Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini believes his side are in a good position in the Premier League despite having seven fewer points than at the same stage last season and five fewer than in their title-winning campaign of 2013/14.
City have lost five matches already, yet a feeling persists they are still very much in with a chance of reclaiming the Premier League trophy given the points tally needed to win the title in May is likely to be lower than usual.
“Yes of course we are in a good position,” he told reporters on Thursday. “Always the best position is to be top of the table, but I think that this is a special season in the Premier League. With the amount of points we have at this moment, it is not good to fight for the title in a normal season. [But] I hope we are going to complete with a very good second part of the season.”
With sides outside of the traditional top six now able to recruit quality players because of the money netted from the Premier League's most recent television deal, there have been a number of shock results this season. The gap between the established elite and the rest is closing fast.
It's made for a more interesting league. However, City won't be happy with their form, particularly away from the Etihad Stadium.
But their away fixtures in the second half of the campaign look, on paper, more straightforward than the those of their closest rivals.
Sky Sports detailed the average league position of each team’s remaining opponents away from home, and in comparison to Arsenal and Leicester City, the two sides above City in the table, the Blues have a much more favourable set of fixtures.
City face 10 away trips in the new year, with their opponents’ average league position standing at 13.5. Arsenal, who will play nine matches on the road, face sides with an average position of 9.3, and Leicester, also facing nine more away games, have the toughest away fixtures, with their opponents averaging a league position of ninth.
Tottenham Hotspur, who are one point behind City in fourth and in fine form, also have a favourable away calendar, with their opponents currently averaging a league position of 11.1.
Remaining Fixtures of Current Top 4
Average league position of opponents to play away: 9.3
Average league position of opponents to play at home: 12.5
Average league position of opponents to play away: 9
Average league position of opponents to play at home: 12.7
Home games: Bournemouth, Stoke, Liverpool, Norwich, West Brom, Newcastle, Southampton, West Ham, Swansea and Everton.
Away games: Tottenham, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Arsenal, Watford, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Manchester United and Chelsea.
Average league position of opponents to play away: 13.5
Average league position of opponents to play at home: 8
Home games: Everton, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Tottenham, Aston Villa, Manchester United, West Brom, Stoke and Arsenal.
Away games: Watford, West Ham, Sunderland, Newcastle, Liverpool, Norwich, Bournemouth, Chelsea, Southampton and Swansea.
Average league position of opponents to play away: 11.1
Average league position of opponents to play at home: 10.6
Home games: Leicester City, Sunderland, Watford, Swansea, Arsenal, Bournemouth, Manchester United, West Brom and Southampton.
Away games: Everton, Crystal Palace, Norwich, Manchester City, West Ham, Aston Villa, Liverpool, Stoke, Chelsea and Newcastle.
Home form isn’t a problem for City. In the calendar year of 2015, they played 20 home league matches and won 16—taking 48 points from a possible 60. They have won 10 of their last 11, scoring 38 goals during that period. They feel confident at the Etihad Stadium and fear no one.
Away from home is a different story. They haven’t won in six away league games. Their last such victory was against Crystal Palace on September 12, and since then they have taken just three points from a possible 18, scoring two goals in the process.
Quite why their home and away form contrasts so sharply is a mystery to most. City have the strongest squad in the league and should be performing better, with their tally of 36 points from 19 games a disappointment.
But clearly, they remain on course to win the title thanks to a new unpredictability in the Premier League. Consistency away from home looks set to be the determining factor in whether they can win the title.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2015/16 season. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @RobPollard_.