In the BBC pundits’ predictions for this new season, only two went for Manchester City to be Champions: Chris Waddle and Alistair Mann – Mann is a BBC Sport commentator, but he also commentates for Manchester City’s website on highlights etc. So it’s no surprise he went for City, really.
But what is a surprise is that only one other pundit thought City could win the title. I know it’s easy to jump on a band wagon and say that City are going to win the league after their great performance against Chelsea at the weekend, and I’m not going to do that. But I do find it surprising that City weren’t considered as the main challenger to Chelsea before the season started – Arsenal were seen in that role – or that they weren’t seen as favourites for the title outright.
I’m not trying to look back with hindsight and admonish pundits for getting it wrong – how could I do that after only two games anyhow? I’m simply wondering why we now think City are a force, and why didn’t people think that before?
Even £49m for Raheem Sterling was greeted with indifference, except for those who jealously claimed he’d flop, or those who decided to deride the price tag or denounce Sterling as a money-grabber or a spoilt child. And they’re right to a certain extent – no one is worth £49m, let alone a 20-year-old who we don’t yet know if he’ll turn into Cristiano Ronaldo or Danny Cadamarteri.
But I think we have a fair idea that he’ll be closer to Ronaldo than not.
And on top of Sterling, City’s attack can call on Silva, Navas, Nasri, Aguero, Toure and Bony. You might think that Nasri or Navas aren’t up to it any more – or wonder if Navas ever was – but surely everyone agrees that this is frightening squad depth.
And then with the summer of relaxation that Kompany, Toure and Silva were afforded after their World Cup exertion last summer, City look refreshed after they were so lethargic last season.
The thing is, this is what seems to happen to City. They won the title in 2012, were lethargic in 2013, won it in 2014, were lethargic in 2015. And now they’ve started this season in fine form, the kind of form we expect from those players I mentioned before. They’ve added a player who is good for now and will be fantastic for the years to come, and there’s still talk of more signings, if not De Bruyne then possibly Pedro, and Nicolas Otamendi to replace Mangala. Take that with a pinch of salt, but it would certainly make City stronger.
City still have the best squad in the Premier League. Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United have wonderful starting XIs, Manchester City have a wonderful bench too. But they’ve had this all summer. I don’t see why it’s taken two games and two 3-0 wins for everyone to notice.
It’s far too early to call City favourites, much less anoint them champions. But it’s another statement of intent from the best team in the league. It’s just puzzling how the signing of Sterling wasn’t taken in the same vein weeks ago. The Premier League title race could get very interesting this season, and City are in it too.