City are good value to capture league title

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While many people will tell you in football you can’t build success overnight, big-spending Manchester City look good value at 8/1 with most bookmakers to win the Barclays Premier League title.

Lurking in fourth place three points behind leaders Arsenal having played the same number of games, City could well be the surprise packet in the most open title race for years.

Their dismissal of Bolton last Saturday, despite the flimsy scoreline, was utterly comprehensive and showed the Mancunians have nothing to fear from any of the other sides in the table beyond the big three of Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea, and perhaps Tottenham.

Roberto Mancini’s side remind me of Chelsea a couple of seasons ago under Jose Mourinho – tight in defence, with enough firepower to cause damage to any team in the premiership. In Hart they have one of the best keepers in the league, a useful midfield including Silva, Yaya Toure and Milner, and a couple of potent strikers in Tevez and Balotelli.

With the likes of Adebayor and Johnson in reserve, City have enough of a strike force to cover for injuries or suspensions.

Rivals Manchester United haven’t lost this season and will be right up there in the mix at the end of the season, but they’ve looked wobbly in defence having drawn a large number of games they should have won.

The same defensive frailties apply to Arsenal, the loss of Vermaelen continuing to haunt them, while they lack a keeper capable of commanding the number one spot.

Chelsea look like a team going nowhere fast and I’ll be surprised if they even finish in the top two so deep is the malaise affecting them. The return of Frank Lampard may help, but I can’t see it being enough to arrest their decline. They need to bring few a few younger players to spice up their season.

>> Like many cricket fans I’ve been marvelling at Alistair Cook’s batting performances for England against Australia in the Ashes’ Tests Down Under.

Knocks of 235 and 148 have put him among the greats of English cricket in Test series against the Aussies and I’m sure there’s more to come from this talented left-hander.

That’s not to forget Kevin Pietersen’s fine 227 in the last Test as well. Sooner or later Pietersen, who has endured a wretched run of disappointment, was bound to rediscover his form and I’m just glad it came against Australia.

Coming back to Cook, I discovered he attended Bedford School, which as a former pupil myself, struck a chord with me.

While I managed to reach the dizzy heights of the Ist XI for just one season in the 1970s under coach Pat Briggs, Cook’s contribution to cricket while there was phenomenal.

During his four-plus years at the school he scored over 4,300 runs, 17 centuries and two double centuries, which surely must be some sort of record.

He even scored a century for the MCC against his own school as a 14-year-old when the MCC were a man short and he stepped in .

He later played for Essex, made his Test debut for England in India in 2006 and was the first Englishman to score seven Test centuries before his 23rd birthday.

The England side now has a good mix of players with strengths in all departments – they just need a bit of that Aussie steel and aggression to start churning out the wins.

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