After a game against Tottenham that they probably didn’t deserve to win, Manchester City are now almost certain to win the Premier League this season (because I said so). But why?
City this season read like a blueprint of how to win the league ripped straight from Alex Ferguson’s notebook:
- Play badly and win. When was the last time City were really good? Their 3-0 win at Stoke was a good result without a good performance, so you probably have to go back to the 5-1 against Norwich nearly two months ago to find a match when they truly played like the best team in the country.
- Be arrogant. United never won a title by playing nice. Eric Cantona knew exactly how good he was and enjoyed showing it. Now City are learning to do the same, with Mario Balotelli. Although not in the same league talent-wise as Cantona yet, Balotelli happily fills the gap between ability and ego with hilarity.
- Scoring late on. Having been on the wrong end of this a couple of years ago, City will be all too happy now the tables have turned. Although they’ve only scored one injury time winner, they left it late against Arsenal (and Villarreal), and their habit of finishing strongly adds a healthy gloss to their goal difference. Admittedly this one isn’t exactly backed up by overwhelming evidence, but I’m running out of clichés.
The key to everything this season is Mario Balotelli (that probably isn’t true, but sounds more dramatic than whatever else I could have put). The one man PR stunt machine isn’t City’s best or most effective player, but he is crucial. He has scored important goals (either lead-giving or match-winning) in five matches this season. Perhaps most importantly, being rotated along with Edin Dzeko seems to have fazed him not at all, and he currently holds the best goals-per-minute ratio in the league (because stats are important).
Aside from their main man, City’s squad depth is absurd. Their website lists 26 first team players not on loan. Of these 26, at the start of the season (I use an out of date Football Manager database for all my research. It’s distracting). only two were not fully capped internationals. The other 24 share between them 682 caps, and 12 of the players have won at least one domestic league title (although I don’t recall Stuart Taylor making a huge contribution to Arsenal’s 2002 league title). This is a squad that has plenty of experience, and knows how to win titles.
It of course helps that where most other teams have filled out their rosters with inexperienced or promising players, City have players who have spent a fair amount of time in teams just below the top bracket and so have plenty of match experience.
Hardly seems worth typing a conclusion. City to win the title. Probably.