Are Manchester City now favourites for the Premier League title? With John Stones back & Kevin de Bruyne continuing his brilliance, they do look pretty ominous for the rest….
Manchester City are back, it seems.
Or it looks that way, at least. Way, way, waaaaaaaay back in the middle of December when they were drawing with West Brom and had that stupefying stalemate with United when both teams looked terrified of their own shadows, the idea that City would challenge for the title looked a little remote.
But something has happened in the interim to spark them again, winning five games in a row which includes sweeping aside Chelsea in the league and United in the semi-final of the Carabao Cup.
They sit fifth in the table, five points behind leaders Liverpool but with two games in hand.
“From looking a bit moribund a month or so ago, arguably they should probably be favourites for the title,” said Duncan Alexander on The Totally Football Show this week.
Dominic Fifield continued: “They do look quite ominous on the shoulder of Manchester United and Liverpool, with games in hand.
“The whole unit is clicking, and without a focal point in their front line as well. Foden is playing out of his skin, De Bruyne is in a different class to everyone at the moment, some of the passes he’s conjuring…
“They’ve really rediscovered their mojo on the quiet, and are looking like a real threat.”
A big part of this has been the remarkable return to form of John Stones, who for around 18 months barely looked like a functioning Premier League player, never mind a key part of a title-challenging side. But that’s exactly what he is now, forming a superb central defensive partnership with Ruben Dias.
“Him and Dias have been rock solid,” said Karen Carney. “It’s that old saying: goals win you games, clean sheets win you championships. Stones looks re-energised, he looks hungry, and Manchester City have got that spark back, which I haven’t seen in a while.
“It gives Rodri confidence as well. When someone like that is always checking over their shoulder and you’re not comfortable with who’s behind you, that anxiety spreads throughout the team. They’ve got their confidence back now.”
Duncan Alexander picked up on that point: “The John Stones revival has been extraordinary. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player whose form has gone down so much bounce back. He’s now looking like the player everyone thought he was going to be a few years ago. They’ve kept ten clean sheets in the 13 games he’s played this season.”
One potential wrinkle in all of this is Kevin De Bruyne’s new contract, which remains unsigned and noises coming from various sources that it may drag on a little longer. But Dom Fifield would recommend that any concerned City fans out there should relax:
“I suspect it’s just another contract negotiation. I suspect it’s just a tactic by his representatives.
“He’ll get his deal. City aren’t going to let him go: he’s arguably the best midfielder in the world. You pay him what he deserves and merits.
“I suppose the waters are slightly muddied with their supposed interest in Lionel Messi & what type of contract it would take to bring him to Manchester, but De Bruyne – you go all out & give him what he wants, because he’s untouchable.”
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