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Perfect timing?

Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates his second in the 5-1 victory over Birmingham.
Emmanuel Adebayor celebrates his second in the 5-1 victory over Birmingham.

It's funny that we can now look back on the past three fixtures and think that we headed into them with confidence, but wary of slipping up in what was a crucial period in determining which side would finish fourth in this seasons Premier League.

Nine points was the required return given the tougher tests that lay ahead, but as we sit back and reflect on the past couple of weeks, not only has the target been achieved but the season has a whole new feel to it.

The failings of others has been a bonus of course, but as the past three games have seen comfortably brush aside Wigan, Burnley and Birmingham - scoring fourteen goals in the process - we have the air of confidence (even arrogance?) of a side who now expects to finish in the Champions League positions.

Like all good teams we are now peaking at the right moment, timing our run to almost perfection. Some of the early struggles, notably the lack of cohesion and stuttering attacking play seen under Mancini early in his tenure has been washed away, replaced instead with an attacking intensity unrivalled in the Premier League at present. Some of the defensive play of Burnley and Birmingham left a lot to be desired but the way in which we created space was impressive, utilising the pace and directness of Bellamy and Johnson perfectly, whilst Tevez and Adebayor have hit a purple patch as a partnership since the latters return from suspension.

Whilst Mancini has faced criticism for a supposed negative and overly cautious approach, it is easy to forget that Adebayor has missed significant periods through suspension and compassionate leave. Mancini may have played it safe, opting to reign in some of the attacking instincts for a more basic approach.

On the eve of his latest return Mancini was adamant that the Tevez-Adebayor combination was his preferred choice and he would be deploying the 4-4-2 (morphing into a 4-2-4) formation for the remainder of the season. Adebayor, fresh and rejuvanated, has taken some of the opposition attention from Tevez, leading to an even more potent force.

Of course, when a new manager takes charge of a club it takes time for their methods and message to get across. From various sources I have heard that in training there is now far more emphasis placed on the team structure and positional play, with less focus on actual ball work. Perhaps now we are reaping the rewards.

In pure black and white terms though, the past three games have merely brought an expected return. Now we are set to hit the really crucial phase - the derby against United, a trip to the Emirates before a pair of games at home to Aston Villa and Tottenham that will really settle matters.

In our favour though is that we perfectly focused on the task in hand. Confidence is high and the players look fit and fresh (perhaps now reaping the benefits of failing to qualify for Europe last season) in comparison to the teams around us who are beginning to look drained and sapped of energy, the result of tough distracting Cup runs and a run of bad injuries.

It is clear that we are now favourites for fourth. The way in which we have turned around Tottenham's lead to put distance between us (although Tottenham now have a game in hand) is a huge statement to make. We are now the side to catch and have the momentum with us, whilst question marks are building over the other sides.

Perfect timing?