Manchester City almost back to their best

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It was inevitable. When Samir Nasri twisted and turned on the left hand side of the penalty area, he needed someone finish a sweeping move, he needed a poacher.

With talisman Sergio Aguero out injured, City needed someone to step in. It was no surprise therefore when Frank Lampard did what Frank Lampard does best - arriving in the right place at the right time to slot in his 175th Premier League goal and secure three vital points to make sure City stay in touch with pace-setters Chelsea.

It was typical Lampard. It was typical City.

Vintage Lampard

Lampard's goal not only took him level with the great Thierry Henry on the Premier League scoring charts, but it was also his sixth goal this season, behind the outstanding Aguero.

It also paved way to several doubts as to whether or not Chelsea should have kept the legendary midfielder on for another season. And considering how well the Blues are faring this campaign, they could have been even more ominous with Lampard's poaching instincts still lighting up Stamford Bridge. Instead, City snatched him. And what a bargain it looks to be.

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Lampard's arrival was in the mist of a questionable summer transfer window for the two-time Premier League champions. £32 million defender Eliaquim Mangala, despite some comforting displays in recent weeks, has proven to be shaky at the back and has struggled to adapt to Premier League life so far.

£12 million powerhouse midfielder Fernando has not fared much better and free signing Bacary Sagna has failed to nail down a staring spot. City's summer business raised questions.


City's start to this season showed that, much like in their 2012/13 defence, their summer business after winning the title would prove to be their downfall yet again.

City's Champions League frailties made their usual appearance, with them taking just two points from their first four group games which included a 2-0 lead thrown away in Moscow and then faring even worse in the return fixture as Seydou Doumbia tormented the defence in a 2-1 win for CSKA. 

The start a second defence of a Premier League crown perhaps provided more cause for concern for City fans. Home defeats to Stoke City and Newcastle (League Cup), as well as a damaging defeat at Upton Park not only highlighted City's weakness at the back, but also underlined the reliance on Aguero, whose injury record is not one to be admired.

Yet amid all the doom and gloom, Man City are three points off league leaders Chelsea, who have gained so many plaudits this campaign. Not only that, but they are in the last 16 of a competition that has provided more depression than elation for their fans over recent seasons.

Football is a funny old game. Whether manager, player or even a member of the coaching staff, it is so easy to go from zero to hero or vice-versa. City fans know this only too well. Perhaps it's the huge expectation that is on the players and the manager's shoulders every time they set foot on the pitch.

They know that, considering the hundreds of millions of pounds spent, they have to perform. When City do perform nowadays, it largely goes unnoticed, which is probably a good thing. When they lose however, both Manuel Pellegrini and the City players know what is coming their way.


This is perhaps why Man City need to keep this momentum of seven wins in seven games going. Not only because they have to keep up with the ruthless form of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea, but because they need to stay out of the spotlight. More wins equals less scrutiny and criticism.

So if you ask manager Pellegrini how City can keep this momentum going, it is in all likelihood that he will speak the obvious.

It is imperative for the club that top scorer Aguero stays fit. With his brilliance at the helm, City will feel that they can beat anyone on their day - as shown in the stunning 3-2 comeback win against Bayern Munich.

But therein lies the problem - City being on their day. One would argue that once they get their mojo back, not even Chelsea may be able to stop a rampant City. But the main problem for City this season has been at the back.

Captain Vincent Kompany's form and fitness has been an issue and the sight of him hobbling off in Saturday's win at the King Power Stadium will not have given City fans much comfort. Central-defensive partners Martin Demichellis and Mangala have not been much better either despite their recent return to form.

City need everything to click into gear. Injuries haven't helped. The club haven't had an injury crisis as bad as their fellow rivals Arsenal or Manchester United, but on the other hand have had it pretty bad compared to the evergreen Chelsea on the injury front.


One would argue that City could get away with injuries in the Premier League, considering their desirable squad depth. In the Champions League however, it is sure to be a different ball game.

Monday's last 16 draw, which paired City with Barcelona, proved that despite the euphoria of Rome, they will need a fully fit squad to experience Camp Nou delight. The Champions League is a title that is the dream of City's chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, with the vast amounts of money spent culminating in a European crown well within his sights.

Whether it's in Pellegrini's sights however, is a different story. He is more of a realist, a man who knows of the huge task that faces him and his players in achieving success in Europe's biggest and toughest club competition.

The dream is there again. Man City got through their group in the only way they seem to know how - the hard way. But they got there and after their recent resurgence, you wouldn't bet against seeing the best of Manchester City once again.

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