18 months ago, in the wake of yet another limp dick exit from a major tournament on penalty kicks, Sven Goran Eriksson was given the sack by the FA, to the delight of the myopic and xenophobic English press. As 2008 dawns, it is Sven who is having the last laugh, guiding Manchester City to their best league position in years. With 21 games played Man City sit on 39 points, which is good for fourth place, ahead of mighty Liverpool (you give up equalizers to Titus Bramble, you don't deserve to play in the Champions League). Whats more, for those of us who suffered through the kick-and-hope Neanderthal tactics employed by Stuart Pierce last year, Sven has got City playing something close to a Continental style. For those who think that the lower reaches of the Premiership play unattractive football, its refreshing to see something different emerge from Citeh.
Of course, City's resurgence has much to do with the players brought in over the summer, thanks to the transfer largess underwritten by one Trashcan Sinatra, the deposed Thai president. Elano, the Brazilian who Sven bought from the Ukrainian mafia, is one of the most technically gifted attacking players in the EPL. He forms the spear of a skilled midfield, along with Petrov, Hamman, Ireland, and Corluka. In the back, City have what might be the best centerback tandem in the Premiership, with the emergence of Micah Richards alongside Richard Dunne. The strikers, led by Vassel, have been serviceable, especially with the support they have been getting from Elano & Co. The only real question mark is in goal, where the hilariously green Kasper Schmeichel has been replaced by Joe Hart. At the moment, neither are exactly world class.
Sven was often accused of playing too conservatively and lacking attacking flair when he was in charge of England. He still keeps it close to the vest tactically, but he has City playing with some verve. If they could start winning more games on the road - today's beat down of Big Sam and the hapless Geordies was a step in the right direction - then City could legitimately push Liverpool for the final Champions League spot. And given the squad that Sven has assembled, you would have to say that City wouldn't look too out of place taking on the giants of European football. Hide your women and booze, citizens of Rome, Milan, Madrid, and Munich, because Liam and Noel Gallagher could be headed to your city in 2008!
Photo from the BBC.