Swede success

Eriksson: 'a good start'

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Manchester City are leading the pack outside the 'big four' and they have certainly exceeded my expectations so far this season.

Derby v Blackburn
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Man City v Liverpool
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"Maybe Sven's the kind of man who is better suited to the day to day involvement of a football club."

Andy Gray

Quotes of the week

To bring in as many players as they have, and integrate them as well as they've done, is remarkable.

Full credit to Sven Goran Eriksson - I never thought I'd be saying that - and his coaching staff, and the players he's brought in.

They've worked hard to make it work, particularly at home where they had won each and every one of their nine matches at Eastlands before Roque Santa Cruz ruined their 100 per cent record with a late equaliser on Thursday night.

The downside has been the away form which has been pretty ropey and because of that they are at half-way house at the minute.

Eriksson's team have set their stall out at home and the City of Manchester Stadium is obviously now a place that teams know they will have to go to and play pretty well to get a result.

28 points from a possible 30 at home speaks for itself, but three of the big four teams have yet to take them on at the City of Manchester Stadium.

They beat their rivals, Manchester United, earlier in the season but they still have to play Arsenal and Chelsea at home, and Liverpool on Sunday will provide a big test of course.

Having said that, you still have to win whoever you play against and for that you have to take your hat off and say 'fantastic work'. It's nice to see another team up there.


Sven obviously has a huge knowledge of all football and to pinch Elano from under the noses of everyone else was his best move yet at Manchester City.

And he has made good signings in Martin Petrov and the two full-backs, Javier Garrido and Vedran Corluka.

But I think their good start has been because of the stability of Richard Dunne and Micah Richards at centre back - and also Didi Hamann's influence should not be under estimated.

Stephen Ireland and Michael Johnson have played a massive part also and have probably surprised a few.

Those five players have been fundamental in how Manchester City have succeeded so far this year.

There are probably lots of areas that Sven would like to strengthen - they're still flimsy up front I feel, but they spent a lot of money on Rolando Bianchi who has taken time to settle and he might be the answer.

But if he isn't then they may look elsewhere as I don't think Darius Vassell, Emile Mpenza and Georgios Samaras get enough goals.

Of course they lost Valeri Bojinov to a knee ligament injury at the start of the season and so they have him to come back - he came with a decent reputation so he could be the answer.

As could the Mexican, Nery Castillo who they've brought in on loan.

Also they might need a goalkeeper as Sven has juggled his three so far, with Kasper Schmeichel starting the season, then to be replaced by Joe Hart and Andreas Isaksson.

And he is probably looking for a midfield player, but Sven is tinkering now as he made his main signings in the summer. Major surgery was performed on the squad and now I guess you would say a little bit of cosmetics is required.

Away form

I don't believe that Man City can challenge for fourth spot if their away form doesn't improve tremendously, because they will drop points at home.

And if you start to do that and don't pick up points away from home then questions will be asked and they might start to slide a little bit - like Portsmouth did last year after a good start.

So it will be their away form that will determine whether they can hang on and mount a challenge for fourth spot or fall away into mid-table.

Sven will be anxious that that could happen and the big test starts on Super Sunday when Liverpool turn up to the City of Manchester Stadium, live on Sky Sports.

My opinion of Sven has changed, I have to say. I was quite critical of him as England manager as I think he made huge mistakes and errors of judgement, but maybe he's the kind of man who is better suited to the day-to-day involvement of a football club.

He's made a fantastic start to his new job, but we should just remember that it is just a start.

We'll see if these foundations that he's laid are built on cement or if they're built on sand. We'll wait and see, starting on Sunday.

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