Manuel Pellegrini has challenged his Manchester City stars to prove they have learned the lessons of last season’s failure to retain the Premier League title.
Three games into the new league season, leaders City are the last remaining side with a perfect record: three wins, eight goals scored and none conceded.
This has come as a surprise to those who witnessed their decidedly unconvincing pre-season form, but it would appear that the players have answered Pellegrini’s call for consistency.
City’s title challenge failed last season because of a tendency to drop points against mid-table sides; for that reason, Saturday’s match against an awkward Watford side lying 12th is likely to provide an indicator of their progress.
“We analysed what happened last season,” Pellegrini said. “It wasn’t a disaster because we finished second and we were the team who scored the most goals, but we were not consistent through the whole year.
“We lost points against teams who were fighting relegation, so I think after three games you can see we have learned those lessons.
“It is only August and we finish in May, so it is important to keep playing, working and thinking in the same way as we are doing.”
Pellegrini has been helped by significant spending on the squad over the close-season, and there may be more to come.
Nicolas Otamendi, signed from Valencia, is available to make his debut at centre-back, having missed last Sunday’s 2-0 win at Everton because his international clearance did not come through in time.
Otamendi’s price tag, which could rise to £32 million with add-ons, makes him the second-most expensive central defender in Premier League history, and yet there is no guarantee he will start.
That is because the costliest, Eliaquim Mangala, currently holds a first-team place at City, and has finally started to find form alongside Vincent Kompany after a poor first campaign in England.
Pellegrini is not a fan of playing a three-man central defence, so there is a tricky decision to be made, both for Saturday and in the weeks ahead.
– Rejuvenated –
Discussions, meanwhile, are continuing with Wolfsburg to try to bring in Belgium midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, although it appears unlikely that any deal would be ready in time for the weekend’s game; and it may yet be that a deal is not done at all.
As it stands, City are well placed to push on without De Bruyne; Yaya Toure looks rejuvenated, while Sergio Aguero and David Silva have both started the season in fine form.
Pellegrini’s side will feel they are well placed for a club-record 10th successive league victory.
Watford also have cause to be satisfied after a steady, if unspectacular, start to the season with three successive draws ensuring they head to Eastlands in mid-table.
That marks a respectable opening for the newly promoted side although the midweek League Cup defeat at Championship side Preston was less impressive, with Quique Sanchez Flores’ side failing to score for a third successive game.
Flores insists there is no cause for concern and believes his side has enough forward options to break that run sooner rather than later.
“To score or not to score is sometimes a question of millimetres. The chances we have we need to score, but we have good chances in matches,” he said.
“To score is important if you want to win, but we have scored two goals and we have conceded two goals in three league games, and for me at the start of the season the most important thing is the balance.
“We are confident we will not concede a lot of chances to the opponents, so this is a good start, and we are confident we will have chances in matches that will allow us to win.” – Agence France-Presse