City have been so quietly efficient of late that it has been easy to miss them coming up on the rails in a fascinating title race — and that’s how Guardiola will like it.
No noise is good news for the City boss, but it’s getting harder to operate under the radar with each passing match. City are unbeaten in 15 games in all competitions since losing to Tottenham on November 21, winning 12 in total and eight in a row while conceding just three goals.
Another win at home to Aston Villa tomorrow night would see them go top of the table, possibly only for a couple of hours before Manchester United face Fulham later in the evening.It has been an impressive turnaround for City and a testament to Guardiola that they are now favourites with the bookies for the title.
Like United, City had a more difficult start than most after playing in Europe in August and kicking off the new campaign a week later without the benefit of a pre-season.
Injuries and international breaks further disrupted early momentum and that was reflected in performances and results.
Guardiola tried to ease the problem by tweaking his tactics. He asked his players to stay in position rather than wasting energy on the pressing game they are used to. City have found a way to sit back more without losing any of their attacking verve.
‘We were running too much,’ said Guardiola last week.
‘Without the ball you have to run. But with the football you have to walk, or run much less.
“City are more comfortable with the new approach now and are starting to hit their stride. Defence has been key to the resurgence and, in particular, the partnership between Ruben Dias and John Stones. It has come at the expense of Aymeric Laporte, who appears to have carried the can for the Spurs defeat and has only been seen twice since — though he has been injured.
New £61,2million signing Dias has taken over as the main man and Stones has resurrected his City career alongside him. In 10 games together, they have won nine, drawn once and conceded just one goal.
Stones ended a three-year goal drought against United in the Carabao Cup before scoring his first Premier League goals for City against Crystal Palace on Sunday after four-and-a-half years at the Etihad. ‘A lot of credit to Ruben,’ he said afterwards.
‘It’s been great for me to play alongside him — we’ve just clicked.’
Whatever problems City have faced in the first half of the season, they have always been able to rely on the mercurial talents of Kevin De Bruyne. — The Daily Mail.