards that they once used to be.
Whatever one’s views on the way in which City have reached their current position, their effectiveness and, at times, glorious football is undeniably brilliant. They score team goals that would fit into any end-of-season highlight packages but they also have the individual brilliance that every top team needs.
Manchester City are Premier League title favourites. At this early stage, that may seem a little hasty, especially when City had a similarly impressive start to the season last term. But this season looks to be different, even if it is just on paper. This season, City are not just a team of incredibly talented individuals – they are a ferocious, stunning team.
Manchester City aspire to end the repetitive cycle that has seen only three teams crowned Premier League champions since 1995.