CONFESSION time: I must admit I did not think Manchester City would get stronger this season, given their modest summer business, but after just two games I may have to eat my words.
The champions could easily have dropped points at Newcastle or at home to Liverpool but have hit the ground running, won two tough games and, yes, look stronger.
City’s spine is formidable and with Fernando is now even more solid. The back five know their jobs, Edin Dzeko is playing with renewed flair and Stevan Jovetic is proving what a natural footballer he is.
Fernando has shown he is a better holding midfielder than team-mate Fernandinho – a proper stopper – and allows Yaya Toure to push forward.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini has to take credit. As well as astute signings, he has brought a calm to a club that had suffered from off-field disarray.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Pellegrini has forged an identity for his team. City enjoy a settled style, players know what is expected, and it is a major advantage.
Compare that with crisis-hit Manchester United, who spent a vast sum on Argentina winger Angel di Maria on the day they suffered League Cup humiliation at MK Dons.
Di Maria is the kind of quality player they need but the deal raises big questions about their system. If he plays on the left of a 3-5-2, what then for £30m left-back Luke Shaw? If United switch to a back four with a diamond midfield, is there room for £65m duo Ander Herrera and Juan Mata? I don’t see balance in that squad, and manager Louis van Gaal has decisions to make as he seeks an identity for his new team.
So too does Arsene Wenger, who is still trying to figure out how to accommodate Alexis Sanchez in an Arsenal side that looks far better when Olivier Giroud provides a goalmouth presence. Perhaps Giroud’s absence through injury will force Wenger to find a solution, but meanwhile teams who have already found their answer, such as City and Chelsea, continue to rack up points.
Trevor Steven is a former England international who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.