It was the legendary Mike Shaft on Piccadilly Radio who used to coin the phrase ‘taking care of business’ back in the day and that is precisely what Manchester City did at Sunderland today. This was as consumate, stylish and professional a performance as you will see on the road in the physical cut and thrust of the Premier League. Pat Nevin covering the game for BBC Sport, VMC’s statistics provider, declared that he could see no weaknesses in a City side now unbeaten in 4 consecutive top flight games and clearly building up a head of steam. Being that bit pickier, I thought City’s crossing was a little off today and that too many free headers were afforded to Sunderland at corners. However, overall for long periods City’s team play was again simply scintillating incorporating some admirable individual performances, David Silva the pick of the bunch. There is no doubt that Pep Guardiola’s message has well and truly gotten across to his squad now and how he relished celebrating with the Blues superb travelling support at the close in front of oceans of empty home seats, pausing only to drum more coaching into John Stones.
The aforementioned statistics are building steadily in City’s favour as the team has kicked into gear at a perfect stage of the season. Let’s enjoy a few…This was City’s 4th consecutive Premier League win, 3 of which have come away from home during which the Blues have scored 10 goals and conceded only 1. City have now secured 7 clean sheets in 23 league games, 3 of which have been registered in the past 5 games by Willy Caballero. The Blues have just recorded 2 consecutive clean sheets for the first time under Guardiola. City’s away league form is impressive. 14 games played, 10 won and 4 lost. Finally, our overall record this season in all competitions now stands at P 41, W 26 , D 8, L7.
As the battle for a top four finish hots up (let’s say top three in order to avoid Champions League play offs), crucially we now have some breathing space on the 5th and 6th placed Ashburton Grove Bottling factory (copyright VMC’s Pedmachine) and Football Association favourites the Stretfords, by 5 and 6 points respectively with the same amount of games played. Furthermore, potentially critical, the clean sheets through Caballero have now pulled us level on goal difference with Arsenal and Liverpool, despite scoring fewer goals. If I do have one big gripe as I survey the terrific platform the Blues have now built for the remaining 13 league games, it is our failure to thus far stamp our full authority on top 4 sides, even though by rights we should have killed off Tottenham and Chelsea at home when we had the chance. This is where the type of developing game management Pep’s men demonstrated in seeing out the win with such aplomb on Wearside this afternoon comes in. I fully expect the team to give a far better account of themselves than they did earlier in the season for the upcoming consecutive trilogy against Liverpool-Arsenal-Chelsea in that order. Ahead of those potentially explosive league season defining contests we now have a belting opportunity to go into those games in an even stronger position if Leslie Hughes’ erratic Stoke can be dispatched at The Etihad on Wednesday night. Win that one and win it well, City will be starting to get inside the heads of the league leaders. Numerous senior City players have been here before. They love the thrill of the chase and have hunted down media crowned title winners before…
A final note as an eager and excited City squad and fans head home. I was impressed with Sunderland’s young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. The 22 year old who has done the loaned out rounds was instrumental in thwarting a rout of the Mackems and the Sunderland Academy graduate’s positioning and awareness make him an intriguing prospect. His brilliant saves today will not have escaped the notice of the Blues’ shrewd Catalonian leader.
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