Where have Manchester City got it right in pursuit of Jose Mourinho and Chelsea?
Like an expert fisherman on Manchester’s River Irwell, Manuel Pellegrini has been gradually reeling in Premier League leaders Chelsea over the past month.
The two clubs were briefly level on points at the weekend before Chelsea’s win over Stoke City on Monday night, but a mental wall has been knocked down: Chelsea can be caught.
The question is: what have Manchester City done right over the past month? Or is it more pertinent to ask what Chelsea have done wrong?
With City only winning two of their first five Premier League matches while Chelsea went on an impressive unbeaten run, the gap that opened up between them - five points by September 13 and eight by November 8 - always somewhat exaggerated the difference in quality.
The first four months can also be seen as a tale of two strikers, with Chelsea’s Diego Costa making an explosive start which looked unlikely to last.
By September 13 he had struck seven times, four more than City’s striking talisman Sergio Aguero. By October 19, the Argentinian had drawn level and by December 8 he had a three-goal lead as Costa struggled with hamstring and groin injuries.
Chelsea and Costa have reverted back to an excellent team from the immortals they appeared to be early in the season. City, meanwhile, look more like the title-winning side of last term, even shorn of Aguero’s services as he fell victim to his own injury curse.
The result is that the two teams are now nearly side by side on most important measures.
Chelsea have a slight advantage in goals scored (two more) and goals against (one fewer) while City have taken more shots (by 18), have struck the woodwork twice as often (eight times to Chelsea’s four) and won more corners (111 to 106).
With such fine margins, the three points on offer from the clash between these two at Stamford Bridge in January could well decide the destination of the league title.
Published: December 26, 2014 04:00 AM