Cook: City must learn as they go

Chief executive insists recent dip in form is part and parcel of big-time football and agrees with manager Hughes that the team is developing.

The Manchester City manager Mark Hughes is happy with his side's form so far this season.
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Having burst out of the Premier League blocks with four straight victories, Manchester City's chief executive Garry Cook has admitted the club's recent dip in form - Mark Hughes' side have drawn their last four league games - is all part and parcel of City's gradual development.

"There's always challenges, there isn't a football club that doesn't have them," said Cook. "You always want to outperform everybody and win every game, but it doesn't work like that. Overall, we are quite pleased with progress." While City have only been beaten once this season, a 4-3 away defeat to neighbours Manchester United, a recent sequence of draws has taken the shine off the club's commanding early-season displays as they lie sixth in the table, 10 points off leaders Chelsea.

But Cook, citing the new arrivals' promising performances as they integrate into a fresh set-up, believes there are numerous reasons to be optimistic. "Mark feels the team are developing and you can only hope that it continues," said Cook. "It's going to take a while because there are lots of new players; we've only played 11 league games together as a team and Mark seems happy with it. "You can never predict football, every game has its twists and turns and the pressure is never off," added Cook. "Sport has winners and losers, without those, it's not sport. Every decision you make, whether its the coach, the CEO, or a club executive, it has high risks and big upsides and downsides - there doesn't seem to be any grey area."

The City chief pointed to the team's successful run to the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup - they play Arsenal at Eastlands on December 2 - as evidence of growing confidence in Hughes's expensively assembled squad. "There was a buzz about the place when we played Arsenal [in the league] and everybody's expectations and anticipations were high, but we got disjointed a little bit there," said Cook. "We lost Adebayor for a little bit [to suspension] and then international games broke our momentum up.

" Since then, we've had a couple of games where we thought we could have probably come away with a better result, but that's the way it works." Whatever the result against the UAE tomorrow night at Zayed Sports City, City will need to arrest a worrying run of form for the clash against Liverpool at Anfield on November 21. It is a game which could have considerable consequences on the loser's hopes of Champions League football next term - a win would galvanise both team's flagging campaigns. Despite the pressure, Cook remained defiant that expectations at Eastlands were already being exceeded.

"If someone had said at the beginning of the season that we'd be fourth after 10 league games and in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup, we'd have taken it. We're glad to be in amongst them," he said. "We have gone through many years at the football club where survival has been the order of the day. "Today, it's about success, but at the same time, it should always be City's ambition to be successful."