These are early days in the Premier League and it could still be too soon to comment on any team’s chances let alone consider them favourites.
However, with the start City have had it is hardly possible not to do so. Of course, City fans will be wary of the fact that they have been here before, in the last season as they had an even more emphatic start but collapsed spectacularly.
But, even the staunchest critics of Pep Guardiola will agree that something about this season just feels different.
Pep repeatedly reiterated last season that he does not have the type of players he needs to help the team play the kind of football he wants them to. It took a good £200 million to solve most of the underlying issues but he is finally starting to prove to Sheikh Mansour that his money spent might just be worth it. Pep still did not manage to get the quality centre back he itched for since his arrival at the Etihad but as someone put it, attack is the best form of defence. And no we are not citing this in reference to Jurgen Klopp’s philosophy.
With Vincent Kompany out injured, every critic, pundit, and even opposition managers will believe that if there is one area of weakness to be exploited in City’s strong side, it is the centre-back pairing of John Stones and Nicolas Otamendi. However, it is worth remembering that despite not “convincing” City have managed to keep 7 clean sheets in 10 games so far this season in all competitions. They have the joint best defensive record along with neighbours Manchester United and so far have not been exposed at the back.
Much of this is down to Pep’s reluctance to change in philosophy. He did not bow down to the Premier League’s “physical” nature and continued on his possession-based style.
It’s remarkable how assured Stones and Otamendi look when part of a team that constantly has the opposition on the back foot.
They are part of a team that dominates possession and dictates play.
Rather than being exposed on the counter – as they were so often last season – the additions of Kyle Walker and Benjamin Mendy – before his injury – provided them with players capable forcing wide men to defend, rather than attack.
Those fullbacks also have the pace and energy to recover quickly when caught on the break.
In Ederson, City has a keeper now who exudes confidence and allows the defenders to play with more freedom as compared to last year when it looked like every John Stones mistake would be punished by Claudio Bravo.
Pep has in the past used an inexperienced Pique, and a diminutive Mascherano in the centre-back positions and they have not been caught out thanks to the game being played ahead of them.
If City continue in a similar fashion, there are very few who could end up even challenging them for the title.