The race for the Premier League title was always going to be a fascinating one. The likes of Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester United all strengthened in key areas of the pitch.
The three went into the campaign as title favourites, so games between the three teams could be defining ones, while last season’s runners-up Tottenham will have a say in the titles final destination.
On Saturday evening, Manchester City recorded a 1-0 win at champions Chelsea to draw first blood in the race for the title. Former Chelsea player Kevin de Bruyne came back to haunt the Blues by scoring the only goal of the game with a fantastic effort.
A perfect away display
Manchester City produced the sort of away display that title champions produce. The visitors defended well and looked confident throughout at the home of the champions. In fact, they were by far the better team, which may be ominous for rest of the title-chasing teams.
City fans will not like me mentioning the team from across the city, but during Sir Alex Ferguson’s days as Manchester United, his title-winning teams knew how to grind out wins at rivals grounds.
The wily Scot often changed the way his team played in order to get a result, a bit like his Old Trafford heir Jose Mourinho. They knew and know how to win at tough grounds.
However, City did not seem to change their style of play at Stamford Bridge, quite simply Citizens boss Pep Guardiola only plays football one way. The only difference in recent weeks has been the fact that the Citizens have suddenly learnt how to defend.
City keeping clean sheets say what!
Last season City had a major Achilles heel, they found it hard to defend against certain teams, Chelsea being one of them at the Etihad Stadium. The Citizens defensive pair of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi and John Stones always had a keystone cop’s moment waiting just around the corner.
The pair would produce the sort of defensive displays that would have Alan Hansen out of retirement as a pundit. However, in recent weeks City have looked defensively sound. Against Chelsea, the visitors were helped by in-form Alvaro Morata limping off before half-time.
The fact that the attacking players and midfield players are just so good at controlling the game maybe takes the pressure off the City backline.
A key fact that is often overlooked because of City’s attacking play is their defensive record in recent games. Guardiola’s side have now kept six clean sheets in their last seven outings in all competitions. The fact that midfielder Fabian Delph has played at left-back in two of those games makes it even more impressive.
Delph has equipped himself well out of position. He is not a raiding full-back like the injured Benjamin Mendy, but he has been steady in the position. Guardiola may have just pulled an Antonio Conte style masterstroke in the conversion of a player, ala Victor Moses last season.
The defence will face more testing games later in the season. In truth Chelsea looked lacklustre and produced a disappointing display. However, the signs are positive for the Citizens that their defence is far more stable this time around.
So far so good for City
Nobody at Manchester City will be counting their chickens just yet. Last season the Citizens started their Premier League campaign in storming style, but lost their way and ended up finishing third in the table.
The way City have been playing in recent games is how most fans believed they would play under Pep Guardiola. They have dominated games and played attacking football. The Citizens are playing the sort of attacking football that won the Catalan boss a plethora of trophies at Barcelona.
There is a long way to go in the race for the title, but the Citizens are looking very strong in every department of the field, even without the injured Benjamin Mendy and Sergio Aguero.
Not much has changed in their title odds since the start of the season, as the Citizens are still the favourites at 4/6 to be crowned champions in May. It is performances like the one in south west London that justify their odds.
It will be one hell of a fight for the title. However, if City continues in their current form the Citizens will be very, very hard to stop this season.
Who was Manchester City’s top performer against Chelsea?
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