As Manchester City go from strength to strength, the expectation that they will win silverware increases. The season has edged past the halfway point and they are still fighting on four fronts. It’s going to be a test of their squad depth as well as their quality if they are to continue their superb run of form.
After last night’s straightforward 6-0 semi-final first-leg win over West Ham, they are almost certain to contest the League Cup final in March—their first appearance in the final of the competition since they beat Newcastle United in 1976.
Their primary objective, though, is reclaiming the Premier League title they won in 2012. They currently lie second in the table, one point behind leaders Arsenal, and are in fabulous form. They’ve won eight and drawn one of their last nine league matches, including 19 points from a possible 21 in December.
In March they also resume their Champions League campaign. Manuel Pellegrini has led them to their first-ever last 16 appearance in the competition, and they face Barcelona next in the tie of the round. They will have to be at their very best if they want to progress further.
And after their weekend draw away at Blackburn, they are still in the FA Cup, albeit at the very early stages and facing a Third Round replay.
It’s been a breathless start to Pellegrini’s tenure, with City very often playing wonderful football full of artistry and inventiveness. They've scored 92 goals in 31 matches (just one short of their total for the entire 2012/13 season), with 56 of them coming in their 15 home games. It couldn't be further removed from the infamous 2005/06 season under Stuart Pearce where City scored a record-low 10 home league goals.
But are there areas for improvement?
With City in such good form, it's incredibly difficult to pick holes, but there is certainly a lack of depth in the central midfield area. Yaya Toure and Fernandinho have formed arguably the finest midfield pairing in the Premier League, but beyond them City are somewhat thin on the ground.
Javi Garcia has struggled since his move in the summer of 2012 to really prove he has the ability to be a top quality player in the English game. His form of late has improved considerably, though, and he is certainly a player Pellegrini rates given he comes in whenever Toure or Fernandinho are rested.
Garcia's major concern is his chronic lack of pace. Football in the Premier League is so quick that it often appears to pass him by. In European games, where tactical nous is more important and the pace is slower, he looks far more comfortable. However, his passing is often rather wayward, and overall he simply doesn't have the attributes to succeed in a Blue shirt.
Jack Rodwell would be an ideal candidate to step in when Toure and Fernandinho are rested, but he is, once again, struggling with injuries. Rodwell is an incredibly gifted player, but City simply cannot get him out on to the pitch consistently enough to reap the benefit of his class.
Last season he showed, albeit fleetingly, that he could be a driving force in midfield; a box-to-box player in the mould of Fernandinho. Muscular injuries, though, have blighted his career, and continue to do so this season. It's incredibly sad to see such a talent barely playing football.
City's other candidate is James Milner, but Pellegrini appears to prefer him in wide positions. It leaves City slightly short of options in central midfield, which risks putting too much strain on their first-choice pairing, both of whom are vital to their chances of success.
City have also, at times, looked slightly vulnerable defensively. Even in recent weeks when their form has been exceptional, they have allowed the opposition too many chances for comfort.
The recent 1-0 home win over Crystal Palace was a classic example. The away side were afforded far too many goalscoring opportunities and could easily have left with a point. The same can be said of the matches against Fulham, Arsenal and Swansea.
Whether this is down to poor concentration from City's back-four, or just an inevitable byproduct of the all-out attacking philosophy instilled by Pellegrini is unclear, but they will have to tighten up if they want to be as successful as they can be this season, particularly in Europe.
City have made huge strides under Pellegrini and have all to play for between now and May. How much they can win remains unclear, and there are areas for improvement.
One thing is for certain, though: they'll continue to entertain us until the end of the season.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.
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