Manchester City have made an exceptional start to the new Premier League season. With nine points from three games, eight goals scored and a defence that has yet to be breached, things could hardly be going better for the Blues.
There’s so many differences between the last campaign and this one already. Where last season the team looked languid and suffered constant inertia, this term they are looking fluid, confident and every single movement has a purpose.
Whilst every single player has stepped up to the plate so far to play their part in the team’s blistering start, there is one player who stands up above the rest as ‘most improved’, and that is Vincent Kompany.
The captain’s woes were widely acknowledged and discussed in depth last season, including on this very site. There were those in the summer, like myself, who worried that he may never return to his best form – the form that made him one of the world’s best defenders during City’s title-winning season of 2011/12, and for a while either side of that season too. (Though, bizarrely, there were even some who attempted a crass re-writing of history by telling me that they’d been warning me Kompany was ‘shot’ since 2012. Well, he wasn’t shot then and he’s not shot now).
There were also some who claimed that they had no doubt that he would rediscover his best performance level this season after the summer break, though it’s hard to believe that there was a single City fan that didn’t, at some point, fear that the Belgian’s best days were behind him.
What can also not be doubted is that Kompany knew as well as anybody that he wasn’t good enough last season. He is a clever man and an intelligent footballer and there is no question that he will have been angry at himself for letting his form drop off to the extent that it did.
Having suffered from regular injuries for several years, Kompany took matters into his own hands this summer. He took the decision to cut his summer holidays short and return to pre-season training three weeks early. Clearly, the intended benefits were two-fold. He would work on his fitness which would hopefully have the knock-on effect of seeing an upturn in his form.
— Vincent Kompany (@VincentKompany) July 7, 2015
What this also proved was that Kompany was a not a man suffering from a lack of drive or motivation and he will make sure he can say the same of his teammates. Put yourself in the position of the other players, nearly all of whom would have to accept that last season was a personal disappointment. They saw their skipper so desperate to make amends that he returned to work early, hungry for success. You’d have to be motivated by that.
It’s only early, but both player and club are already reaping the rewards for that hard work. ‘Vinny’ has looked imperious in all three games to date. His pro-activity in defending is suddenly assured again instead of indecisive. He’s always been a player who wants to go to the ball but last season he was constantly caught miles out of position, leaving the rest of the defence exposed. There’s none of that this season, instead he wins the ball and then distributes it well. There’s no hesitancy in his work at all.
In Sunday’s victory at Everton he also had to muck in with the odd-piece of ‘emergency defending’. Goal line clearances and scruffy blocks looked heroic as City’s rearguard action kept a very decent Toffees team at bay.
It also can’t go unmentioned that he’s already chipped in with two goals, which is precisely two more than in the whole of last season. His celebrations have been ecstatic – the one at West Brom in particular hinted at a man letting out a months of frustration.
The rest of the team have surely been inspired by him. They have their leader back and they’re reacting to him. Every single player looks up for a scrap should one be needed. City will drop points this season, of that you can be sure, but what is certain now is that when it comes, it will not be for lack of spirit. That wasn’t always the case last season.
With Kompany looking every bit the warrior and leader of men we’ve known for so long, as well as that finely nuanced and clever defender we missed last year, we need not worry about City’s desire to reclaim their Premier League crown. The captain is back and he’s bringing his men with him.
Here’s to you. Vincent Kompany.
Written by Richard Burns