Man City send ominous Premier League title message with win over Brentford

After Arsenal blew the title race wide open by beating Liverpool on Sunday, Manchester City flexed their muscles on an ominous night for their rivals.

It is now seven wins in a row for City since returning from the Club World Cup and, like we have seen so many times before, they seem to be clicking into gear for the run-in.

Brentford threatened to do Arsenal and Liverpool a favour when they went ahead but, for the fourth straight away Premier League game, City came from behind to win.

Foden scored a hat-trick on Monday night (Getty Images)
Foden scored a hat-trick on Monday night (Getty Images)

That mental steeliness, coupled with return to fitness of Erling Haaland and Kevin De Bruyne, is why Pep Guardiola’s side remain the team to beat.

City are up to second place, above Arsenal on goal difference and two points behind Liverpool with a game in hand. Crucially, their destiny is back in their own hands.

Phil Foden, as so often this season, was the difference-maker for City. His hat-trick made it eight goal contributions in his last six league games, sending a clear message to Gareth Southgate as he ponders the make-up of England’s midfield for the Euros.

Foden said that he wants to play through the middle and the prospect of him playing centrally with Jude Bellingham is an exciting one.

"I'm a person that adapts and plays a lot of positions when needed,” said Foden, who scored all three of his goals from close range between the posts. “I know I will do that with Manchester City and have to be ready. I'm enjoying playing in the middle and that's where I see myself. Hopefully I can get more game time playing there.”

The 3-1 scoreline suggests a close game but City could have thrashed Brentford were it not for an inspired performance from Bees goalkeeper Mark Flekken.

In an astonishing first-half display, Flekken made 3 per cent of the total number of saves Brentford goalkeepers have ever made in Premier League history. By the end of the night, he was two short of equalling the record for most saves in a Premier League game.

Flekken impressed despite Brentford's loss (Action Images via Reuters)
Flekken impressed despite Brentford's loss (Action Images via Reuters)

Flekken even turned provider for Brentford, assisting their opener with a goal-kick over the top which Neal Maupay ran on to and finished.

Defeat means it is now just win in 10 games in all competitions for Brentford and they are just three points above the relegation zone, though losing to City is no disgrace.

The Bees did the double over City last season but the champions were patient, efficient and in the end good value for their win here.

If City do go on to hoover up silverware again this season, they make look back on this as a significant night.

Haaland’s return to the starting XI after two months out marked the first time he and De Bruyne started together since the opening night of the season away at Burnley.

“Having everyone fit is a massive bonus,” said Nathan Ake. “To even have Jack [Grealish] and Jeremy [Doku] to come on, we have so many options in the forward positions.”

Like all teams, City still need their best players firing. The goals will no doubt come for Haaland, and the assists already are for De Bruyne.

City now have a kind run of Premier League fixtures this month against Everton, Chelsea and Brentford at home, and then Bournemouth away.

Then, in March, things will ramp up a notch with the Manchester derby at the Etihad, Liverpool at Anfield, Brighton away and then Arsenal at home.

Guardiola will not allow his players to look that far ahead, yet he will know the next two months will be key if City are to make it six titles in seven years.

One thing is for sure, they are riding the crest of a wave right now.