Nobody expected Manchester City to be in this position with 11 matches, between a quarter and a third of the season, gone. Five points clear, ten wins from eleven matches, the other result being an away draw at Craven Cottage, a resolute joyful destructive masterclass at Old Trafford (6 goals against Manchester United!) and promising positions in the European Champions League and the Carling Cup. Manchester City are on a roll.
39 goals scored. Only 10 conceded. Strikers in great form, a creative midfield, a hard working and cohesive defensive unit, an incredible shot stopper in goal. Manchester City look like the real deal. From over spending outsiders content with a Champions League spot to genuine title challengers in the space of a few summer months. By the new year and the beginning of Spring it might all have changed. In the next few weeks Manchester City face Napoli and Bayern Munich in the Champions League and they will probably need at least four points from the two games to qualify for the knock out stages. By the middle of December the blue side of Manchester will also have faced Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. Two of those fixtures will be away, at Anfield and Stamford Bridge. It wouldn’t be fair to say that Manchester City have had it easy so far, after all they have faced their single most difficult match, away at Old Trafford, and also travelled to White Hart Lane and comprehensively defeated Tottenham, but there is some truth in the allegation that Manchester City have not had the most difficult of starts.
QPR, Wolves, Blackburn, Aston Villa, Everton, Fulham, WIgan, Bolton, Swansea. All have faced Manchester City and lost, excusing Fulham who managed a draw. The true test of Manchester City in the English Premier League will be against the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea. Manchester City passed the first couple of tests, against Manchester United and Tottenham, but it is unlikely to suppose they will pass them all. How the team copes when they lose their first fixture, or even stumble to a couple of consecutive draws, will reveal plenty.
Will an injury to a couple of strikers when the fixtures start piling up lead to pressure for the recall of Carlos Tevez? Will the form of David Silva hold up? Will Mario Balotelli continually be the incredible other option? Will Joe Hart continue pulling off incredible saves at crucial moments in matches? Will Roberto Mancini make the right calls at the right time? For all of the money and all of the star names Manchester City, as a unit, are not accustomed to being in such a position. Leading from the front will eventually take it’s toll in one shape or another. Manchester City are on a roll but the easy journey down the hill won’t continue for ever. Bumps, bruises and holes are certain to appear soon enough. No matter the year or the team, the uncertain moments always do. How a team responds in those moments determine everything. Manchester CIty passed a test against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday afternoon. There are bound to be countless more.