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Surprise! Surprise!

Surprise! Surprise!

The Seasonal Break continues to throw up odd results and continues to add clouds to serious predictions as to the outcome of the Premier League this season.

Another uncharacteristic late concession saw United surrender two points at Birmingham and last night the Ashburton Assassins did likewise at mighty Wigan Athletic.

Despite City climbing to the top of the mountain for a while on Tuesday, it was widely expected that United would regain the summit by close of business that day. And so it proved. But I have to say that although I didn't see any of the match, (not quite an Arsene Wenger quote but not far off)when I heard that they were leading 1-0 I didn't really expect Birmingham to score. They have hardly scored all season playing football similar to that played by City under Stuart Pearce.

What it does show though is the value of points in the bank over games in hand.

Arsenal must have expected to win at the DW, despite Wenger dropping eight players. Wigan seemed to put in the inspired performance that sometimes happens when opposing managers think they can field a weakened team and still get a result.

Mancini got it right against Villa, Wenger didn't against Wigan.

And it may well decisions like this that influence the outcome of the Premier League this season.

Ferguson has proved a little bit more proficient at rotation than Wenger. His team has not really fired as well as he would expect but they are still unbeaten, top of the league with two games in hand. Ancelotti looks to be a bit overwhelmed with his lack of resources and the loss of Wilkins to the extent that his season has fallen to bits.

A month ago City fans may have thought, that with the 'big guns' all due to play to each other and hopefully share points, any wins City could muster could redress the balance which in effect it has. But now Chelsea are in a similar position. They have six winnable matches on the trot whilst we have to take on Arsenal and Spurs. They will be hoping nobody gets the three points whilst they do.

So as each month goes by a new set of what-ifs come into play and it is the Ferguson-type mentality, being properly adopted and applied by Mancini that will carry teams towards May with their plans either still in motion or indeed in tatters.

Wenger has identified his problems but does not expect to apply any form of quick-fixing. This means either that he thinks the team that he has got is capable of winning the League, or he hasn't seen the player he thinks can cement that at a price he wants to pay.

Ferguson rarely buys anything spectacular in January (Vidic and Evra apart in recent years) and on the basis that he has got to the half-way stage unbeaten, must fancy his team's chances in the second half of the season, when they usually put their foot on the gas. Ancelotti looks a bit shell-shocked and if he cannot persuade Abramowich to divvy up for a new player or two, might well promote the idea of following Wilkins as his plan B.

Redknapp continues to look for value and is creating a team that Chelsea, as with Liverpool last season, cannot ignore. Their brand of swift, wide, attacking football, it pains me to say is often wonderful to watch and it is achived without any real stars. People like Van der Vaart and Modric go quietly about their business and Bale has become this season's 'must have'. They do have weaknesses at the back and I'm not sure about Gomez in the nets.

At Eastlands you might say that Mancini is starting to get a bit giddy when he talks about Dzeko being the player who could push us on to the title. What Macnini has seen is nobody breaking out from the pack. He is also fortunate enough to have a squad that can play in the Europa League (at least until the business end, if we are still in it) and a squad that can play in the Premier League.

The teams still in the Champions League, all of which will want to go for it have thinner squads and could reach some sort of 'wall' as the marathon that is the Premier League goes into the last furlong, especially when United and Chelsea play each other twice in quick succession.

So you can see Mancini's reasoning and if City can pick up against the big teams as they appear, then the end of the season could cause some nervousness in Milton Keynes, Epsom and Bridgwater, not to mention a football stadium just outside Manchester.

As we saw Spurs take Liverpool's top four berth last season we could be about to see another of the accredited 'big four' destined for the periphery. Who do you think it will be?


Head for the VMC Match Day Experience Forum for the build up and beyond to the third part of City's festive trilogy when Blackpool come to town.

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Writer:Tranmere Loyal
Date:Thursday December 30 2010
Time: 11:44AM

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Excellent article. Mancio is no mug. Our pals in Italy swear that our hard line gaffer is very cunning when it comes to title races. I think that one of the biggest factors we have in our favour is our crop of young internationals who are hungry to win major honours. For me, we are going into a key phase now before the European competitions start again. Arsenal away is a big, big game now.
Johnny Baguette
30/12/2010 12:12:00
Top quality read - Everyone was saying 'City will never win anything with Mancini' a few weeks ago, where are they now? The man is a winner and knows exactly how to handle the 'egos' in the dressing room. Underestimate him at your peril!
30/12/2010 12:20:00
i was one of those saying we wil not win anything with Mancini, but i stand corrected and am suitably impressed with the way he has gone about his business and his dealings with the team, long may it continue and hope fully for a very long time to come.... Bravo Mancini.....
30/12/2010 13:12:00
For my money Chelsea's ageing squad have been found out - Anelka and Drogba are both the wrong side of 30 and neither has performed to last season's levels - add to that the fact Lampard & Benayoun have been out for most of the season and they have not really strengthened and I can't realisitcally see them challenging for the top spot any more - funny that two months ago they looked to be runaway champions! Manure are in a similar position, in that the squad is ageing, the players they had hoped to replace the oldies with (like Carrick, Anderson et al) are still inconsistent, and their young prospects like Obertan, Chimichanga etc. don't appear to have lived up to the hype. Rooney has failed to justify the massive transfer fee he extorted from the club and they are currently relying on the hot & cold Berbatov for the majority of their goals. Unbeaten sounds good on paper, but 7 draws away from home is the equivalent of losing 5 matches, and I can't see them improving much over the remainder of the season unless they bring in reinforcements. Arsenal often flatter to deceive, and whilst they can be devastating on their day the entire back 5 needs a kick in l'arse if they are to have any chance of the title - getting knocked out of the Champions league by Barcelona (anyone think they won't be?) might give them the chance to concentrate on the league to the detriment of all other challengers, but once again, they look to be in need of 1-2 new faces if they want to really push on. Tottenham are the dark horses, and do play some great football at times, but their strikers, and by asssociation the whole team, don't score enough goals. Once again, the defence is capable of lapses, and they do seem to rely too much on Modric and VDV. If 'arry can prise some cash away from old tight-wad Levy and bring in a prolific striker than I can see them safely into the top-4 at the very least, although I can't see them mounting a title challenge just yet, particularly while they're still in the Champions League. Not a bad side, but I don't think Spurs have improved significantly from last season when they just pipped us to 4th. Which leaves us with that vile team of spiritless mercenaries who are ruining football - Manchester City. I suppose all of the negative media coverage has provided a bit of a smokescreen, as according to most fans of other teams, we are boring, defensive, leak goals and don't score enough! We also have zero team spirit, a number of individuals who are either not good enough, not committed enough or not interested in anything but themselves to mount a title challenge. Oh, and don't let's forget, our manager is rubbish, can't handle the pressure and is getting sacked in the morniing! lol. Sorry to rival fans, but I clearly watch City play more often than you do, as all I've seen this season has been a steady improvement both on and off the pitch, with our new players settling into life in the PL remarkably quickly, and an ever increasing spirit, familiarity and willingness to win pervading the team. All this and we've only been playing together for a few months! So whilst we might not win the league this season, we are certainly going to give it one hell of a go, and the naysayers, doom merchants and critics of my team can do one - they haven't a clue what is going on at City and we are going to surprise the hell out of a lot of people along the way. CTID!
30/12/2010 18:13:00
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