BY common consent, the attacking brio and fluency produced by Manchester City have lifted them to the greatest heights this season in the Premier League.
Never mind the players’ price tags or wages, the currency that matters most is the quality of the football played and City have, at times, conjured some scintillating performances.
It is unfortunate for them that their patchy away form in the early part of the campaign and some tired displays in recent weeks mean they still have plenty to do if they are to win the league title.
But, casting aside individual prejudices, it would really be a great injustice if such an accomplished side were to finish the season empty-handed.
Not long ago, Manuel Pellegrini’s team were attracting serious bets to complete a clean sweep of four trophies this season and they may yet do so. It would take a brave or reckless punter to risk a pound on that outcome now.
Their Champions League adventure looks to be all but over after a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of Barcelona in their last-16 tie. Turning that around in the Nou Camp is so unlikely as to be almost dismissed.
City’s Premier League push came off the rails with a home defeat by Chelsea, a result that demonstrated a sudden vulnerability and seems to have damaged their confidence.
Their run-in is strewn with potential landmines, with away fixtures against four main rivals – Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Everton.
City avenged the Chelsea result in the FA Cup to set up a 9th March quarter-final tie at home to Wigan in a re-run of last season’s final.
But their best bet for silverware comes this Sunday when they play relegation-haunted Sunderland in the final of the Capital One Cup at Wembley. Failure there could see an implosion of epic proportions.
One City player who’ll be fearing a nasty case of déjà vu is their French attacker Samir Nasri, a member of the Arsenal team who were in the hunt for four trophies three years ago.
Arsenal, too, faced lowly opposition, Birmingham City, in the final, only to suffer a dismal defeat, the aftershocks of which wiped out the rest of their campaign.
They were knocked out of the FA Cup by Manchester United, fell away sharply in the Premier League and were bombed out of Europe by Barcelona, leaving them without a trophy at the end of a long season which had been loaded with promise.