You have to look at the strength of a club’s first XI, squad depth, whether or not they have a 25-goal-season striker and an ability to keep clean sheets
Pep Guardiola’s team have stumbled, but it could be the making of them
Because despite two fantastic performances from your sides over the weekend, I still think you’ll be battling it out for a Champions League spot come May but not for the Premier League crown.
I hear some pundits saying, ‘Oh, well last week I thought Manchester City were going to win the league but this week I’m going to say Liverpool’.
And that’s rubbish, it winds me up, because things don’t just change over a weekend or two.
You have to look at the strength of a club’s first XI, squad depth, whether or not they have a 25-goal-season striker and an ability to keep clean sheets.
I considered all those factors when I went for City before a ball had been kicked and I’ve seen nothing to change my mind.
The only reason Pep Guardiola’s side aren’t comfortably top is because they’ve drawn their last three Premier League home games and they could quite easily have turned those results into three wins.
Some of you will say, ‘But they didn’t, Stan’.
But with the ability they have got, and the fact that players like Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling have freshness and youthfulness combined with experience, means they could easily go on a six-game streak which sees them top of the pile by Christmas.
Raheem Sterling and Kevin De Bruyne can fire Man City to the title
After the performance against Barcelona last week, a lot of people expected them to destroy Middlesbrough on Saturday.
But the fact they were held to a draw might not be the worst thing.
That result will make Guardiola work even harder in the Premier League and serve as a reminder that, while in the Bundesliga and La Liga he could play a Champions League game, win it, make six changes and win the next game comfortably, you can’t do that here.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been mightily impressed by Chelsea and Liverpool, who I had finishing second and fourth with Arsenal between them in my pre-season predictions.
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard is rediscovering his best form
Chelsea are the Chelsea which won the title 18 months ago and Liverpool have shaken off that sense that they’d beat one of the big boys one week then go to Southampton and lose the next.
But the ability Guardiola can draw upon and the ability he has to spend whatever he wants in January still gives City the edge.
And don’t forget that Guardiola is still learning about the Premier League because he still hasn’t been here that ling.
Will Guardiola win the title in his first season?
He will already be realising that top-flight football in England is just as much about consistency, grinding out results and mentality as it is about playing pretty patterns and passing the ball back to the goalkeeper.
That’s why I haven’t changed my view on who will win the title.
City have the best striker of all the big clubs and when the three behind him click they have the best creativity.
On top of that, Fernando has been exceptional in defensive midfield, so they’re still my tip for the top.