Following the disappointment which has met Manchester City squandering a two-goal lead at Fulham, it appears that draws are the new defeat in this season’s Premier League title race. Manchester United’s 3-1 victory over Chelsea only seems to have reaffirmed the preconception that the trophy will remain in Manchester this season. As such, in what promises to be a titanic two-way tussle for the title, Roberto Mancini’s men are the first to have stuttered.
A rational analysis of the game would not lead to the conclusion that the Red Devils have stolen a march on their ‘noisy neighbours’. Indeed, the idea that only two teams are in with a realistic chance of becoming champions is a little presumptuous. Chelsea performed with a sense of adventure at Old Trafford which ought to have been rewarded with something more tangible than defeat. They too remain potential champions-in-waiting.
La Liga, where the divide between the haves (Barcelona and Real Madrid) and have-nots (the rest) is far more pronounced than the Premier League, has already seen the two title contenders drop points. With so many matches left to play, it changes nothing. No matter how quickly pundits may wish to jump to conclusions, Sunday’s draw does not have to be construed as a crisis in waiting.
Nevertheless, no matter how irrational or unreasonable they may be, the concerns have been raised as a result of the failure to win. The nature of the two goals conceded will not sit well with Mancini. The old adage is that champions do not throw away leads. Momentum is imperative. Had City clawed their way back from two-goals down to salvage a point, the defensive deficiencies would have been ignored. The narrative would instead have emphasised the ‘strength of character’ and abundant attacking genius the team possesses. The fact that the outcome is the same would be lost in the aftermath.
Still, Joleon Lescott – an excellent athlete – is prone to lapses in concentration. Errors are rarer still from his centre-back partner Vincent Kompany, which is why a nervy display at Craven Cottage following a weak back-pass which nearly gifted Napoli victory at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday has City fans’ hearts aflutter. Kolo Toure’s return having completed his six-month ban for missing a drugs test, complemented by the emergence of Stefan Savic, should assuage those fears.
Better to take solace in the positives. Two-goal Sergio Aguero looks every inch the signing of the summer. As clinically as his hat-trick against Wigan Athletic was taken, the precision of his finishes were a delight to watch. Unsurprisingly, the first of Aguero’s brace was created by the exquisite David Silva. His ability to find passes mere mortals would not dare to imagine is unparalleled right now in English football. With such spectacular talents at their disposal, there is no reason to be unduly worried by Sunday’s dropping of points.
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