After a fairly slow start by Manchester City’s standards, they are starting to play like a team that can contend on a number of fronts this season. City have won eight in a row – six coming in the Premier League. Wins over Bayern Munich and Roma saw the club turnaround a poor Champions League campaign to qualify for the last 16.
Their Premier League form has now put them in real contention for the title, levelling with Chelsea on points with a 3-0 win over Crystal Palace yesterday. With a squad having the amount of quality City posses and the team starting to play like a champion side, the possibilities should be endless to what the club can achieve this season.
Injury has hit them hard at the wrong time of the season. Top scorer Sergio Aguero will be out until at least January, and captain Vincent Kompany is also expected to miss the Christmas period. Striker Edin Dzeko is a doubt for the coming weeks but as they proved against Leicester, they are capable of grinding out results without key players. And with their next three fixtures all against bottom six sides, you would still expect City to continue their winning form right across the busy festive period.
With a fully fit squad to choose from, Manuel Pellegrini usually opts for a 4-4-2 system, with Samir Nasri and David Silva as the wide players. But with two first choice strikers missing, this has and will have to change in the coming weeks. We have seen before how David Silva and Yay Toure possess more of a creative and attacking threat behind the striker, something Pellegrini will have to consider to get the best out of them. Also, Samir Nasri is fully capable of playing in this role as shown against Roma, so there are still plenty of attacking options without having to buy a replacement striker in January.
But one area that continues to be a weakness for City is in the centre of defence. Without Kompany for the coming weeks, they really could be exposed in this area. Eliaquim Mangala was brought in from Porto this past summer for a fee over £30million, and has not yet lived up to this price tag. Whilst he started well to life in the Premier League, including an impressive display against Chelsea, he has since looked venerable and prone to a mistake or two.
Although he is only young, Man City might need to address this problem next month. They also have Martin Demichelis and, although he has improved greatly from the start of last season, the thought of a Demichelis and Mangala pairing together is not something that is going to worry opposing strikers. There are other centre defenders available in Dedryck Boyata and Matija Nastasic, but both youngsters have had very little game time and could quite frankly do with a loan move to build up experience and gain valuable minutes.
The Barcelona tie in the Champions League will obviously be a real test for City but one to see really where the team are at. Barcelona aren’t as good as they once were but still have the likes of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Neymar. A full strength Man City are certainly capable of beating Barcelona over two legs and will want to desperately progress past this stage, something they failed to achieved in the past. In terms of the league, they have been in a worse off position in the past and still managed to pull off a title victory – on two occasions.
Things are a little different this season with Chelsea playing magnificently. Despite this, hopefully City have already got the mandatory season blip out of the way after defeats to Stoke and West Ham earlier in the season. In all honesty, they are going to have to hope for a few more Chelsea defeats like the recent one against Newcastle, but if City keep on winning like they should with upcoming fixtures and keep the pressure on Chelsea then you never know what might happen.
Manuel Pellegrini might need either a Premier League or Champions League title to keep his job for next season, and while the latter looks unlikely, a third Premier League crown in four seasons is certainly not out of the question.