Manchester City’s mini-crisis is over, but not before they suffered another scare.
City’s stuttering season was facing another serious setback at half-time of Sunday’s game at Luton, with last year’s Treble winners 1-0 down and facing the prospect of a fifth straight Premier League game without a win.
Two second-half goals in the space of three minutes from Bernardo Silva and Jack Grealish rescued Pep Guardiola’s side, however, and City’s fightback provided the perfect response to anyone doubting their credentials for another title defence.
“The team showed their character, but that didn’t surprise me at all,” said former City defender Micah Richards, who watched
It was the first meaningful league match the prolific Norwegian striker had missed since 1 April, when City beat Liverpool 4-1, but Richards feels their performance against Luton shows they can still cope when he is absent.
“If Haaland is out long-term, then I wouldn’t worry,” Richards added. “I’d still be optimistic about City, and I like what they are doing.
“Against Luton, they tweaked their shape and allowed Phil Foden to play in a number 10 role. With him in the centre, you are always going to create something.”
Will it be ‘party time’ again?
City are four points behind leaders Liverpool but are actually closer to the summit than they were at this stage last season, when they were seven points adrift of Arsenal after 16 games, and still ended up winning the title with three games to spare.
“Liverpool have got away with it a bit this week, with two late winners,” Richards added.
“No-one knows what kind of performance you are going to get from them at the moment, but going forward they always look like they are going to produce when Mohamed Salah is in the team.
“It’s the same with Arsenal, who have not been at their brilliant best like last season, but they have still been getting over the line most of the time.
“Another of my old clubs, Aston Villa, have had a fantastic week and I can’t speak highly enough of the job Unai Emery has done, but it is going to be very hard for them to sustain that over a long period of time.
“I watch them and think they are an excellent side, but if they lost Ollie Watkins or John McGinn to injury then their team would be totally different.
“We’ve already seen that happen to Tottenham, when they lost James Maddison and their two first-choice centre-halves, although Cristian Romero is back now after suspension.
“That’s the biggest difference between those teams and City, who can replace players without it affecting them as much.
“It’s exciting to have a few teams in the race but I still believe City are best placed to win the league, just because of the amount of quality they have in their squad.
“I think people forget that they often have this kind of spell at this time of the year, where they drop points – but come the end of the season it is usually party time again!”