Man City delivered another sumptuous display of attacking football to annihilate Crystal Palace on Saturday and they look more like champions in the making with every passing week. That is now 20 goals they have scored in their last four games, without conceding once. They are looking strong defensively and sensational going forwards, enjoying the sort of form that should send shivers down the spines of their rivals. The odds on them winning the title keep dropping, and Chelsea and Man Utd will need to be at their very best if they are to stay within touching distance of Pep Guardiola`s side. And the key to it all is the extreme competition for places at Man City.
Sergio Aguero, Gabriel Jesus, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva are all in outstanding form, but only three can play, so they are never guaranteed a place in the team, even after scoring in the previous match. This will keep them fit, focused and sharp. Ultimately, they know their standards cannot drop. “They know it and they feel it,” said Guardiola. “They know the players alongside them are all playing well and that is the best way. You are not going to have every player playing three games in a week for 11 months. We need that competition.If the next guy is playing well, they have to play well and keep winning. That`s how you get the best performances.”
And it is not just in attack: in midfield Ilkay Gundogan and Yaya Toure can put pressure on David Silva and Kevin De Bruyne, while Danilo can keep both full-backs on their toes. They are all pushing their teammates to excel and it is paying dividends because Guardiola has put together an extremely talented squad.
The biggest weakness has typically been at centre-back for City, but they have now kept four consecutive clean sheets. There are still question marks over Nicolas Otamendi, and they will rue the injury record of captain Vincent Kompany. But John Stones is improving all the time and looks far less error-prone this season, while Ederson is proving himself to be an upgrade on Claudio Bravo between the sticks.
Sterner challenges await Man City this season, but they just keep blowing teams away. Guardiola must not have a clue what his best team is. Bernardo joined for £45 million in the summer after starring for Monaco in their title-winning season, but he seems far down the pecking order. Aguero and Gabriel keep banging in the goals and will expect to start on a regular basis, but the form of Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling has been astonishing. Sterling has spent plenty of time on the bench but already has five goals this season, with a rate of one every 59 minutes. That would be outrageous form for an out and out striker, let alone a wide player. Sane is in a similar situation, with three goals and two assists in just 234 minutes played in the league. Meanwhile Aguero has six goals and Gabriel has five, but only three of them can start, so competition is ferocious.
They are also benefitting from the exceptional creative work of De Bruyne and Silva. Both players have spent their careers playing higher up the pitch, but Guardiola is fashioning them into dangerous midfielders that buzz about all over the middle of the park and pull the strings from deep. They are his new Xavi and Andres Iniesta, with Fernandinho in the disciplined Sergio Busquets role, and they are absolutely wreaking havoc on the Premiership. Check out Betonline, a well-reviewed sportsbook, and you will see that City are favourites to win all their upcoming games and are now odds-on to win the title. They also have to be considered serious contenders for the Champions League as they have the firepower to gun down most teams in Europe, evidenced by the way they thrashed Dutch champions Feyenoord recently. After a shaky start, Guardiola looks like forging another dominant side and it should be making big clubs around Europe nervous.