In circumstances demanding a less energetic approach, the manager has transformed his side’s Premier League prospects

Ominously, Manchester City have eased towards the front of the title race. They went into the weekend third, just four points behind the Premier League leaders, Manchester United, with a game in hand. Their next five league games are against sides in the bottom half and Aston Villa. Had Liverpool beaten them on 8 November, rather than drawing 1-1, their lead over City would have been eight points. As it is, by the time City face Liverpool on 6 February, there’s a good chance they will be top of the table. That, really, is a triumph of coaching.

It’s a triumph of resources as well because almost everything in modern football is (and let nobody ever forget the origin of those resources). The signing of Rúben Dias has been a triumph, not just for his own performances but for the way he seems to have galvanised the entire backline, John Stones in particular. That he is not playing in the position initially envisaged (operating on the left rather than the right of the centre of defence) is a quirky detail rather than something that calls the planning into doubt.

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