Having secured their second win of the new Premier League season, Manchester City look as though they mean business.
Manuel Pellegrini’s side boast a 100% winning start as well as already finding themselves five points ahead of the reigning champions Chelsea, despite only being two games in.
The Etihad Stadium played stage to City as they made a huge statement of intent by hitting three past Chelsea while also keeping a clean sheet, matching their result away to West Bromwich Albion in their opening game.
Pellegrini’s men put in an explosive and dominant performance against the Champions, reminding the Premier League that they are very much part of this season’s title race. They achieved what can be considered a rarity by exposing weaknesses in Chelsea’s defensive set up. They succeeded in doing this to the extent that Jose Mourinho, for the first time ever in his time as Chelsea manager, substituted Captain John Terry after his side struggled to contain Sergio Aguero and co in the first half.
It was a complete performance to say the least and one that sets the bar for the rest of the league’s title contenders. The 4-2-3-1 system adopted by Manuel Pellegrini over City’s opening two games looks a perfect fit for the players they have at their disposal.
The presence of Raheem Sterling on the left of the three attacking midfielders gives City an added edge in terms of the pace his adds to the side. The formation also allows for David Silva to occupy a more central position where he is notably more effective, while the attacking threat posed by Sterling and Jesus Navas on either side of him allows for the Spaniard to find the pockets of space in between the opposition defence and midfield that will enable him to be an influence on his side’s attacking play.
The energy of both Navas and Sterling also gives Silva few defensive responsibilities which promises an inventive and troublesome attacking City side with regards to Silva remaining high up the pitch, ready to receive the ball from the carriers Sterling and Navas before playing technician to, arguably, the best player in the league in Sergio Aguero. A winning formula.
While other teams fear the very attacking quartet that tore Chelsea apart, City fans can take further optimism from Yaya Toure’s return to form. His well-known desire to lead City attacks from deep positions with his powerful bursting runs coincides well with the ability for Sterling and Navas to contribute in a similar way, thereby allowing Aguero to stay close to the opposition penalty area where he is always likely to make something happen.
It remains to be seen whether Toure continues to carry out his defensive responsibilities as impressively as he has for the first two games. The Sky Blues have a real chance if he does.
Every single City player looks like a man with something to prove. They appear to have rediscovered a desire and an anger in their play having been frustrated on so many occasions last season. Their skipper Vincent Kompany, above all, looks to be a man on a mission after such a disappointing campaign last time round. He looks more determined than ever to right the wrongs and prove he is still amongst the top defenders in the world.
Fernandinho also looks a changed man from last season, showing he is up for the fight and prepared to run the extra mile. Ultimately, he has to be, given the signing of Fabian Delph from Aston Villa, who represents excellent transfer business in the way of the energy he provides in midfield in addition to the leadership skills he will have obtained from being captain under Tim Sherwood at Villa.
Moreover, the calming influence Manuel Pellegrini has been known to bring to City has altered slightly with the manager also visibly keen for his players to stamp their mark on authority and show they are the real deal.
The signing of Valencia centre back Nicolas Otamendi would be an important one if made possible with reinforcements very much required in defensive areas. Having been linked to Manchester United, Otamendi acts as a defender in demand and one that is able to improve the side.
He will also increase competition for positions which may help Eliaquim Mangala step up his game, despite impressively containing Diego Costa alongside Kompany at the weekend and making a strong claim for his place in the starting lineup.
Otamendi would be a useful acquisition having been praised for his intelligent positioning and pace. He possesses the traits that will allow Kompany to work as the dominant centre back by attacking balls in the air and leaving the back line to close down attacking midfielders while Otamendi sits back and cleans up any threats that must be diffused. He will certainly strengthen the side, much to the dismay of other Premier League teams.
As the spotlight shines on City’s central defensive options and targets, Alexander Kolarov has been overlooked despite already building a partnership with Raheem Sterling down the left hand side that has the potential to cause many teams a lot of trouble, as Branislav Ivanovic and Ramires found out.
The left back’s delivery of the ball from set pieces and wide positions gives Sterling the freedom to travel inside and work with David Silva while the English winger’s work rate means Kolarov can rely on his City compatriot to cover him in defensive positions when needed. The Serbian can be a key member in both attack and defence for his side.
With Sergio Aguero firing, David Silva and Yaya Toure in top form and Vincent Kompany back to his best, Manchester City always stand a good chance. Furthermore, the possession of Wilfried Bony, Samir Nasri and, potentially, Kevin De Bruyne as back up options reiterates the strength in depth at the Etihad, which will prove so important as the season progresses. Not only does the core of the side need to be strong, the players around them must also step up and make sure they offer something.
After two games, they look to be extremely knowledgeable in terms of what is expected from them, in terms of tactics, discipline and commitment. It is vital they make this season count as the older members of the squad in the likes of Yaya Toure, Bacary Sagna, Pablo Zabaleta and even Fernandinho may not have much more to give next year, meaning they need to be able to attract the top talent to replace them.
Though it would be ludicrous to suggest City’s victory over Chelsea could set the tone for how the season will pan out, they are, by far, the strongest performers at this moment in time. Pellegrini’s men have set the bar and are the team to beat right now.