Blog, Blog Post, Clubs, English Premier League, Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester City


 

Steve Nicol and Alejandro Moreno examine Manchester City’s historic start to the season and whether they can take over world football.
ESPN FC’s Craig Burley assesses all of Saturday’s Premier League results from matchday 18, where Man City continue their historic run.

Well, that’s that then. The 2017-18 title race is effectively over before the 18 bit started. Manchester City have beaten every single one of their five realistic rivals, and they’ve beaten everyone else in the division with the exception of Everton, which was clearly just a glitch in the Matrix.

You have to feel a little sorry for Tottenham, though. “We’re not scared of this lot,” they must have said in the dressing room before the game. “We’ll push up, get at them and beat them at their own game.” And then they were utterly outclassed. Just like everyone else …

Player of the Year problems

We know where the title is going, but what about the important matter of individual honours? Kevin de Bruyne looks likely to be this column’s choice for Player of the Year, but on a day like Saturday, you could easily make a case for filling the short list with City players. Ederson has been exceptional between the sticks, for his movement and distribution as much as for his shot-stopping. Kyle Walker has proved his critics wrong. David Silva has been timelessly magnificent, Raheem Sterling can’t stop scoring, Leroy Sane can tear any team apart and we haven’t even mentioned the strikers.

Pick a winner out of that.

Kevin De Bruyne and Man City are unstoppable to the point that it’s hard to know which player wins best of the year.

Performance of the weekend

However, City will be devastated to know that they’ve missed out on this particular trinket because the performance of the week has to go to Crystal Palace. Man City, West Ham and Huddersfield supporters will object, but Leicester City were in good form up until this weekend. Claude Puel had re-energised their core of title-winning players, but Palace went through them like a sledgehammer. They have their first goals of the season on the road, and they are soaring up the table. Also, they no longer have the worst away record in the league; that dishonour now belongs to Stoke.

Goal of the weekend

Philippe Coutinho must have been wondered if Sunday was going to be his day when his delicate free-kick kissed the inside of the Bournemouth post and bounced to safety. But the best was yet to come. With echoes of a young Diego Maradona, he picked up the ball on the left flank, exchanged a quick one-two and then just went through the Bournemouth lines, twisting and turning, leaving red-and-black shirts in his wake. The transfer window opens in two weeks. Liverpool might be getting another one of those nuisance phone calls from Barcelona before too long.

Nobody cares about the chasing pack

The problem with Manchester City’s form is that it makes everyone else look bad, even the teams that are actually doing well. Manchester United’s projected points haul would be enough to win the league most seasons, and it was possible to feel sympathy for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte this weekend. “Someone is forgetting this run,” he said to reporters, “because there is a team winning every game.”

He’s got a point. Even with the constant speculation over his future, Conte has won eight of his past 10 games. Both he and Jose Mourinho deserve a bit of credit.

You can’t fire a man at Christmas …

But you can in football. Alan Pardew, enduring his own tricky period at West Bromwich Albion, could tell you that there’s no sentiment at this time of the year. He lost his job at Crystal Palace this time last year, and Mark Hughes could be booted out at Stoke before you hang up your stockings. The Potters have won only once in their past eight games, and the mood at the Britannia Stadium is ugly.

Hughes and Pardew will meet next weekend, and if the former can’t conjure up an improved performance, he won’t have to worry about football getting in the way of his New Year’s Eve plans.

Manager of the week

Moyes has endured some difficult seasons but is certainly helping West Ham dig out from the bottom three.
Moyes has endured some difficult seasons, but is certainly helping West Ham dig out from the bottom three.

With the exception of David Sullivan, you’d have struggled to find a West Ham fan who thought that hiring David Moyes was the answer to their problems. But Moyes, who picked up just one point from his first four games, has turned this side around. A creditable performance in the defeat at Man City was followed by an astonishing win over Chelsea, a good point against Arsenal (that could easily have been three) and now a barnstorming win over Stoke. More importantly, they’ve kept three clean sheets on the bounce.

It’s been a difficult few years, but Moyes is finally smiling again.

Silva’s worrying slide

Two months ago, Marco Silva was hot property. Everton would pursue him without success, but there were those who wondered if he might do better to wait for an even bigger job. After all, Watford were fourth at the time, but now they’re closer to the bottom of the table than they are fourth. They’ve lost seven of their past 10 games and were unexpectedly battered at home by Huddersfield on Saturday.

At a club with what seems to be a revolving door on the manager’s office, and that sacked Quique Sanchez Flores for failing to build on a bright start, Silva should tread carefully.

Cause for celebration

With Romelu Lukaku pointedly refusing to celebrate his deft header against former employers West Bromwich Albion, it was refreshing to see that Marko Arnautovic had no such concerns. The Austria forward, finally offering evidence of his abilities at West Ham, opted for the cheeky grin, the stuck-out tongue and the classic slow slide on the knees in front of the Stoke supporters. Needless to say, his former friends were entirely unamused.

Game to watch next week

There was just a single point for Burnley this weekend, but it was enough to lift them ahead of Tottenham. They could increase the gap when they welcome Spurs to Turf Moor next weekend; all things considered, you’d even have to make them favourites.

Sean Dyche’s team have kept three consecutive clean sheets, work hard for each other and will relish the chance to get stuck into an under-performing Champions League side as they continue their unlikely attempt to qualify for next year’s competition.

Iain Macintosh covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @IainMacintosh.



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