BBC BLOGS - Phil McNulty
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
« Previous | Main | Next »

Man City challenge is no fake

Post categories:

Phil McNulty | 07:00 UK time, Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The £50 notes waved under Gareth Barry's nose as a sign of lingering displeasure at his decision to leave Aston Villa were fake - but the Manchester City revolution he chose to join looks increasingly like the genuine article.

Barry stood accused of following the Abu Dhabi millions to Eastlands when his long-stated ambition to play Champions League football was shelved in order to join a club that could not offer him any form of European football.

Ill-feeling still hung heavy in the air when he made his first return to the club where he played with distinction for 11 years, from the derision as he stepped off the Manchester City team bus after it pulled into Villa Park on Monday evening to fans waving wads of counterfeit cash in his direction.

Barry drew applause from many respectful Villa fans, but as the bus pulled away after an entertaining game between two teams with designs on breaking up the Premier League's top four cartel, he will have had no reason to regret his move.

Villa, bursting with energy and endeavour, had that top-six look. Manchester City, with some defensive fine tuning, resembled a side and a squad that can seriously threaten the Premier League's established order.

Martin O'Neill had no doubts when asked: "If we are talking about threatening the top four, then absolutely. They are a really good side. They have strength in depth. They are capable of pushing on."

It was a night of sub-plots at Villa Park and they did not disappoint. Barry was back at the club he left amid acrimony, while Aston Villa's own new boy Richard Dunne was in opposition to the club he served splendidly for nine years.

Richard Dunne.jpgAston Villa's Richard Dunne leaps above Gareth Barry to head home against Manchester City

And the pair met in a moment that summed up the contrasting emotions among supporters as Dunne rose above Barry to put Villa ahead. As the ball hit the back of Shay Given's net, Dunne pointedly refused to celebrate the goal.

A section of City fans, recognising the gesture of respect and having already given Dunne a standing ovation when his name was announced, broke into spontaneous applause in a moment of class and dignity a million miles removed from the shoddy antics of Emmanuel Adebayor and the baying of Arsenal's fans at Eastlands a few weeks ago.

Dunne then proceeded to give a mountainous defensive display, alongside the impressive James Collins, that actually suggested City may have been hasty in engineering a move the player claimed was done behind his back.

If there is a flaw in the expensive Eastlands rebuilding programme, it is currently the central defensive partnership of Joleon Lescott and Kolo Toure. They each look like they would benefit from playing with a leader and powerhouse such as Dunne as opposed to alongside each other.

If we are talking price tags, £24m Joleon Lescott did not look worth four Richard Dunnes.

Early days yet and Hughes will be aware this is a work in progress, but City's vulnerability to high balls has clearly been noted and no O'Neill team was going to be shy about prodding that weakness.

Dunne's swift goal provided another test for a City team that, because of the money invested in it, is undergoing an almost forensic examination into whether it has what it takes to go the course and finish in the top four.

Villa have lofty ambitions of their own and, perhaps inspired by the sight of Barry, were in the mood to put City through the mill. They succeeded for long periods, but this was another severe test that City passed.

Many City sides of recent vintage would have fallen in the face of Villa's impressive early onslaught. Not this one. As at Manchester United they hung in gamely, although Hughes' face was a picture when five minutes of stoppage time went up, and were the dominant force after Craig Bellamy's spectacular second half leveller.

If anyone should have felt threatened by the arrival of £68m worth of attacking talent strolling through the door of Eastlands this summer in the shape of Adebayor, Carlos Tevez and Roque Santa Cruz to join £32m Robinho, it should have been Bellamy.

And yet if City are to make the top four, then Bellamy will emerge as a key figure if he maintains his current mood.

The Wales striker is not burdened by modesty, and it is clear that rather than shrink from the challenge of fighting for his place he has risen to it. If Hughes can perfect this trick all over the park then City really are in business.

I questioned Hughes about whether the expensive superstars had galvanised Bellamy into producing this golden spell and he said: "He always thinks he is the best player on the pitch and to be fair for most of our games this year he has been. He views guys coming into the team as a challenge. He wants the shirt and is playing in a way that makes it his by right."

Hughes is the manager who pushes the right buttons with Bellamy. He fell foul of Graeme Souness at Newcastle and a stint at his boyhood idols Liverpool looked too big for him. He has flourished under Hughes with Wales, Blackburn and now Manchester City.

And Stephen Ireland, in a second half cameo, showed the wisdom of maintaining the excellence of the Eastlands academy. All feints, first-time passes and piercing runs, he may not have cost a penny but has a natural gift that allows him to sit neatly alongside any expensive superstars that will arrive in future.

Ireland provides a real balance in midfield alongside Barry, who was not at his best at Villa but is a mature figure who can be a figurehead for City.

Villa have young talent of their own, and players like Ashley Young, Gabriel Agbonlahor and James Milner will have caught the eye of watching England coach Fabio Capello.

Stewart Downing is still to come, and with a squad beefed up in numbers by O'Neill, Villa will hope to avoid the collapse that sabotaged their own top four ambitions last season.

They will provide anxious moments for the top four, but questions remain about whether they can break into that elite group.

The same applies to City - and suggestions that they may actually claim the title this season are wide of the mark. Too much transition is taking place for this to be a realistic goal, but the top four must be the marker for Hughes.

In an almost ostentatious show of strength, the City manager's immediate reaction to Bellamy's equaliser was to remove Tevez and send on Santa Cruz. It was an impressive display of resources and the fear for any team teetering in the top four is that City have limitless financial firepower to add in January if they are in touching distance.

Optimistic times for Villa, and from City another a message for the usual suspects near the top of the Premier League that mistakes could be punished more heavily this year than ever before.

You can follow me throughout the forthcoming season at twitter.com and join me at Facebook (requires registration)

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    You say Man City can finish in the top 4 but who will they replace?

  • Comment number 2.

    Liverpool.

  • Comment number 3.

    Earth-shattering prediction in this blog. Man City could finish in the top 4 after spending £200m and beating one of the big four and narrowly losing to the other, didn't see that coming.

  • Comment number 4.

    Good blog as usual Phil.....I've been following Man City closely this season to see how they would perform with all the BIG name players.... I tipped them to finish 4th in the Premiership with Arsenal dropping out. But. now I'm not so sure having watched how well they have played this season.
    Also I'm with Bland original username....who do you think they will replace?

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm not really sure how a 1-1 draw demonstrates that Manchester City are capable of breaking into the top 4?

    Surely they need to be beating their rivals for a top four place to be making this sort of statement?

  • Comment number 6.

    I think City have answered most questions that have been asked of them so far this season. We are almost a qurter way through the season and it is very tight up there. Still a long way to go but it would't surprise me if the difference between 4th and 5th came down to goal difference. I think Liverpool are most likely to drop out of the top four

  • Comment number 7.

    "Who will they (Man City) replace?"

    Any of the 3 apart from Chelsea I'd have thought. Man United are weaker than they've been for years and lack the strength in depth that they have had in the past. Liverpool are under-strength as well. Arsenal look imperious but are vulnerable to teams that break hard and fast against them - something that will cost them points as the season wears on. Also they can lack strength in depth. Only Chelsea have looked like the boring, consistent, top 4 team of recent years and are playing a style under Ancelotti that looks hard to break down. True they faltered against Wigan but it's unusual for any team not to have an "off day" once in a while...

  • Comment number 8.

    So BBC pundits are now both tipping Liverpool for the title AND tipping City to break the big four, and yet the only big four team struggling against good opposition is Liverpool.

    I also think its a poor conclusion from the game, because for me, both teams, Villa and City, showed more resolve in that game than Liverpool and Arsenal have shown this season , if you ignore the big scores against also rans and concentrate on matches against quality opposition.

    Will they be there at the end? Unlikely.
    Experience counts at the sharp end of the season, and the top four is likely to be the same as last year, with positions swapped a round a bit, but I expect 'squeaky bum time' for the team in fourth, Man City will run them close.

    If one would drop out, despite the hype, it's Liverpool who look the most vulnerable, small squad with lack of quality on the bench compared to both Manchester teams, Chelsea and Arsenal.

  • Comment number 9.

    To be frank,i'm begining to regard city as a big four threat. There was this urgency in them when they went a goal down,the sort of urgency u find in the big four teams. You've got to give Hughes credit for the way he's blended the team esp the strikers,he got the right formation for them all

  • Comment number 10.

    I think City will put a lot of pressure on the top of the league, not just the top 4.
    What a great league we have this year, as a Southend fan i'm really enjoying it

  • Comment number 11.

    1. At 08:50am on 06 Oct 2009, Bland original username wrote:

    Liverpool - not just based on these first few games. I believe they have too much reliance on Gerrard and Torres plus their bench is far weaker than, for instance Arsenal, who I believe were at the bottom of that Four. Man U are going to write off this season for a cup and CL place, Chelsea will win the Premiership but Arsenal, if they can keep up their current form, will run them a close second

  • Comment number 12.

    Good blog Phil, but your comments about Dunnes reaction to the goal compared to Adebayor cannot be compared. If the city fans would have been as bad to Dunne as Arsenal's fans were to Adebayor then i'm sure Dunne would have celebrated, respect is a two way thing, Arsenal fans had lost that respect, fair play to Adebayor.

  • Comment number 13.

    For me its between Liverpool and Arsenal.

    Arsenal are playing great now but Arsenal always stutter when the winter comes and the weather changes. Meaning the football they like to display can be unsettled by teams who like to play a more direct style along with a stronger physical display.

    But if i had to bet between Liverpool and Arsenal relinquishing their top 4 it would be Liverpool. Reason being i dont think there squad is that strong.

    I mean you look at the likes of Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and even Man City ad Spurs. The squads ate heaving with talent on the bench or on the injured table.

    Liverpool have Torres and Gerrard after that you really are pressed to see who there next match winner. The other clubs i just mentioned have a host of players, just look at Man City and you can read, Tevez, Adebayor, Robinho, Bellamy and people such as Ireland.

    The other clubs i mentioned have a host of players too but with Liverpool you can never get away from the fact that its only Torres and Gerrard and rightly so they are two world class players.

    For me its a struggle to read there bench and see the likes of Ngog, Veronin, Babel, Fabio Aurelio and say would they realistically even get in any other team who Liverpool are challenging? Would they even make the bench of a Man Utd or Chelsea? Would they even get into the starting eleven of a Spurs, Man City or Villa?

    I've always liked Liverpool and have the utmost respect for their fans and the people of Liverpool but i just think to even think you are going to win the league ahead of Man Utd or Chelsea (Who i think will win it) is absurd.

    And if they dont do it this season they definitely wont do it in the next 2 to 3 without selling the club or employing a new investor.

    Man City, Man Utd, Arsenal, Spurs, Villa and probably Portsmouth will be able to outspend them next year and given this transfer ban is contested with Chelsea so will they be able to.So how will they be able to keep up.

    Maybe Rafa wont be manager come the beginning f next season???? You heard it here first.

  • Comment number 14.

    @manutd1187 - I didn't see much urgency from City in the first half when they went one down. I think that comment is a bit wide of the mark. They only came into the game in the second half through a combination of Villa not taking a couple of chances (dunne and collins) and Ireland coming on to do what Barry should have done - control the midfield and play some through clever balls. Also, once they'd equalised they took their foot off the gas and that isn't the 'big four' way

    Before Ireland came on they looked pretty toothless against a big, strong defence which would worry Hughes a bit I think. When they start knocking it about they do look like a very good team and they still need time to get better but by using a 1-1 draw at Villa (who draw with a lot of teams at Villa Park) as a reason to throw superlatives is a bit lazy by Mr Mcnulty I think...

  • Comment number 15.

    City are doing really well, and that Bellamy has been their key player going forward is somewhat of surprise. However, it also indicates a problem: can Bellamy keep up this form during the whole of the season. History suggests not. Also Tevez, Adebayor and Robinho are not consistent performers. I think this, along with a poor defence (great keeper though), will make the challenge difficult fo City. With last season's Arsenal they might have had a chance. However, the Gunners have looked very impressive this season. Yes, they have suffered defeats, but there performances were very encouraging, unlike Liverpool's for example.

    But Phil, who do you think will fall out of the top four, if Man City manage a real challenge?

    I actually think that Arsenal have the most strength in depth, apart from the position of Song and possibly the centrebacks (although Djourou could solve this). Utd and Liverpool have bigger problems in this department I feel. Rooney and Giggs are irreplacable at the moment, and vdSar's absence has already cost them points. Liverpool are still very much depending on Gerrard and Torres.

  • Comment number 16.

    Hmmm looks like you're returning to contradicting yourself Phil like you did in many of your blogs last season. Would be interesting to know who you think City will replace in the top four especially as you tipped Liverpool to win the league and apparently are sticking by it.

  • Comment number 17.

    You can't draw to many conclusions from lasts nights match. There was much improvement from Villa and a real work ethic from Man City which some doubted they would have. Both teams deserve credit.

    Its a long season though and there will be a few more shocks along tne way.

    However, as much as I hate to admit it, Man City do have a very strong chance of breaking that top four simply because come January they have the cash to splash and get the reinforcements they need.

    I know City have stated they won't be spending big again but if they need some back up for an injurys or underform players they may have then you will see them raiding a few other clubs, and who can blame them

    It between Liverpool and Aresnal on who will finish fifth. My money is on Liverpool.

  • Comment number 18.

    Yes I have to agree Manchester City look like a top four side, considering they can still buy more players to cover any area and injury.
    Under-strength Liverpool and the fragile Arsenal are most at threat, and maybe it could finish Manchester United, Chelsea, Villa, Manchester City, as the top four but not in that order, who knows after all its a funny old game.

  • Comment number 19.

    Wow! really? A team backed by a man who has probably got the money he laid out on transfers back in interest in the time it has taken me to write this, capable of reaching the top 4? What a bold prediction. Can we stop using words like 'revival' and 'ambition', what we have here is a lottery win.

  • Comment number 20.

    Judging by last half hour I saw on telly, much work needs to be done by both teams to break in the top 4.

    There were many long balls going astray, poor passing judgement, & most of the play was in midfield with ball rarely traveling to penalty area.
    Some good clean tackles though.

  • Comment number 21.

    Man C is going great... but they need some time to get adjusted among themselves...

    Toure and Lescott
    Barry and Ireland
    Stikeforce...

    It was seen in this match, but still they lack a little bit of understanding

  • Comment number 22.

    I think that Cidy will make the top four but they will need to spend in January.

    Santa Cruz will start to play his part as will the returning Robinho. Who will they replace? Well its 1 of 2 isn't it?

    Have you seen the Youtube video of Hitler discussing the 3-3 draw with Utd, very funny.

  • Comment number 23.

    "Who will they (Man City) replace?"

    Any of the 3 apart from Chelsea I'd have thought. Man United are weaker than they've been for years and lack the strength in depth that they have had in the past. Only Chelsea have looked like the boring, consistent, top 4 team of recent years. True they faltered against Wigan but it's unusual for any team not to have an "off day" once in a while...

    I think on that logic city wont be replacing United then... any team can have an off day after all. Unuted are doing rather well for such a diluted version dont ya think!

  • Comment number 24.

    How come everyone thinks it will be Liverpool who drop out of the top 4?
    You say without Gerrard and Torres we look a bit bare, Torres worth about 60-80 million, Gerrard 30-40 Million so what team in any league would look bare losing about 100 million worth of player, not to mention our captain and leading goal scorer? If you take rooney and Giggs out of united your left with berbatov for goals a player who seems incapable of chasing a ball, and for his service you have player like nani, anderson, hargreaves (if he ever fit) they cost about the same as torres each and all not fit to wipe his boots. Last season we finished 2nd, we lose 1 inportant player in alonso replace him with aquilani (excuse the spelling) before you write us off should you not see if he is a worth replacement? if so then we are back to a team who lost 2 games all of season add Johnson a cracking signing so far. so we have improved where as atleast on paper, united are much weaker, arsenal losing toure and adebayor are weaker, chelsea now with a 2 year transfer ban, liverpool look most likely to stick it out as we always do but this time maybe go 1 better.

  • Comment number 25.

    You cant win anything without a solid defence and city just dont have it at the moment they will finish 4th, 5th or 6th. Just like Villa or Spurs, Everton may well do... City just did it the expensive way. Can anyone explain how a 4th place side differs to a 6th place side in terms of "look"? Surely that is a fine line? Last night was simply 2 very evenly matched sides drawing a match.

  • Comment number 26.

    How come everyone thinks it will be Liverpool who drop out of the top 4?

    ------------------

    Because you have already lost 3 games.

  • Comment number 27.

    As was stated in comment #5, I find it hard to see how a team claiming a 1-1 draw at Villa Park can be deemed as particularly ominous. Would a team currently in the Big Four be happy with coming away from Villa Park with a point? I think not, regardless of how well Villa played.

    And indeed, which of the big four clubs would drop out, should that happen? It's a testament to Man City's ambition that this is even being discussed, given the monopoly the big four teams have over their places. Whether they will do it this season or not remains to be seen. I think for now the gap will be closed, with City coming within a point or two of fourth come the end of the season. But for the future...it does seem there maybe well be a change in the air.

  • Comment number 28.

    If City can build in some consistency, they'll certainly be challenging Arsenal and Liverpool for their top four places, along with Tottenham and Villa.

    They still have Robinho to come back and are still bedding in, and I can see them challenging seriously for the title in the next few years. How many other leagues can say there are 6-8 teams challenging at the top?

  • Comment number 29.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 30.

    To poster 5...you suggest Manchester City should be beating their rivals for a top four place. I would suggest a 4-2 win at home against Arsenal is actually one of the results you might be talking about.

    I did not say Manchester City would definitely break into the top four this season, but I think they have a real chance. And yes, despite my prediction of Liverpool winning the title, of course they must regard City as a serious threat if they do not improve.

    Arsenal have also to convince me totally. If they are inconsistent, then City can take advantage, but Mark Hughes' must also solve defensive problems of his own.

    I think there is real substance to what Manchester City are trying to achieve, and funnily enough it is the signings of players such as Shay Given and Gareth Barry that make me feel this even more than the inevitable big names that have arrived, and will arrive, in the future.

    There is confidence too. I actually think the scale of ambition at Eastlands is such that they are targeting all of the established top four. And who can blame them?

    I do not think it is a given they will break the top four this season, but in times to come they will be a huge threat with the resources at their disposal. Ignore them at your peril.

    And despite some of the jealousy aimed in their direction, would that not be a fantastic development for the Premier League?

    What about Villa fans? Do you think you can make a top four challenge this year after fading last season? The squad has greater depth now. What do you say?

  • Comment number 31.

    Hey Phil - why are you comparing 'the baying arsenal fans' and Adebayor with the respectful city fans and Dunne? Dunne was a loyal servant of City, 'let go' by the club: the fans respect that, just as Arsenal fans applauded Kolo Toure at Eastlands. Wenger transformed Ade's prospects, the fans loved him - and what thanks did they get? Gouging a massive contract hike in summer 2008, then upset that the fans complained, he underperformed all 2008/9, and antagonised the rest of the squad. He's taken the fans money, not given value - why should they show him respect?

  • Comment number 32.

    Where as united have played Burnley and lost.
    Played Sunderland at home and dropped points.
    We lost to Suprs away & Villa & Chelsea away all very good teams capable of beating any side when they play well can the same be said about Burnley?
    Bside Villa at home not many teams would be too diheartned to lose against Chelsea and Spurs away.
    Our problem last year was not beating the lower teams like United so far, yet we beat all the big boys, so maybe this season now we can kill off the lower teams its our season.

  • Comment number 33.

    I find it amusing that Joe Strummer is implying that City's investment makes challenging for the top 4 inevitable. Now City are beginning to show that is possible we're getting lots of accusations like this, but a few games ago and certainly before the season started the blogs and 606 forums were awash with people saying "you can't buy success, it's not about money, they won't gel, Hughes will be first manager to get the sack" etc etc.

    Most sensible City fans are content with what is going on at present, and excited about the future.

    Meanwhile I have to applaud Richard Dunne for his performance and the respect he showed last night, and the response from City fans was in marked contrast to some of the nastiness that Arsenal and Man U fans showed to other players City have bought this season. As for Villa, well there was a minority giving Barry a hard time, but the majority applauded him, so my thansk to them. Would the guy waving fake fivers not leave his job if he was offerd more money I wonder?

  • Comment number 34.

    Phil- I agree with some of the previous posts, in that I am not sure after last night results City's potential to break into the big 4 has been enhanced.
    Up to last night City were showing all the signs of applying serious pressure to the big 4 and they had games in hand; however having not been able to secure a win (against another potential rival) after a weekend where 3 of the big 4 lost points, would suggest that City's winning mentality is still not of the right order - one of the few advantages of playing on Mondays, when rivals have lost ground over the weekend, is for a team serious about changing the order in the PL, to not only gain points but also to affect the 'mindsets' of others by getting them to begin 'looking over their shoulders'.
    Also, as you point out and Richard Dunne emphasised with greater clarity last night, City still look distinctly vulnerable down the centre of the defence, Toure and Lescott too much of the same! Not writing them off by any means, especially as they can dip into the player market again in January if needs be (which it probably will!), but thought last nights result hindered rather than advanced City's cause.

  • Comment number 35.

    All of the debate about 'breaking the top 4'is a touch tedious don't you think and now outworn? Man C are a good side, as are Villa, Spurs and Everton arent bad either. The estabished top 4 all have some issues but remain great sides. Why not write abaout the Premier League at last resembling a wider competition? The situation at the moment is reminiscent of the late 60s and early 70s when we had strong sides in the old Div 1 right down to about the half way area of the league. The main difference is that in those days many of the sides in the lower reaches were well able to turn the better sides over on a good day, which isnt the case now.

    Long may it last. Lets celebrate it instead of this idle worship of 'top 4' status that so irks (and rightly so)fans of teams who may never reach those heights. You media hacks ought to start and generate some decent articles and blogs about the quality of the games and football generally at the moment instead of the tabloid focus on 'top 4 or bust' mentality that you propogate.

    You must try harder!

  • Comment number 36.

    I'm confused who is the quality on Arsenals bench?
    Chelsea may be good for 1 more season but a lot of their player almost over the hill. Here is a question aslong as the transfer ban stays in place at chelsea after a summer of many of their stars playing world cup football, no fresh legs and an ageing squad where will they be next season?

  • Comment number 37.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 38.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 39.

    It was typical that Dunne was going to score against us....Barry can't mark people at corners, didn't mark Fletcher in the derby, so he's cost us 3 goals already! I think the crowd got to him as well.

    I'm not getting too carried away by the start to the season. Under Sven we had a fairly good start, and I believe if you look at the stats from previous seasons that we always generally get off to a good start, so really the only time that counts for judging us is May! We have already played 3 quality teams, and 4 (should have been 5) points is not bad especially since two were away from home.

    Having said that, I think last season we would have lost that game, and we've now shown we can fight when we go a goal down, and that's a very pleasing aspect of City this year. We do still need to sort the defence out, and I think we should have started with Ireland last night ahead of SWP as Stevie changed the game when he came on.

  • Comment number 40.

    Player for player, Spurs are equally as good as Man City this year. If Woodgate and Dawson get fit and stay fit, they are just as likely to break in as City.

    Liverpool to drop out. Two man team these days, no good in the prem.

  • Comment number 41.

    33. At 09:59am on 06 Oct 2009, Red Squirrel

    I take your point, but would you agree that a team spending £200 million has more chance of challenging the top 4 than one who hasn't? Let's use Villa as an example, they were looking the most likely to break the top4 last year, but have now fallen behind City and maybe even Spurs, two teams who have outspent them.

    Money doesn't guarantee success and I never said that anyway. The original blog said that City could finish in the top 4, and my point was that having spent £200 million it should be obvious that a team could finish in the top 4, it's no great surprise. I also added that having beaten Arsenal and narrowly lost to Man Utd - two top 4 teams - it's not exactly a revelation to all of a sudden think that City can make it in there. I'm not accusing Man City of anything, my argument was that the subject of the original blog is a little obvious.

  • Comment number 42.

    Maybe Lescott didnt look like he was worth four times the ammount of Dunne but consistency is how you judge a player not single games. I seen them both play for years at goodison and although Dunne was younger like most Evertonians i would not want him back, as for Lescott i would take him back tomorrow. City i believe have to be taken seriously for the simple reason they have bought good players, maybe not great players but proven premier leauge quality. When you throw in the decent players already there its difficult to see now they have started well City finishing outside the top five and have a realistic chance of the top four. I also believe if City are challenging for top spot after the christmas period they could even win it. I dont see a outstanding team in the premier leauge and the term no easy games has never been more true than it is this season.

  • Comment number 43.

    @ 34.

    how did 3 of the 'big 4' drop points as both Chelsea and Arsenal won,

  • Comment number 44.

    There are always a few teams who start off the year far above their station and flatter to deceive. It was Hull last year and City are doing it this year, though with a bit more money.
    Their best result to date has been beating Arsenal. Yet they were outplayed for a lot of that match. Indeed towards the end of that match they were hanging on and if Arsenal had got the penalty for the hand ball then City would have been lucky getting a point.
    There will be a re-alignment of the top 4 but no one will get close to breaking into it.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

    NO i dont think so, man city have the money but look at the players they are buying Ballamy, Tevez, adebayor to mention but a few these are frastrated players who want to justify that their previous made a mistake to sell them (example adebayor celebrating infront arsenal fans)
    once they settle down or the anger diminishes you will see what i mean.
    For me its Aston villa and Spurs that pose a seriuos challenge, but for Man city not this crop of players!

  • Comment number 47.

    Was reading with interest until "Villa looked top 6, Man City looked top 4". You must have been watching the reporter's version the one that's completely different to what the fans did.

    Man City played very well and have a very good team full of quality but I think Villa more than equaled them in a very entertaining match. True they have the money to buy the extra stars but to write Villa off when we matched them is idiotic at best. There is no reason Villa can't add to an already good squad and progress - you don't always need star names to do it.

    Lazy journalism. Getting more and more regular at the BBC.

  • Comment number 48.

    32. At 09:54am on 06 Oct 2009, PaulnJess wrote:
    Where as united have played Burnley and lost.
    Played Sunderland at home and dropped points.
    We lost to Suprs away & Villa & Chelsea away all very good teams capable of beating any side when they play well can the same be said about Burnley?

    ......

    Your world of football must be very drab - no upsets! Its football tinkerbell, freak results happen. Sunderland deserved to win against United on the weekend no doubt.. but we got a point. Villa were better for chunks yesterday, city grabbed a point. Liverpool have lost 3 already and you will lose more, you are not going to go unbeaten for the next month let alone the season.

  • Comment number 49.

    City, Spurs, or Villa will be competing for 5th or 6th this season, not the top four.

    I understand peoples chat of Liverpool to be the ones who take the plunge this season, but it wont be, not yet.

    Our match winners someone said? Torres, Gerrard are the top, granted, but we also have benayoun, riera, kuyt, babel, etc, who do score. The problem with Liverpool is the team desire and form. When things need to be done, badly, liverpool step up hard and when the team is on form everyone scores. Otherwise we do rely on Gerrard or Torres.

    People our taking our 3 defeats into account. hmmm, Spurs (Away), Villa (Home, fair enough) and chelsea (away). Strong teams. We wont lose twice to all of them :D (Touch wood...) We still have United and Arsenal to play to prove our worth. Those 3 loses are blown miles out of proportion to the wins we've had. 6-1 hull. 4-0 stoke and 4-0 burnley. 2-3 (away) to both Bolton and West ham. Granted not the strongest teams, but still we've pummeled some teams. Stamford bridge is a hard stadium to play at, anyone can tell you that. We walked away with 2 wins last season home and away to United and Chelsea. That wont happen again, for a while anyway. So united got beat by us twice last season and lost another 2 I think. We lost two. United still won the league with far more losses than liverpool, just far less draws.

    What I'm saying is dont count on liverpool dropping from the top four. I doubt severly that we'll win, but I'm resting on 3rd place this season. Chelsea, United, Liverpool and then Arsenal (they struggle against top teams too! No strengh in the youngsters to muscle out strong defenders).

  • Comment number 50.

    Have to agree with a lot of the comments above. There seem to be at least six teams tipped to finish in the top four this season which clearly isn't going to happen. I think City will come close this time, but I think the familiar top 4 will be in place come the end of the season. It does look like being a far more interesting season though, I think it will be a close finish and whoever finishes top of the league will have less points than in previous years. The reality is that if City really have top 4 ambitions, last night's game is precisely the sort they need to be winning.

    On a different note, am I the only one who doesn't agree with not celebrating goals against teams you used to play for? Winding up the opposition fans is clearly out of order and shouldn't be done, but you should always be delighted to score for the team you play for, regardless of opposition. To not celebrate with your own team mates when you score a goal at home is a bit odd if you ask me - we've gone from one extreme to the other.

  • Comment number 51.

    Phil, could you please explain why Arsenal have to convince you totally? They have shown consistency against the so called smaller teams, something which they have lacked in the last few seasons. They are also by far the best team going forward, whilst not even using their full attacking talents (Walcott as a sub Sunday, Eduardo and Nasri not even in the squad). I think Utd have as much convincing to do as Arsenal if I am honest. Only a point's (of course presuming Arsenal win their game in hand: at home to Bolton) difference in the table so far suggests I am right.

  • Comment number 52.

    I find it strange people saying the City defence may be the weak part of the side take a look at the other pretenders defensive records to date, i am pretty sure without looking City have conceded less than Arsenal, Liverpool and Man Utd and cannot have conceded many more than Chelsea.

  • Comment number 53.

    Man City are showing real promise of breaking the top four this season. On the evidence we’ve seen thus far, why not? Liverpool are struggling to get into full swing and they look the more likely to be got at………at the moment. It’s a long old season and time will tell if Hughes can keep momentum with his new look team.

    http://sportales.com/soccer/we-hate-manchester-united-should-we/

  • Comment number 54.

    i am a villa fan and i think this was a very scrappy game. Manchester City did not look like a top side towards the end of the game as this blog suggests, both teams were trying not to lose the game, rather than chasing the game for the win, something a title challenging side don't do! Mark Hughes again, was moaning about the time added on, another sign that maybe he was a bit worried about the ability of Man City to see out more than 90 minutes. As for Villa, we looked no better, defensively we were good, but there were a few mistakes and examples of poor marking, especially the marking involved in the equaliser. Also, in the center of the park we still dont look good enough. Sidwell for me just isn't the player we need. We need someone who will push on, always try and look for the foward pass, create something special, and he just doesn't do that. The signs are good at both teams, but both need a lot of work in certain area's if they are to be challenging top four. Obviously as a football fan i want it to Villa, i really can;t stand Man City.
    Where has the respectable and respected Mark Hughes who managed Blackburn gone??

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm saying this as a Man U fan:

    I'm glad that there's a serious threat to the top 4 this season. It's been the same four for too long and if it carries on then there will be too much staleness in the Premier League. We'll suffer in the same way as the SPL has only with four teams instead of two.

    I think Liverpool and Arsenal are the weak links at the moment. Liverpool have a brilliant first team, but it's hard to look at their bench and see where they might draw inspiration from. They don't seem to have any names that they can bring on to change a game if Torres and Gerrard are having an off day.

    I think Arsenal will come good, but not this season. Their side is too young and lacking in experience, and again could do with a little more in reserve. But next year? They could be quite formiddable.

    Man U have lost two important players, this is true, and we are feeling the effects. However, Rooney is playing well and is being allowed to play in his natural position. Giggs is playing better than just about anyone you care to mention. If Owen stays fit then I can only see him being an asset. I think we're OK for this season providing Ferdinand and Vidic remember how to defend again.

    Chelsea are doing well under Ancelloti. If anyone is a threat to Man U at the top it is them. Having Drogba and Anelka playing well together up front is quite a formiddable obstacle for any team to cope with. That is if Drogba can stay on his feet for two consecutive minutes and not pull any crazy hissy fits.

    Hughes has built up a strong side at City. Of course, he's fortunate to have huge amounts of money to do so. I can see them finishing anywhere from third to sixth. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they were ahead of Liverpool and Arsenal at the end of the season. I also wouldn't be surprised if they have a collapse at some point in the season thanks to their shoddy defending and don't come close to the top four.

  • Comment number 56.

    Liverpool supporters are deceiving themselves. They know that they will not win the league. They know that they will not take points off the big three as they did last season. They know they will not win a trophy this year (3 years and counting). They know they will not be in the top 4. They have already started making scapegoats of players (carragher/lucas).

    They know that they are living on past glories. FACT

  • Comment number 57.

    # 43 Count_Zero-Interupt
    how did 3 of the 'big 4' drop points as both Chelsea and Arsenal won -precisely, thank you for your attention.
    Well spotted - that it is the trouble with mixing numbers and text; should have said '2 of the top 4 lost points' or 'half the top four lost points' - hows that?
    I don't think it really changes the premis of the argument, do you?

  • Comment number 58.

    I think that all the talk about the top 4 is very interesting, especially as it states to me that perhaps this could finally be the season the "big four" are broken.

    Man City, Villa and Spurs (especially when they get a defence fit again) are all going to be there or there abouts.

    I think with Man City and Villa especially, the steel is there to break through - and with the likes of Liverpool, Arsenal and Man Utd, there appears to be a soft core which hasn't been present for a few years.

    As a league 2 club supporter, so a complete neutral, I find this makes the Premiership far more exciting....

  • Comment number 59.

    A huge mistake is made here. For City to break the top 4 not only will they have to have a current squatter drop out, but they will jhave to beat Spurs to it as well.

    I know the usual return comments already, but Spurs have been impressive with a depleted back four and without Modric. Spurs have played Liverpool, United and Chelsea and have 3 points, City have played Arsenal and United and have 3 points. But Spurs' other games have been far tougher.

    The game between the two on 15th December will be a big point of the season, with City playing Chelsea 2 weeks earlier.

    Oh, and a look at City's run in might give Phil a bit of persepctive.

  • Comment number 60.

    @ post no. 36: Quality on the bench could be Walcott, Bendtner, Eboue, Vela and Ramsey for example. And that with Nasri, Denilson and Eduardo not even in the squad.

  • Comment number 61.

    At 09:54am on 06 Oct 2009, PaulnJess wrote:
    Where as united have played Burnley and lost.
    Played Sunderland at home and dropped points.
    We lost to Suprs away & Villa & Chelsea away all very good teams capable of beating any side when they play well can the same be said about Burnley?
    Bside Villa at home not many teams would be too diheartned to lose against Chelsea and Spurs away.
    Our problem last year was not beating the lower teams like United so far, yet we beat all the big boys, so maybe this season now we can kill off the lower teams its our season.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Burnley have played 4 won 4 at Turf Moore, to suggest that they aren't a side capable of beating any side when they play well is seeming a little naive at the moment.

    Of course they will drop points but they are doing what they need to do as newly promoted side, you only need 30-40 points to survive and so they can afford to lose every away game with their home form so good.

    Last season Liverpool drew too many games, and so I admire the fact that they are chasing a win when drawing, or looking to kill the game when winning, as opposed to last season when they sat back and ended with a draw. As Benitez rightly says (I feel dirty now) losing more games than you did in the entire of last season at this stage is not a problem if all the draws of last season are converted to wins.

    United have started this season better than the previous 3 which should be a concern for the rest of the league, however; I still cannot see past Chelsea for the title this season. As has been mentioned United are weaker, there is no doubt about it, but I would say the squad is still more able over the 38 games than either of Liverpool's or Arsenal's. United's first choice (if there is such a thing) centre midfield pairing is weaker than Liverpool (assuming Mascherano and Gerrard) and maybe worse than Arsenal, but there is serious depth.

    1. Chelsea
    2. United
    3. Liverpool

    Is my shout, and if there is an English team in the Champions League final this season, I don't think it will be United, a step to far.

  • Comment number 62.

    Dunne .v. Adebayor and celebrations. I note that you do NOT note that no City fans were chanting songs at Dunney claiming his mother to be a whore. Or indeed, throwing bananas at him, as Arsenal fans did at Eastlands. I thought that had died out in the 70s.

    ---

    That didn't happen, by the way.

  • Comment number 63.

    I agree with your comments that the current Big 4 should make sure not to make any major slips this year or they risk missing out on the champions league and for a club like Arsenal the loss of this revenue could have huge knock on effects for the club.

  • Comment number 64.

    I would like to say I agree with your comments and that the Big 4 face their biggest threat since their formation of the last ten years. Also does anyone thin the Spurs in time could also threaten these clubs?

    Alan Harrison
    http://alansfootballblog.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 65.

    It's funny... before the match, the broadcaster in question was showing Chelsea vs City from '78 on its' "classic" channel, and the similarities were quite striking...

    Chelsea's best players, Bonetti and Harris were getting pretty long in the tooth... The England manager (Dave Sexton) was in the stands watching on... and City had a pretty good team chock full of internationals.

    This result? Chelsea 1 Man City 4 :o)

    Oh, and Ray Wilkins still had a full head of hair!

  • Comment number 66.

    Man City will never have a better opportunity to break into Champions League qualification and if the other challenging teams keep their act together then more than 1 of the original top four could find themselves in trouble.

    ManU – despite claims to the contrary they have not managed to solve the issue of the departed Ronaldo and will miss his goals, the January transfer window will show if funds are not an issue, Ferdinand’s back problems, Scholes’ disciplinary record, Ben Foster, constantly changing midfield.

    Liverpool – funds are an issue, Benitez’s reluctance to employ the same all out attacking tactics Liverpool successfully turned to last season, the loss of Alonso.

    Chelsea – an aging squad, Terry’s back problems, loss of important players to the African Nations Cup and possible exclusion from transfer dealing for one or more windows.

    Arsenal – the loss of two important players to the African Nations Cup, Fabregas’ tendency to pick up injuries, inability to handle physical teams, the traditional seasonal implosion.

    Yes things could be looking rosy for City this season especially if they successfully strengthen their squad in January.

  • Comment number 67.

    # 24
    what arrogance.........what arrogance. so players like nani, anderson, hargreaves and berbatov not even fit to wipe torres's boots? and thats why they play for one of the biggest clubs in the world and have multiple BPL medals around thier necks that your barbie doll torres will buy for whatever it costs. if you were simply trying to defend liverpool, fine. but why belittle champion players? your squad is full of players who are technically, mentally inferior than these players but united supporters dont go around on boards throwing insults like you.

    and as for who will be replaced by city in top 4, it will be between arsenal and liverpool for all the reasons people have given in this board. whether u like it or not.

  • Comment number 68.

    @ 57, yes you're right there.

    This season is certainly shaping up to be a good one though.

    The way I see it in respect of the teams compared to last year:

    Chelsea: Same (Drgoba & Anekla looks strong but the ACN could throw a spanner in the works)
    Man U: Weaker
    Arsenal: Same (Playing differently this year)
    Liverpoll: Weaker
    Man city: Stronger
    Spurs: Stronger
    Villa: Same

  • Comment number 69.

    United are still strong, but they are clearly weaker than last year without Ronaldo and to a lesser extent Tevez.

    Last season looks like a high water mark for Liverpool: no Alonso this year, their bench still looks thin, and Torres and Carragher are hardly at their best. They look very vulnerable to being knocked out of the top 4.

    Chelsea look efficient as ever. But they are very reliant on a couple of key players, some of whom they will lose to the African Nations Cup. Plus they are more likely to lose players to injury given the age of their squad. And their priority seems to the Champions League.

    Arsenal continue to play the beautiful game, but losses against both Manchester sides suggest they will probably continue to flatter to deceive. And their squad is wafer thin in places too.

    So why cant City win it? The key thing for them is to be in touch in January, which it looks like they will be, for two reasons.

    First, if they look like they are odds on for Champions League football it will be much easier to sign top players. They need to spend big in the transfer window -- this time on 1 or 2 superstars, rather than 5-6 good players. There should be little competition for that sort of player in the January window (other big clubs in the champions league will not want to sign players who almost inevitably will already be at a big club and will be cup tied).

    Second, from that point on they are at a big advantage: City wont have to juggle knock out games in the Champions League which the others will.

  • Comment number 70.

    """""I agree with your comments that the current Big 4 should make sure not to make any major slips this year or they risk missing out on the champions league and for a club like Arsenal the loss of this revenue could have huge knock on effects for the club."""""


    Try and keep up please. Not qualifying for the Champions League would effect all clubs. As for Arsenal do a quick google on Arsenal and profits or even operating revenue.

  • Comment number 71.

    City are a threat but not to Arsenal.

    Arsenal have most depth in attacking players, they will outscore anyone else in the league. Please check the squads of the teams to see who lacks depth in this department, thats UTD and Liverpool. But UTD have a strong defence unlike Liverpool's

    Also notice last season Liverpool and Arsenal had the best record against the other big 4 teams. What difference does that make to winning the title, none, its the consistency against the smaller teams. Arsenal look like they could give a beating to them all.

    City looked more determined to win the match, but as a Gooner I can tell you Kolo doesn't like the high balls, thats why he Gallas + Kolo never worked, but despite Lescott's height he isn't comfortable playing with Kolo.

    City can make the top 4, but when Adebayor hits his comfort zone, and with Tevez doing evreything but score, things will get a bit spicy at for City and we'll see how they react.

  • Comment number 72.

    In response to confirmme. he is right to defend City's "poor" defensive record. A look at the league table shows the best defences as:- Chelsea-6, Villa-6, City, Utd, Birmingham-8,
    I know facts aren't as reliable as blinkered opinion, but there you are.

  • Comment number 73.

    People here look at results to much. Yes, Arsenal both matches in Manchester, but there were lots of positives to take from these matches. A really good chance of getting a win against both teams at home. Liverpool, however, have also played poorly in defeat. This is a problem, definately a lot of pressure on Aquilani. Also Utd haven't been that brilliant. They were lucky (referee) against Arsenal and needed a very late goal against City, although they did deserve the win there. Chelsea are looking really good so far I have to admit, real challengers.

    Villa for me have not improved compared to last season, where there competitors (Spurs and City) have. No top 4 challengers there.

  • Comment number 74.

    rednrocknroll doesn't seem to know which league his team play in. What's a BPL medal? Does he mean EPL?

  • Comment number 75.

    BTW, United fans - Sir Uncouth said we had had a soft start to the season.

    Compared to yours?

    Birmingham
    Burnley
    Wigan
    Arsenal
    Spurs
    City
    Wolves
    Stoke
    Sunderland

    Yeah, right...

  • Comment number 76.

    To SoxSexSax..."if Woodgate and Dawson stay fit." You've hit the nail on the head there. Two fine players but really troubled by injuries, as is that other outstanding defender Ledley King. This will be at the root of any troubles Spurs have.

    Spurs have some very gifted players, that's for sure, but Manchester City have the not-so-secret weapon of being able to blow almost anyone out of the water in January should they so wish.

    If City are in and around that group come January, I expect them to launch a major attack on the transfer market.

    Some good posts about goal celebrations. Richard Dunne followed Carlos Tevez in refusing to celebrate against his former club - and they deserve credit for that.

    But does anyone out there think we are in danger of taking this too far? Surely there is a middle ground between refusing to celebrate and going to the other extreme Adebayor-style?

    Much as I admire it, I find it very odd to see a player not celebrating a goal. As Martin O'Neill told us last night: "I didn't see Dunne not celebrating - I was too busy celebrating."

    croydonrich seems to suggest City can win the title. Not my view this, but what do you think, especially City fans?

    My opinion is that City fans will be elated with a place in the top four. What do fans of City and others feel on this one?

    And come on Villa fans. Let's hear your views on your team's aspirations this season.

  • Comment number 77.

    I have to disagree with the majority of points made in the article. If Manchester City don't finish in the top four this season, it would be on the head of Mark Hughes alone, as any manager with a shred of tactical intelligence would be able to beat the world with the squad and funds that Manchester City have availible.
    Last night answered very few questions as to if either team can break into the "top four" as they matched is each in most departments. Now, compare the value of the two squads, compare them man for man, compare the benches, compare the owners. It is obvious that if City had any REAL ambition of success in the near future, they should have won comfortably. Evidence of this, if any needed, is that at around about the same time in the game, both teams made substutions. Manchester City replaced the undoubtedly world class Carlos Tevez with another pure quality striker in Santa Cruz and then brought on yet another in Stephen Ireland. If fans and pundits talk about "twenty goals a season men" Man City should have 100 goals come May when you combine Adebayor, Tevez, Bellamy, Ireland and Santa Cruz. Villa, on the other hand, brought on Emile Heskey, a "striker" from whom goals are rarer than hens teeth. Man City had a bench that oozed class, whilst Villa's oozed mediocrity. Yet still, it was Villa who dominated for long periods, particularly in the first half. It was Villa who had clear cut chance after clear cut chance, only to be denied by a mixture of good defending and questionable finishing.
    The season is young, but Villa have played just one game against the "big four" and taken three points. City have taken the same amount from two games and whilst I don't like to read into this statistic too much as it says very little, there's no denying that Man City AND Villa are both very similair in terms of the quality of football played as a team, last night only goes to prove that. Manchester City will be able to break the top four, but I could lead them to it, a blank cheque from the men upstair and the abilty to attract the interest of pretty much every player in the world should surely be enough to guarentee a fourth place finish.
    To say, however, that "Man City looked Top 4, Villa looked top 6" is as quoted by many earlier, pure lazy journalism. Last night showed two teams to be completely equal in footballing ability, but that's where the equality ends. One club has spent over £200 million, the other who've not been short of cash, but have not had the freedom to buy whoever they please from whoever please.
    Of course Man City should "break the top four", it almost goes without saying, and whilst January will strengthen the Man City roster even further, on the evidence of last night, if City are candidates, Villa are just as (if not slightly more) likely, if only for now, to gatecrash the premier league's elite.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    37. At 10:06am on 06 Oct 2009, JeremyP wrote:
    Dunne .v. Adebayor and celebrations. I note that you do NOT note that no City fans were chanting songs at Dunney claiming his mother to be a whore. Or indeed, throwing bananas at him, as Arsenal fans did at Eastlands. I thought that had died out in the 70s.

    Throwing bananas???? did you actually watch this game?

    Nothing like that happened at all. Get your facts right before talking garbage

  • Comment number 80.

    At the moment Liverpool look the most vulnerable but, let's be honest, all this talk of the "Big Four" is rubbish. It is quite clearly a "Big Five" now thanks to Citeh. They have just as good a chance as any of the others to win the prem. Money talks if you have the right manager (look at Blackburn when they won it aftr a big spend and Chelski with Mourinho). What have citeh spent - £200m??

    Both Liverpool and Man U don't look anywhere near as good as they did last season and, what with the added distraction of the champs league, "a lack of experience" is just a convinient excuse for Hughes and others. Look at the players they have - Tevez has won the prem, Bridge and Wright-Phillips have won it, Adebyor and Toure played at the top with Arsenal, Barry and Given very experienced in the prem.

    Sorry guys, but anything other than pushing close for first/second is a failure.

    Agreed, Chelski look the strongest by far at the mo, but apart from them Citeh should really be up there.

    PS - and Lescott will come good (but he's not worth 24m!)

  • Comment number 81.

    Man City looked short of ideas last night, against a stout defensive minded Villa, if MON had substituted a clearly injured Young earlier they would have won the game IMO, at home city will be a difficult proposition away from home i wouldnt worry too much and i'm sure that string defensive minded teams like Chelsea and Liverpool will beat them home and away, as an Arsenal supporter i would always back Arsenal and this season they do look good and i predict will win the league

  • Comment number 82.

    City have taken a lot of unjust flak in my eyes for coming into a lot of money all at once. The reality is the only difference betweeen United and City (for example) is that United have spent money over time and City have spent it all at once. I don't think that's something to be upset about at all. You can say it inflates the market, but only if clubs decide to pay the higher asking prices, and I find it difficult to believe that City's transfer dealings make an impact on brokering between West Ham and Sunderland, for example. I very much suscribe to the idea that more teams challenging for the title makes the league a better place. It doesn't really matter to me how they build the squads to do this.

    A top 4 place is not a certainty by a long way. But I do expect that, unless Liverpool pick up after the torrid week they've had, that City will take their spot. They have good depth, especially in attack (something United and Liverpool are lacking this season), but they have an obvious weakness defensively. If Toure and Lescott can pick up their game and learn to play together with Given in goal, City should stop leaking goals and will present a serious threat. People need to stop bashing them and judge them on their results...just like everyone else.

  • Comment number 83.

    @JeremyP (post 37) "Or indeed, throwing bananas at him, as Arsenal fans did at Eastlands. "

    Ah, you mean as Adebayor claimed. Yet there was no photo or video footage, and no bananas were recovered from the ground.

  • Comment number 84.

    Its interesting that fans of the Sky 4 are generally of the opinion the "pretenders" will fall away but I am not so sure.
    Just because they are big name clubs that doesnt mean they will sit on their perch’s for ever and a day, factors that I think will come into play this season and in the next few are, the Sky 4 are skint, they have big income's and obviously the CL generates big bucks but they are still massively in debt, by contrast Villa, City and Spurs dont have the same burden but do have that magic potential. Villa in Birmingham, Englands second city have huge potential, Spurs in London, do I need to say more apart from not moving to a new stadium is actually a good thing because of the debt it incurs, City have it all, money, stadium, cult following on the basis that they are not you know who. I can see within five years at least two of the Sky 4 losing their places and City, Spurs and Villa are best placed to gate crash.

    It may not happen this season but remember whilst the Sky 4 will be battling out in Europe, the "pretenders" will have their feet up watching Corrie and in the last few draining months that could make the difference. Ta.

  • Comment number 85.

    RE: 66. At 11:00am on 06 Oct 2009, iknowwhatilike

    City will lose Adebayor and Toure to the African cup of nations, its not Arsenal.

    Chelsea look ok

    United will miss his goals but are tighter as a unit, if you dont concede as many you dont need to score so many. We still arent bereft of goals.

    City may just squeeze in the top four over the next year or so... but only 11 players can play at any one time and there are not always the players out there to strengthen the team I think it will be a fair few years until they win this league and it will then depend on the board as to if they have the patience to keep hughes on for that amount of time. If they dont then comes the turmoil.

    Bottom line is that a 1-1 draw against Villa is more of a glowing reference to O'Neils work than Hughes'.

  • Comment number 86.

    About the Adebayor/Dunne clebrations.
    I personally love the tension and passion between fans and players.
    When Adebayor celebrated his goal the way he did I couldn't help but laugh. It's what football is about the rivalry, the passion the winding the other up.
    I rememeber being at anfield when we'd been calling roon a fat b*****d, then he scored and he ran towards the liverpool fans with his cheeks puffed out asif to say so what.

    It's show boating, creates villains and heroes everything you need for a good show.

  • Comment number 87.

    Agree that the concept of the article is outdated since we have been talking about City as a top four team since the big take over. As with Chelsea when the Russian money came flooding in, there is an inevitability about it - granted, Chelsea were a bit further down the progression line that we were - but not by a great deal.
    Its a tough one to call who will drop out of the top 4 if indeed we break into it, as there is a case for all of them, so Im not going to enter that guessing game at this early stage. I think we should celebrate the fact that its not going to be a 2 horse race this year and that, quite conceivably there will be 4 or even 5 horses going into the home straight in contention for the title this time around, which is great for what is now the most watched domestic football competition on the planet.

    As for us winning the title, Im not going to boldly put us in the frame - not yet anyway.
    I will though provide the following reasons why we shouldn~t be written off...

    * No champions league football unlike the other, main contenders.
    * We did not sell the best player in the world last year, unlike many peoples favourites, Utd.
    * We dont have a transfer ban. On the contrary, it is likely we will be VERY active in the market, especially if we remain in contention in January.
    * We are not a 2 man team.
    * We have a core of British players who are used to the demands of this league and are very unlikely to go hiding when the cold weather bites, as Arsenal have done in recent years.

    So, plenty of reasons to be optimistic for this season. It is the most open season for some time, as already we are seeing big teams slip up against each other and against so called smaller teams.

    So, lets get over the fact that the established order is under threat and enjoy it - I intend to!!

    Im writing on a foreign keyboard and cant suss out the apostrophes!

  • Comment number 88.

    As a Liverpool fan, I'm obviously looking over my shoulder but overall it makes things a lot more exciting.

    Fair play to City, Villa and Spurs for that. Its good for football.

    I still think there's a lot more from Liverpool - the team can play a lot better than it is now - but if we don't produce it, then football should be about facing consequences.

    It'll narrow the gap too that the Big 4 have to allow for maybe not qualifying.

    I can only hope if Liverpool lose out, it doesn't crucify us rather than kick us.

    In terms of uneven spending power, we are not the biggest monsters.

  • Comment number 89.

    It will be a pretty disgraceful performance if Man City DON'T break in to the top 4. Man Utd and Liverpool are looking very workmanlike at the minute and lack the spark of magic they both could produce last year. Arsenal ship too many goals. That's three spaces up for grabs if City can put together a long list of good results.

    And for the last time, Adebayor broke the fragile covenant between fans and players while he was at Arsenal, it was not the other way around.

  • Comment number 90.

    Good to see stereotypes keep coming" arsenal always stutter come the winter" excellent would that be the arsenal that went unbeaten in the premiership last season from November to april, wonderfull insight there.

  • Comment number 91.

    There was nothing in last night's display to suggest that City are more ambitious than Spurs for instance. In the second half, Villa showed too much respect for City, who were there for the taking all night long. Perhaps that was due to the injury to A. Young. Villa were clearly happy to hold the ball and take a draw in the dying minutes and they won't be a threat to the top 4 with such a lack of ambition.

    City were slower than at OT; that's due to Ade's lazy back passes which are never on the floor. Ade used to take the zip out of the Arsenal game and put pressure on his own defence with these lazy looped & often misplaced back passes and that feature has not disappeared. He was very quiet last night. The City euphoria will die down once they lose a few games to non-big four teams. Besides, there is guaranteed to be dressing room unrest when Robinho returns, someone like Tevez will have to give way & how is he going to take it on the bench? If they don't break into the top 4 this season, and they have a good chance due to the advantage of not being distracted by the champions league, then they will never get another opportunity. The elitists would put protective measures in place to guarantee their champions league places without spending much. And despite the zillions, City would not be able to poach hig profile stars because of the lack of CL football.

    Onto the academic argument about who might drop from the establishment, one has to worry about Liverpool. They have no match winners on the bench and they have already lost 2 games in which they should maybe have done better. RB's decision to leave Benayoun on the bench at SB was puzzling, given the lack of mobility of the Chelsea defence. However, Rafa is a man of means and if he attacks teams like he did end of last season, it's hard to see Liverpool dropping out

    The gunners are a much bigger threat this year, with cover almost everywhere, and with the spine of Vermaleen, Fabregas & Arshavin probably have more quality in their first eleven than anyone else in the prem league. They could concede less by being less gungho & pegging back Clichy & Sagna. They are still close points-wise despite having lost 2 games that one would expect everyone else to lose / draw. However, they have a worrying sequence of fixtures late Jan / early feb which involve Bolton (A), Villa (A), Man Utd (H), Chelsea (A), Liverpool(H) - that could make or break their season.

    There are no clear trends emerging from Man Utd as yet, but they seem to be labouring for their wins much more than ever, relying on Giggs, a dose of luck and the controversial refereeing decision. The january window will tell us what Fergie really thinks about the departure of CR7. Chelsea are a powerful side but seem to stutter whenever Drogba is not playing; they have the muscle but I am not convinced they have enough quality to be clear winners. Drogba's fitness and absence to the ACN could prove critical, esp given Lampard's dramatic drop in form. So far, Chelsea have won games that everyone expected them to win; both Chelsea and Man Utd have not had a testing away fixture as yet.

  • Comment number 92.

    #74

    only if you bothered to do a bit of a research. because the league that my team plays in is officially BPL- Barclays Premier League.

    #78

    now that has made it clear that you were not trying to deefend liverpool but insult united. and "not fit to wipe torres's boots" is not a fact to which i objected. and that is fact. as far as united fans are concerned, tell me which number post contains an insult to any player apart from yours.
    and you worry about your team rather than united. they have always been there and will be there no matter what the situation is which player has left the club. you don't seems to be worried for liverpool it looks.



  • Comment number 93.

    " It was an impressive display of resources and the fear for any team teetering in the top four is that City have limitless financial firepower to add in January if they are in touching distance. "

    But who exactly is available ? i do not hear ( as yet ) any players wishing to move to other clubs, with the exception of Hull City.

    my prediction and wager Hughes's would be out of work after 10 games is now looking suspect, seems even i get things wrong ocaasionaly.

    However, I do not think City will be top 4 come the end of the day, and i also feel Hughes's will be given his marching orders ( ive just had to revise when this will be ) so to be safe and certain ive gone for the closed season.

    In all seriousness its to hard to call who out of Man u and Chelsea will loose thier top four status as so far the games invloving both these two sides have been considerably influenced by outside sources.

    Which brings me nicely onto...

    The way things are going this season the men in black will have more than a cursory affect upon the winners and losers and for this reason its becomming more of a lottery when it comes to winning and loosing and this is having a detremental affect on the game as a whole.

    and this fixation of breaking up what some percieve as the elite whilst understandable, could lead to some very very dodgy decision making, but who will be the ultimate victims? for this clamour for change.

    Up the Gunners.


    Shine On.

  • Comment number 94.

    We have a core of British players who are used to the demands of this league and are very unlikely to go hiding when the cold weather bites, as Arsenal have done in recent years.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    that statement is so bad I don't know where to start.
    gallas has played in the premiership for 8 years
    cesc has been at arsenal for 7 years
    add that to clichy who has been around for 6 and rvp 5 years, all playing for teams who has consistently been up in CL places and challenging and I can safely assume they are used to the demands of this league.

    compare them to man city, who have had players who have been floating around in mid table such as lescott, bellamy, richards, barry and even to an extent given, although he has proved himself in a poor team for many seasons and I don't see how you can make the statement above.
    thats your british core, the rest are all foreign, most of who have not challenged or been near challenging for the EPL, minus toure, ade and tevez. santa cruz is average at best, robinho bottles big games, and i have yet to see de jong justify the price tags.

    some of the best and most consistent players are foreign, to say a team needs a british core is rubbish.

  • Comment number 95.

    on the subject of goal celebrations.

    I think they were showing how real professional players should behave. and full marks to both of them to.

    as there was only 2 scored, one by each team so not much to celebrate i suppose.

    now then,

    Six is defo worth celebrateing (wink wink )

  • Comment number 96.

    Its true City should be in the top 4, without doubt, the money they have! Liverpool wont be, no squad to talk of. As the season go on City should be fighting for top spot. Except for the fact (as O'Neil showed last night) Money cant buy you everything. Nor will it.


  • Comment number 97.

    " I agree with your comments that the current Big 4 should make sure not to make any major slips this year or they risk missing out on the champions league and for a club like Arsenal the loss of this revenue could have huge knock on effects for the club. "


    Utter Nonesense!

    Know a lot about Arsenal?

    Not.

  • Comment number 98.

    liverpool for me are the most likely team to drop out if anybody were to finish outside the top four.
    but isn't the premier league so exciting this season! you have about 7 or 8 teams who all have ambitions of finishing in the top four. obviously im talking about the big 4, spurs, everton, vila and man city. over the years, everton have done this then fallen away, spurs narrowly missed out on the final day a couple of season ago and villa threatened right to the wire last season. with teams like burnley, wigan, sunderland etc all also taking points of the big four, this season is going to be a lot closer at the top then ever before.

    although, it may be closer than ever, but the big four will still finish as the big four, just because they have the experience and bottle at the final straight.

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    Its hardly worth bothering mentioning this as it will fall on deaf ears but utd won the title last season after losing to most of the rest of the top 4 and city and fulham amongst others. Liverpool are getting used to not having a key player and waiting for a new signing to get in the starting line-up...how this equates to us being the favourites to drop out of the top 4 I don't know. We have lost to Chelsea true, but have yet to play utd, City or Arsenal. Arsenal lost by a long way to City and City only just lost to Man utd. Arsenal are clearly the favourites to drop out of the top 4 if this line of reasoning is pursued. Especially as Wenger has failed again to strengthen in central midfield and the defence isn't quite working. Blackburn got 2 away and should have had 3 if the pen was given! Blackburn the legendary team of attacking footballers and goal scoring record breakers. Give me a break.

    I think City will get in the top 3 never mind the top 4. I think we will carry on hammering the minnows, like utd did last season and will improve against the other teams in the big 4, utd will stop getting lucky and are already over reliant on Giggs (who can't play every game)and Rooney (increasingly frustrated with lack of service) and Chelsea will struggle without any fresh players (tranfer ban)when some of their players get injured/go off to the Afican Cup of nations. I think the title is between Chelsea, us and Man City.

 

Page 1 of 3

BBC iD

Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.