It feels like a pivotal moment of the season has been reached. Our next Champions League game is mid-February, so apart from the possibility of one or two FA Cup ties in January, Manchester City have 13 Premier League games to concentrate their efforts.
This is a huge test for Pep Guardiola and his backroom staff. The league cannot be won over the next three months but it can certainly be lost. Last season during the same period we arguably lost the league with a run of 18 points from a possible 33, culminating in painful back-to-back home defeats to Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
This will be Guardiola’s first season without a winter break. Managing the players workload is crucial, which is why Guardiola has expressed happiness that the last Champions League match against Celtic is essentially meaningless. Apart from Vincent Kompany and his constant injury problems, Guardiola has a full strength squad to choose from and he will need all of them to navigate through this notoriously tough period.
City will play a gigantic match with Liverpool on New Year’s Eve and then both teams play again in the league just 46 hours later, a timing issue that Liverpool manager Jürgen Klopp has expressed concern. Klopp has the advantage of managing one more season in the Premier League than Guardiola, but Liverpool may not have the strength in depth that City possess to endure two games in such a short period.
Guardiola now has the time on the training pitch that he craves so much. He can now mould the team to his preferred style and with Yaya Touré back in the mix, along with the impending arrival of promising striker Gabriel Jesus, the squad looks robust. There may be room for one more full-back or center-back, but January is usually not an ideal time to enter into the transfer window.
By February, City should be a lot closer to where Guardiola expects to see them. However, the next three months are crucial to fulfilling that expectation.