It has been more than two months since Manchester City last tasted defeat in a 1-0 reverse away to Sunderland on the 10th November, winning 16 out of the next 18 games in all competitions and scoring 114 goals in the process. That defeat had left them 8th in the table with only 19 points from 11 games, yet their imperious form since then sees them in 2nd place with 50 points, only 1 behind leaders Arsenal, and many people’s favourites to overtake the Gunners and claim a second Premier League title.
However, recent talk has gone beyond this with some commentators arguing that they are ready to take their place amongst Europe’s elite by winning an unprecedented ‘Quadruple’. Noting their formidable squad depth, particularly in attack where Sergio Aguero, Alvaro Negredo and Edin Dzeko have contributed a combined total of 61 goals already this season, many have suggested that this side has the potential to do something very special. Even manager Manuel Pellegrini has admitted his team are thinking about the possibility of winning the ‘Quadruple’.
After his side’s defeat in the FA Cup, Blackburn manager Gary Bowyer declared City ‘the best in the world’. However, there needs to be a sense of realism and this result must be put into perspective. Yes their recent form has been excellent and has got both fans and pundits salivating, but beating sides like West Ham and Blackburn does not constitute world’s best status, no matter how comprehensive those victories were. Whilst they have beaten Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle in this period, all three of those victories were helped by questionable officiating and could have easily ended differently, particularly if they had been away from home. They also won the Manchester Derby with a dominant 4-1 home victory, but with hindsight, beating United is no longer the statement it seemed at the time. When they have faced a ‘big team’ away from the Etihad they lost 2-1 at Chelsea, although it does seem that they have successfully rectified their dodgy early season away form against the lesser teams. Until they have proven themselves against the very best away from the Etihad however, talk of a clean sweep of trophies remains premature.
An impressive away victory in the Champions League against Bayern Munich in December cannot be ignored, but it must be remembered that this was a game in which Bayern had taken their foot off the pedal after going 2-0 up inside 12 minutes, and had already secured qualification for the next stage of the competition. A much better example of their European pedigree can be seen in the 3-1 schooling at the hands of Bayern, when both teams still had everything to play for in their first group stage meeting. The real test of how far the Sky Blues have come under Pellegrini will be their last 16 clash with Barcelona, the best side in Europe over the last decade. If City can overcome the Catalans then they will have to be taken seriously and talk of a quadruple will become more than just talk. Away games to Barcelona, Arsenal and Liverpool within the space of a month during March and April will define their season and provide a much more realistic idea of just how good they are.