Johnny On The Spot - December Review
#MIND THE GAP. What an absolute pleasure it has been to follow the scintillating exploits of Pep Guardiola`s Manchester City this season and December was no exception. The Blues sit proudly top of the Premier League with a huge 15 points distance on their erstwhile challengers. They have achieved this lofty position heading toward today`s resumption of domestic and European cup competition through shrewd squad rotation, discipline, adept game management and overall, a type of consistent, swashbuckling, hungry football that the English top flight has never seen.
Praise has been almost universal, but there remains a bitter quarter of lazy sports journalism who dismiss City`s achievements to date as being solely down to the financial clout that the self-sustaining Manchester club now possesses. Worse still, Pep, despite re-energising the careers of players like Sterling, Stones, Delph, Otamendi and Mangala has been accused of ruining and diminishing Premier League football as a contest during a winning streak that spanned a whopping 18 games. Such claims would be rendered silent were media darlings the Stretford Galacticos or Liverpool to be in City`s position. Fact.
Playing a game every 3 or 4 days since mid-November, it is also worth considering that this has been no cakewalk. City have come up against the usual pisspoor inconsistency of Premier League refereeing. Especially where increasingly filthy tackles meted out to our players in a "third way" tactical move adopted by some sides following failed attempts to either compete or meekly defend in the "United way" are concerned. Injuries have gradually begun to follow and should suspensions be pitched into the mix of an already testing late winter schedule, then the careful management of a gilt edged opportunity to excel across all fronts will become all the more paramount. Where the speed, physicality and athleticism that all sides possess in the Premier League are concerned, the Blues progress is all the more admirable. The City squad had negotiated 29 matches by the end of December. Recent opponents Watford, Crystal Palace and Newcastle had played 21, 23 and 22 games respectively within the same time period without anywhere near the travelling that City have put in. There is also the other side of the coin to bear in mind that the more regularly a squad plays together, with gathering momentum, the better it gets. Should City's players ultimately prevail in at least two of this season`s competitions, then make no mistake about it, they will have absolutely earned it.
Next up, January always brings with it a tsunami of transfer rumour and intrigue, very often ludicrous. With Premier League clubs swimming in TV loot, there is sure to be some serious outlay by the end of this month. Whereas previously I`ve personally tended toward advising caution or preferring City to not indulge in a mid-season binge, this year, having witnessed the pain and anguish that the Blues brilliant football has generated, I am all for some serious squad bolstering in order to further grind our bitterest rivals down and maximise our chances of the trophy haul the standard we have set deserves.
The addition of an experienced striker and a powerful centre back would most certainly fit the bill for where we are at right now and you can be sure that Pep and his management team have registered their requirements with Txiki Begiristain accordingly. Expect imminent bids for Arsenal`s Alexis Sanchez and Barçelona`s Samuel Umtiti. Both are strong as an ox and would breathe new life into the City juggernaut with exquisite mid-season timing.
The City Speedometer (Up to and including 31st December 2017) - Unbeaten in the Premier League since 5th April 2017:
P29, W25, D4, Goals For 81, Against 17
How Did Johnny Do?
City 4 West Ham 0 W
Shakhtar 1 City 1 D
The rags 1 City 2 W
Swansea 0 City 2 W
City 3 Spurs 1 W
Leicester 2 City 2 AET City win on Penalties W
City 4 Bournemouth 0 W
Newcastle 0 City 3 W
Palace 0 City 2 W
And Lo It Came To Pass…
City 2 West Ham 1 W
Shakhtar 2 City 1 L
The rags 1 City 2 W
Swansea 0 City 4 W
City 4 Spurs 1 W
Leicester 1 City 1 AET City win on Penalties W
City 4 Bournemouth 0 W
Newcastle 0 City 1 W
Palace 0 City 0 D