There is no doubt that Manchester City’s stunning start to the Premier League season has laid down a marker of intent. The renewed vigour and added dimension to the attack, largely thanks to the addition of Raheem Sterling, have made the Blues a force to be reckoned with once again. As flowing and as potent as some of the football has been it is now that City need to guard against complacency as teams will, inevitably, begin to figure Manuel Pellegrini’s team out.
This weekend’s visit of Watford could be a potential banana skin should standards slip and complacency set in. Though there are no apparent signs this will happen, this is arguably the first game of the season where City’s opposition are likely set up not to lose. To varying extents, City’s opponents in the first three matches would have all fancied their chances to win.
In City’s opening game at West Brom, Baggies manager, Tony Pulis, set up hit with two strikers and didn’t use the more expected defensive strategy that has become synonymous with his management style. It was fair enough: on the opening weekend of the season shocks can happen and optimism for the season ahead is high. When Chelsea came to town the following weekend, City thoroughly outplayed Jose Mourinho’s team. That said, the defending Champions would fancy themselves against anyone, home or away, and the spell early in the second half where they threatened make a fist of it demonstrated their intentions to win. Last weekend’s win at Everton was, perhaps, City’s hardest fought victory, yet. For an hour there wasn’t much in it and Everton had already hit the woodwork. Buoyed by their win at Southampton the week before there is no doubt that Roberto Martinez set up his team to win. With Everton’s excellent record against City at Goodison Park who can blame him?
With this in mind, Pellegrini must be aware that his opponents will now be more sensitive to the threat posed by City. Whereas City have been something of an unknown quantity in the first few weeks of the season, it is likely that space may be harder to come by and gaps in the defence will be less apparent from now on. A patient approach will be the order of the day against Watford as they will surely try and make life difficult for their opponents. I may be wrong, but I would be very surprised if the Hornets come to the Etihad trying to win.
It is inevitable that the goals will not always flow quite as easily as they have done so far. We have seen it in season’s gone by where a seemingly unstoppable Manchester City eventually come unstuck, particularly against newly promoted teams. In both title winning seasons there were spells of uninspired football where goals were hard to come by. In both title defences there have been extended spells of languid football.
As a newly promoted side, Watford will see this weekend’s game as a great opportunity to cause an upset and to stake a claim in the Premier League. They are a team that is still used to winning on regular basis after their promotion from the Championship and confidence and optimism will be high. Though they may not try and win the game, they will certainly believe they can take something from it. That is easier said than done, though.
The vast array of attacking options at Pellegrini’s disposal is frightening. In Sergio Aguero, City have the league’s most lethal centre-forward. David Silva is seemingly intent on proving he is worthy of the title of best attacking midfielder in the league, though his typically understated style may mean he never truly gets the plaudits he deserves. Yaya Toure seems reborn after a summer of rest and recuperation. If that wasn’t enough to contend with, the threat of the two wingers, Jesus Navas and Raheem Sterling, will no doubt keep the Watford defence on their toes. Sterling, in particular, has added pace and width to City’s attack and his understanding with Aleks Kolarov down the left hand side is already reaping rewards. The threat from set pieces is also apparent this season with two goals from corners already, matching the same total from the entirety of last season. If none of that works Pellegrini could also turn to Samir Nasri and Wilfried Bony, amongst others, on the bench in an attempt to change a game.
The odds are stacked overwhelmingly in City’s favour but it they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. It won’t be too long before City get figured out, as they have been before, so the same kind of urgency, desire and pace that was shown in the first three games is required once again if they want to finish the game with three points.
Written by Robert Toole