Manchester City: Despite Loss to Chelsea, City Will Win English Premier League
Manchester City stormed out of the blocks this season, scoring goals for fun and playing polished, attacking football that most teams could not handle let alone compete with. The biggest scalp of course being that of Manchester United in the Manchester derby, who were humbled on the hallowed turf of Old Trafford by the rather embarrassing scoreline of six goals to one.
The kinks seem to have been ironed out and a new team spirit instilled. The team is gelling and new players such as Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri have made excellent transitions into the unit. The recent hiccup in taking the Champions League group stage a little too lightly (not the only ones who made this mistake, mind you) will only serve to make the team more focused on getting their hands on the EPL trophy.
Roberto Mancini has an excellent handle on the rotation of his players and has managed to do so week to week in the league without disrupting team cohesion and synchronicity.
The loss to Chelsea in the most recent round of the league at Stamford Bridge is perhaps most notable for the fact that until the sending off of Gael Clichy, City looked as though they were again going to walk off the pitch with their loss column still featuring a zero.
This reverse aside, City are the team to beat, for the mere fact that they are quite simply the most consistent side in the Premier League this season. Consistency, as always, in a league season is the key, as they and their crosstown rivals Manchester United demonstrate from week to week. City, however, have a bigger and more able squad and a midfield that Sir Alex Ferguson would on occasion envy.
The following few slides will lay out, in no particular order, why this writer thinks that City will walk to the title this season.
Roberto Mancini Has Been There and Done This Before with Internazionale
Roberto Mancini was the manager who brought success back to the blue half of the San Siro when he took Internazionale to three consecutive titles, which included one league and cup double. He has therefore done exactly what he plans to do now with Manchester City before, and even though there are many who point to the fact that the match-fixing scandal that engulfed Italian football around the time had a lot to do with Inter's dominance, it was their consistency that won them their titles.
This consistency has been evident in Manchester City's form this season, and is a testament to Mancini's training methods and tactical efficiency. He has forged in his side what seems from the outside to be an excellent team spirit and a will to win that has seen them surge to the top of the EPL.
Mancini was of course sacked as Internazionale coach due to his lack of success in the Champions League by Inter owner Massimo Moratti, who hired Jose Mourinho in his stead. This slight could well be the thing that drives Mancini to greater things, the insult that this treatment represented to the proud Italian could be the factor that drives him to the very pinnacle of Europe.
The EPL trophy is first on the agenda for the City faithful, just so they can rub it in the faces of their red-supporting family members, friends and workmates. In Mancini they have a manager with a proven top-flight pedigree, a manager who knows what it takes to guide a team to the summit of the league over the course of a season.
The Lack of a Serious Adversary in the Title Race
The fading of Manchester United and Chelsea in recent seasons has left the EPL with a bit of a void in terms of a team capable of inspiring real fear in opponents.
Manchester United did of course win the league last season and make the Champions League final. In that final though, they were completely exposed by Barcelona as the frauds everyone suspected they were.
United lack the midfield strength that was once a hallmark of the side; other areas are more than adequate, though of course the need to also replace the now-retired Edwin van der Sar with some goalkeeping solidity has also been noticeable, with Ferguson rotating his keepers in the same way he did before he acquired the services of the Dutchman.
The midfield really is the problem though, with United at times this season struggling to impose their will on matches, and sometimes even looking at a loss for ideas in this area. The manner of their capitulation to Manchester City at home was somewhat alarming considering the way the team seemed to roll over and show no backbone in getting so soundly thrashed on their home turf.
Chelsea of course defeated Manchester City this round, but in doing so were beneficial of Gael Clichy's indiscipline in getting two yellow cards, rather than any real "resurgence" in Chelsea's form.
Chelsea are still going through a transition under their new manager Andre Villa-Boas, and disappointingly for Chelsea faithful, though they did win the EPL only two seasons ago with Carlo Ancelotti at the helm, they were in a transitional phase under him when he was rather disturbingly sacked by Chelsea's petulant owner, Roman Abramovich.
This type of behavior does not encourage stability or cohesion and it is no surprise to see Chelsea struggling for form this season as they work through the combinations and gain the cohesion that can again see them as challengers.
The title looks to be there for the taking for Manchester City at this stage, and unless there is a serious downturn in the quality of their results, it will take some sort of miracle for any of these teams to seriously challenge them.
The Squad Is the Strongest in Europe
Roberto Mancini and Mark Hughes before him have had a transfer kitty which most managers only dream of. Hughes of course was sacked because of a perceived lack of results, even though his dismissal smacked a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, due to media pressure and in general a lack of understanding of the intricacies of football management by the club's new owners.
That is all the past now, though, and the squad is very much under Mancini's control. He has made several signings since his arrival, the most notable ones being, of course, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Sergio Aguero. This season, the arrival of Aguero and also Samir Nasri has added more guile to the forward motion and the emergence of young Mario Balotelli as a match-winning player has also meant that the team has attacking ability that leaves most teams in the league and Europe far in its wake.
A sound defensive platform along with a solid midfield base and an attack that scores goals from everywhere are the ingredients for total domination of European competition, as long as they stay in contention for top honors of course, something that proved beyond them this year. The monster has been checked in its stride for now, though its capacity to wreak havoc will be demonstrated in the EPL and the Europa League in the coming months.
The ironing out of kinks in the playing style and the increased cohesion that comes with a manager becoming more accustomed to his players, and they to him, is something that has seen the team move from strength to strength.
They now have what is the strongest squad in Europe and the money in the coffers with which to strengthen it further. The major factor that Mancini has here is the depth that is needed to see out a season, even if injury does curtail certain players' contributions over time.
It will be no surprise to this writer if Manchester City go on to dominate English and European competition for several years to come.
Manchester City Have a Point To Prove Against Their Most Bitter Rivals
Having lived in the shadow of Manchester United for 50 years, City have now got their chance to end the pain of having to watch their crosstown rivals take trophy after trophy as they lurched about like a drunk in a chip shop who can't find their wallet. They have certainly located that wallet now, and have used it to sometimes ridiculous effect.
Manchester City have had fortune swing in their favor, on the whim of a group of businessmen who needed a new hobby. Such is the nature of the top-level game. It has always been about resources, though there are many who argue otherwise, the game has always been won by teams that have financial power behind them.
This is finally the hour of the Sky Blue half of Manchester, and beating their most hated rivals to the EPL trophy this season is something that will give the club and its fans a certain ecstasy that they have not experienced in living memory. There has, of course, been the odd memorable win, but nothing that comes close to the feeling that will accompany the taking of the EPL trophy from the grip of Sir Alex Ferguson.
The victory of course is not assured; it is a long season, but all the ingredients are there and it would be a brave punter who is willing to bet against Manchester City ending the torment they have experienced as Manchester United have danced and sang their way to trophy upon trophy in the last 20 years.
Manchester City are coming out of the shadow of the Red Devil, as a blue moon rises over Manchester.