The other side of the title race involves Manchester city and now I will look at their potential as Premier League title winners.
…finally derail their arch rivals…
But what of City? Can the blue half of Manchester finally derail their arch rivals after decades of living in their shadow? The signs certainly looked promising after a 6-1 win at Old Trafford, while City proceeded to open up a lead of several points as the season progressed thereafter. Yet, a tough January period saw the team brought back down to earth and now, ahead of a testing fixture against Chelsea; many are backing United’s experience and resilience to retain their title.
Statistically, City have faired better than United defensively, conceding an average of 0.71 goals per game, while achieving a similar percentage of clean sheets at 46%. The scoring rate, too, is similar, at 2.46 goals per match on average; thus, there isn’t much to separate the two Manchester sides and one may be forgiven for concluding that the race, having provided a tumultuous journey so far, is simply too close to call.
…endless influx of world-class talent…
The Citizens have spent freely in recent years. The arrival of owner, Sheikh Mansour, has seen an endless influx of world-class talent and spending matching that of Formula One teams before the spending cap was introduced. Vital to their prior success have been ever-present stalwarts, Micah Richards, Jolean Lescott and Joe Hart. Defensively, City have been the most astute team in the league, but have suffered when captain, Vincent Kompany, has been unavailable through suspension or injury. Arguably their most influential player, Yaya Toure, is instrumental to their intricate passing game and was dearly missed when he was on African Cup of Nations duty.
If City are to lift the title, the efforts of David Silva will be eternally appreciated. The agile Spanish playmaker is a strong contender for Player of the Year and has hugely impressed this season, grabbing five goals and 12 assists. He is also not short of highly skilled team-mates to conduct his business with: James Milner, Adam Johnson and Samir Nasri have all interlinked with the Spaniard to great avail. However, such is the depth of City’s squad that none of the above are guaranteed a starting place.
In attack is where City’s most recent problems have become apparent. Despite 40 goals between them this season, City’s front three of Aguero, Dzeko and Balotelli have been relatively quiet of late. The solution? In steps potentially the most important man in City’s title bid: Carlos Tevez, whose return Roberto Mancini will hope can inspire the rest of his team-mates to glory.
…have the softer run-in.
And so, with ten games remaining, the title race is perfectly poised to provide further twists and turns. Though no game in modern football is easy (a point compounded by United’s home loss to Blackburn and City’s 1-0 defeat to Swansea), Manchester United have the softer run-in. City must play Chelsea, travel to Arsenal and visit Newcastle at the Sports Direct Arena. By contrast, United have no games against any of the top seven, aside from a monumental trip to the Etihad on 30 April.
Indeed, unless either side undergoes a catastrophic lapse in form, it is this all-important Manchester derby that may decide the destination of this season’s trophy. City have won every home league game this season, but United beat them there in the FA Cup in January. With both sides out of the domestic cups and European competition, it is safe to say that the Premier League is now their full-on priority. Manchester United’s recent form may have given them a surge of momentum, but City’s title credentials would be foolhardy to undermine; all eyes to the Etihad on 30 April – no Manchester derby has ever been bigger.
Image courtesy of S. Parish