Manchester City's revival has been almost as sudden as their decline.
Weeks ago their title hopes were over after a 1-0 defeat at Arsenal. Now they are three wins away from the title. It is back in their hands.
Nothing explains how they have turned their fortunes around with such speed as the return of Carlos Tevez. This column noted some weeks ago how City faced a problem brought on by the decline in form of David Silva. At the beginning of this season, Silva was integral, dictating play, running, probing and picking holes in other defenders. With Sergio Aguero benefiting from playing with him they between them helped City to steamroller their opponents.
Silva’s predictable decline this season has come about thanks to tiredness. City were so reliant on him before, but when his form waned, suddenly theirs did too. What that meant was they needed either a dramatic recovery from the Spaniard, or a change in focus. They got that when Tevez returned. Now City’s play is revolving around the troublesome Argentine, who is probing and playing like Silva earlier in the season. He is different, more direct, physical and also gets the team playing higher up the pitch. But he has proven equally effective in recent weeks.
That has been why City are able to recover in the way they have. Teams fortunes invariably rest on key players. Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney or Gareth Bale are the best players in their teams, but they are not one man teams. Yet when they are not at their best, neither are their respective clubs. For City, they have been able to call upon their fair share of playmakers. They have spent so much money, that they have so many options to now call on. It is of course not a good thing for football, as it is a measure of how much money they have spent, rather than how good they are as a club. Any team could have done what City did with the amount of money they have spent.
Tevez is symbolic of all that City are about these days. Over indulged with money, but capable of brilliance on their day. Next week they come up against an actual team, who are moulded together. Though Manchester United have spent plenty themselves, it is money they earned. And they haven’t just bought everyone and anyone interested in coming to Old Trafford, sometimes just to weaken rivals. They have bought the players they think are right for the team Alex Ferguson is building. It is the right way, the better way. On Monday night City may once again be reminded that actually, there is far more to the game than throwing excesses of cash at a problem.