Table toppers, a 100% win rate, records tumbling left right and centre – Manchester City are emerging as a Special Force this season after a fifth Premier League win was achieved without their own SAS strike corp.
Deprived of Silva, Aguero (for the most part) and Sterling, Manuel Pellegrini’s early pace setters still managed to clip the wings of Crystal Palace’s high flying Eagles – thanks to a fledgling out of Africa.
Kelechi Inheanacho’s 90th minute winner, after just 55 seconds on the field and a Premier League career spanning all of four minutes, was difficult for ‘Potty Marf’ Alan Pardew to swallow – despite the Palace boss having one of the biggest and most obnoxious ‘gobs’ in football.
The 18-year old Nigerian ‘Eagle’ swooped to smash the ball home, after Palace keeper McCarthy could only parry a Samir Nasri shot into the flight path of City’s outstanding young talent.
City’s iconic No 9 shirt is still up for grabs since Alvaro Negredo departed for Valencia, and if Kelechi continues his meteoric rise things will quickly add up in his favour.
His 7+2 squad number could see him take the coveted No 9 in future years, as the City Football Academy begins to bear first team fruit.
When City opened their superb £200m training complex last winter, the #CFA was all the rage on social media. Now, with City already 11 points clear of Jose Mourinho’s ailing champions, #CFA might easily be an acronym for #ChelseaFeckinAnnihilated.
As if three defeats and 12 goals conceded in just five games isn’t sour enough for Mourinho to taste, imagine his heightened acidity levels when he saw Kevin De Bruyne collect a Man-of-the-Match award, after his 25th minute introduction for a stricken Aguero.
Sergio was scythed down in an assault (let’s not dignify it by calling it a tackle) by Scott Dann – who amazingly escaped with just a yellow card from inept ref Mike Jones.
Dann’s cynical and calculated kick out at Sergio’s knee means the Argentine talisman will be missing when City’s Champions League campaign kicks off against Juventus.
The last time Aguero suffered a nasty knee injury was immediately prior to a crunch Champions League tie against Italian opponents. City famously won 2-0 in Rome – one can only hope it’s a warped omen.
On the topic of ‘twisted’ we had the sight of loutish Pardew pushing past Pellegrini remonstrating with ref, Mike Jones and calling for Yaya Toure to be sent off for a 25th minute foul.
A clearly incensed Pellegrini had somehow managed to maintain a degree of Chilean cool seven minutes earlier, when Dann re-enacted the Battle of Wounded Knee on Aguero, but this was too much.
Having charged into Pellegrini’s ‘technical area’, the cockney barrow boy made bad, was repelled by the fired up City boss – once a decent amateur boxer back in his native Santiago.
Fair to say the clever money would have been on the South American to ‘drop’ Pardew – in the same way Iheanacho had delivered the glorious knockout blow of the match.
Pardew’s after match comments rang hollow when he said:”It’s a shame about the injury to Aguero because we are not a malicious team.”
This from the man whose Newcastle United team took Samir Nasri out with a horror tackle in January 2014, leaving him sidelined for nearly two months…with a knee injury!
City fans are loving Pellegrini’s renaissance after the disappointments of last season. He has re-asserted his tactical acumen in a side that is now rife with pace, passion and purpose.
Painful memories of the listless 2-1 defeat at Selhurst Park last April were obliterated as City showed they are infinitely stronger this time around.
The new look squad has strength in depth, as well as the physical muscle and mental fortitude to come through these bruising and robust affairs.
A sixth consecutive Premier League clean sheet was a new club record and City’s 11th PL win has them edging closer to Arsenal’s all-time 14/14 record set in 2002/2003.
A defence thus far denied the presence of the legendary Pablo Zabaleta, and still awaiting the debut of the excellent Nicolas Otamendi, has gone 566 PL minutes since last conceding at Swansea.
Record signing KDB was thrust unexpectedly into his debut as Aguero hobbled off to the unsavoury jeers of the Palace Neanderthals.
In just over an hour’s play the Belgian playmaker showed early signs as to why City pursued him with such tenacity throughout the summer.
He tested McCarthy with a rasping long range drive and created five openings, the best of which the hardworking Jesus Navas failed to convert, when clean through on goal.
With 99pts still up for grabs nobody at the Etihad will be counting any chickens, but City’s imperious start is already looking ominous for their rivals.
Next up is a much sterner test as the Old Lady of Italian Football rolls into Manchester.
Juventus have been almost Chelsea-like in their defence of the Serie A title, with two losses and a fortuitous 1-1 draw in their opening three games.
Last season’s Champions League runners-up are a much changed side after the departures of Andre Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez.
The Group D opening game, gives City the chance to get close up and personal with Paul Pogba – the ‘one that got away’ in an otherwise highly successful summer transfer window.
Juve keeper and captain, Gianluigi Buffon – so often quick to denigrate City in the recent past – is now on record saying City are one of the potential winners of this season’s competition.
City’s own rejuvenated and fully ‘restored’ skipper, Vincent Kompany, says the club has to start making its mark in the Champions League after four disappointing campaigns: “It cannot be what it was in the previous years. This year has to be better.”
Even without Super Sergio, City are probably better placed than ever before to do just that.
By David Walker
Dedicated to John Bookbinder – an outstanding left winger and member of City’s 1986 FA Youth Cup winning squad on what would have been his 47th birthday. Tragically John passed away in 2006 aged just 37. Gone but always remembered. RIP JB.
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu