Manchester City went top of the Premier League on Saturday evening after a comfortable 3-1 win over Watford. Pep Guardiola’s men should have been out of sight in a one-sided display at Vicarage Road, with several of their stars again putting on clinics.
Bernardo Silva strengthened his claim as the second best player in the Premier League (think we’re all in agreement that Mohamed Salah is number one) with another spectacular brace. The Portuguese has returned to prominence after a difficult couple of seasons at the Etihad Stadium, ultimately deciding to stay when he would have had plenty of suitors elsewhere.
Raheem Sterling – wanted by Barcelona and only just working his way in again from the City periphery – was similarly excellent against Watford following a difficult spell on the sidelines.
From the bench, Guardiola was able to throw on the returning Kevin De Bruyne as well as Riyad Mahrez and Gabriel Jesus, who at times this season have been among the first names on the team sheet.
And yet for all of Guardiola’s tone-deaf talk of a squad that is down to the bare bones, City have more game-changers in their squad than any other team in the world – who else can just turn a squad player into a player of the year contender at the flick of a proverbial switch?
We can’t forget that Guardiola and co chose to sign Jack Grealish – the latest in a long line of midfielder/forward hybrids – for a British-record £100m in the summer. If the state of the squad was that much of an issue then they should simply have used that money to bring in more than one player that they didn’t need and are largely using to stack the deck.
At the back end of their title-winning 2020/21, there were plenty of murmurs that some of City’s stars were unhappy with their game time. Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia were the only big names to depart, and so Guardiola has at least found a way to keep everyone happy and deserves credit for keeping the core of his group together and hungry.
They have more resources on and off the pitch than title rivals Liverpool and Chelsea – the only thing they really lack is a natural number nine not named Gabriel Jesus, and they seem to be getting by just fine without one. Whether it’s the Premier League or the Champions League, City have to win at least one of this season’s major titles for it not to be deemed a failure.