Comment: Manchester City are rampant up front, solid at back and on path to glory despite ‘away-day blues’ myth

By Paddy Dinham

No team in Premier League history has started a season as destructively as Manchester City this year.

Yet they sit lower than they did after 14 games in Roberto Mancini’s last two years as manager.

That would lead you to think that their defence is in a terrible shape but they have the fourth-best record at the back.

So how is it that City are six points off the pace in a season which they started as title favourites?

The fact they had picked up just four points on the road before Wednesday’s 3-2 win at West Bromwich Albion has been well documented.

Journeys up and down the motorway cannot be generalised as the only reason for their poor performances though. Their coach seats cannot be that uncomfortable.

At Sunderland they were as rampant as they have been in any home game this season with 63% of possession and 24 shots to the Black Cats’ five.

Yet only four of the Blues efforts were on target and they were beaten by one long ball.

It is a regular theme of their travel sickness. Against Aston Villa and they had 67% of the football and 56% against Cardiff.

In those two games they had a monumental 36 shots on goal but only tested the keeper with 13 of those.

So this away day blues talk is all nonsense – City have been as good on the road as they have been at home.

Against Chelsea and Villa the winning goals came from Joe Hart inexplicably charging out of his area – but what of the other strikes they have let in?

Two goals conceded from seven games in front of their own fans proves that they have defenders capable of shutting teams out.

The problem has been two-fold: firstly, a couple of bad results can instil in the mind the sort of doubt which is uncharacteristic of championship-winning teams.

The other issue is that they have constantly chopped and changed their back-four and this has led to indecision and sloppy mistakes.

At home, Pablo Zabaleta, Martin Demichelis and Gael Clichy have all started three league games in a row and the consistent selection has been rewarded with three clean sheets.

Of their four away defeats however, the usually-reliable Zabaleta is the only Citizens defender to have played in more than two of them.

Vincent Kompany returning from injury is huge for City and he will become a permanent fixture in the team again – providing he stays fit.

This adds not only a world class defender to their back line but also helps bring the stability that City have needed.

His return brought a much-needed victory at the Hawthorns and, although they still shipped two avoidable goals, confidence will have been boosted.

Their other away victory at West Ham in October was followed by a trip to Stamford Bridge – a ground where Chelsea are unbeaten under Jose Mourinho.

Maintaining the momentum was always going to be tough there but they now find themselves facing a trip to out-of-form Southampton.

The Saints have just surrendered their unbeaten home record to Aston Villa, the latest of a three-match losing streak.

This provides Manuel Pellegrini’s side with the perfect opportunity to record back-to-back victories and well and truly kick their ‘travel sickness’ tag.

If they can do this they will begin to develop the same sort of confidence they have at their own ground.

Achieve that and the league is theirs to lose.

Combined with the talismanic captain’s recovery from injury it would also mark a massive few days in the context of their campaign.

If Arsenal drop points against an Everton side unbeaten in their last seven games (or even if they do not) it could be the week that turns the title race in Manchester City’s favour.

Image courtesy of Manchester City FC via youtube, with thanks

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