It's still claimed, sometimes, that Sergio Aguero's famous winner against Queens Park Rangers to win Manchester City the title was one of the most dramatic title races of all time. This, obviously is false.
Comparisons were made to Manchester United lost, their rivals contriving to stumble in several of the crucial games in the run-in.' winner at Anfield, but that was, well, a winner at Anfield. A victory over their nearest rivals and a great side, not limping over the line against relegation fodder thanks to some dodgy goalkeeping. It was certainly dramatic, but then the bonkers Championship finale the following year thoroughly outdid it in those stakes too. Above all though, there was the feeling that it was a title which Manchester City didn't win, but rather
Great title races, of course, need two or more great teams, otherwise it becomes either a procession or a comedy of errors. Nobody doubted that City had a great team and a great squad, but they could never seem to get the best out of them, a running theme in the Premier League in recent years as great players become more plentiful than at any point in English football history, yet teams worthy of them become increasingly scarce.
Then there was last year, where they didn't so much not get out of second gear as spend half the season rummaging around in the glove compartment for the de-icer, failing to get any real form out of individuals or partnerships that could inspire one of the runs needed to mount a convincing title challenge.
This season, things are different. Sergio Aguero has returned to looking like a genuinely world-class striker, and if he continues his form until May, will be considered in the top tier in hisposition along with Robin van Persie, Falcao, and Edinson Cavani. David Silva appears reborn, and even the rather underwhelming additions like Alvaro Negredo are playing a huge part.
City's top level, which they've shown by handing out thrashings to Norwich City and CSKA Moscow in their last two games, is the highest in the league. The reasons are obvious - their team is the least flawed. They have a problem of only having Javi Garcia as a true defensive midfielder, which cost them in their defeat to Chelsea, and probably will in other big games too. But unlike José Mourinho's men and their cross-city rivals, they have a functioning midfield. Unlike Arsenal, their defence is reliable and likely to remain so for the rest of the season. Unlike Liverpool, they're... well, they're not Liverpool.
City will be pushed far harder by the rest of their title rivals than they really should be given the amount of money spent, but Manuel Pellegrini appears to be finding the team's groove. If this is the start of a large run, then it could well put City in a commanding lead by Christmas. Arsenal, for all their early success, simply have a significantly inferior squad, and common sense dictates they won't be able to keep up in a war of attrition. As for Chelsea and United, the defeats have been too random, too inexplicable, even moreso than City against Cardiff, to believe they can do the same anytime soon.
The fact that City have the best squad, the best team, and the highest upper level in the league is not something unexpected, or something we were unaware of. Replacing Roberto Mancini with a real manager will also give them a huge boost,but their respective records at Real Madrid suggest that Pellegrini is no Mourinho. In Spain, the Chilean did well, getting his side to play more or less the football that was expected of them but disappointing in big games.
It seems that at Manchester City, he's embarked upon the same path. The difference is that there is no Barcelona in the Premier League at the moment. There's barely even an Atletico Madrid. The best league in the world, once again, seems likely to be up for grabs for the least worst team in it.