It’s been a funny old season in the Premier League.
Just a month ago, City had drawn with West Brom, and many had already written off their title prospects. They were hopeless, Pep Guardiola was a fraud, it was Liverpool’s title to lose.
Since then, though, they’ve won eight on the spin, and a victory against Aston Villa on Wednesday will put them top of the Premier League.
Central to their dramatic turnaround has been an impressive defensive record. Ruben Dias has had the desired effect since his arrival from Benfica and even John Stones – a clinical goalscorer now, apparently – is beginning to look like a top centre-back.
With City, the stats usually tell the story, and as far as their current fearsome defence is concerned, that’s no different. An OptaJoe special tells us they have conceded just six goals in their last 20 matches in all competitions – the best run from an English top flight side over a 20-game period since Chelsea under Jose Mourinho way back in 2004.
While Guardiola is renowned for his team’s dominant, possession-based performances, City this season have been built around a steadfast pragmatism that carries shades of Mourinho’s Chelsea at their very best.
The 20-game run in question dates back to the 3-0 victory away to Marseille in October, and two of the six goals they shipped came in a 2-0 defeat to Spurs in November. They haven’t lost a game since and have established themselves as many people’s favourite to regain their Premier League crown.
The last time they conceded a goal was away to Chelsea, when Callum Hudson-Odoi scored a stoppage time consolation as City won 3-1. They also conceded against Arsenal (4-1 win), West Brom and Liverpool (both 1-1 draws).