Manchester City: Winter fixture congestion will be the Citizens’ acid test

It is no secret that Manchester City’s form to start the Premier League season has been both record breaking and scintillating.

Heading into December the Blues have failed to win just one of their 14 Premier League matches and sit a comfortable eight points ahead of nearest challengers, Manchester United.

However, as we move towards the notoriously packed festive fixture schedule, it will be the sheer amount of matches that will be Manchester City’s acid test, more so than the teams they will be facing in that time.

Everyone is expecting Pep Guardiola’s team to fail, they have endured two near misses this week against both Huddersfield and Southampton where Raheem Sterling has had to score an injury time winner in both matches, yet they are passing every test thrown at them.

People may suggest that losing a key player such as Kevin de Bruyne will derail them, however there are individuals who would step up in such a circumstance; such is the strength of the squad the club has put together.

No matter how strong your team is, playing multiple fixtures within the period of a week will take its toll, especially at the tempo the Blues look to play at.

There isn’t a football team as good as Manchester City in England, that’s obvious at this point; however few football teams have ever been able to come through the winter period unscathed.

This will be Manchester City’s toughest test to date, starting with a home match against West Ham on Sunday; the Blues have a grand total of nine matches across all competitions in the space of 29 days.

Five of these games come between December 16th and December 31st; this scheduling will also take a huge amount out of the players.

City face both Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in that time frame as well, these are arguably the two toughest opponents in the Premier League and they have to negotiate them at the trickiest time of the season.

Guardiola has had a season in England to adjust to life without a winter break, that doesn’t make it any less strenuous though.

It is a time of year where injuries are picked up with a greater frequency, as well as suspensions with the season now almost at the halfway point.

Injuries and suspensions often have a double impact in December because a player who would have been rested will likely to have to play two successive matches in a short period of days to take the place of an absentee.

Manchester United were able to build momentum last winter, they played less than expansive football but were avoiding defeat, the matches came quickly but they were confident enough to deal with it.

At present you would say the same for Guardiola’s charges, however a defeat could threaten their momentum and when matches are coming every three days, it is incredibly difficult to pick a team up.

Going an entire season unbeaten is essentially impossible in the modern game, even though we are only thirteen years since Arsenal did just that, teams are a lot more competitive domestically and the demands of challenging on multiple fronts make it even more difficult.

Manchester City have the look of a team who can beat whatever opponent is put in front of them in a standard situation, however it remains to be seen how they handle the festive period.

This is the one test that the club hasn’t yet passed, they have proved they are the best team, they have proved they play the best football and they have proved they have solved the defensive issues that plagued them last term.

Now they have to prove they can handle the demands of a Premier League winter, they have to ensure their lead at the top doesn’t get cut too significantly, if they can do that, then they are well on their way to securing a deserved Premier League title.


Written by Chris Winterburn

Follow Chris on Twitter @cmwinterburn

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