News of expected extension talks for Pep Guardiola should elate City fans
After the start Manchester City have had to the season, the fans will welcome the news Pep Guardiola is likely to discuss an extension to his contract at the Etihad.
A record-breaking streak of 16 straight Premier League wins, plus a total of 52 from a possible 54 points since August, has resulted in the side opening up an the biggest ever gap at the top of the table at this stage.
Since the beginning of the campaign, City have averaged more than three goals a game. They have the joint-best defence, despite the risks they've been taking in playing football from the back under pressure. They've beaten all types of opponents -- those sitting deep, those pressing high, those wasting time, those trying to rough them up ... It's certainly been an entertaining first few months.
Guardiola isn't the type to get carried away with how well things are going, though. He regularly says in his news conferences not to hype up what he's achieved so far because, ultimately, he's achieved nothing yet. The team have played 18 games -- they've won no trophies, they've just broken some long-standing records.
However, on the inside, Guardiola must be beaming with pride. The knives were out for the manager during his first season in England, especially following heavy defeats to Leicester (4-2) and Everton (4-0) in the winter. It was suggested that his style of football couldn't work in a division as competitive as the Premier League because the so-called "lesser" teams would expose weaknesses unlike in Spain or Germany.
That idea has been blown out of the water this season. The only team that's come close to laying a glove on City in the Premier League has been Everton, though the 1-1 draw back in August comes with big caveats: Kyle Walker was wrongly sent off before half time and 10-man City were extremely wasteful before they found their equaliser.
It's notable that the goalposts have been shifted this season, too. After proving that a Barcelona or Bayern Munich-style domination of the Premier League could be possible, Guardiola's critics have gone back on the offensive to suggest he's only been able to do it because it's a weak top flight this term.
If that is the case, why did four of the five English sides in the Champions League win their groups? And why is there an 11-point gap between City and their nearest challengers, given everyone else is also playing the same "weak" teams as Guardiola's side?
That other teams have had injuries to key personnel to deal with is another stick used to beat the City boss -- though credit isn't given to how well City are playing with their important players missing. As well as they're playing, nobody genuinely believes Fabian Delph and Eliaquim Mangala are first-choice options in defence, right?
The manager is also given a rough ride because City have invested heavily. Of course the club couldn't have achieved what they have done without a number of big transfer deals, but why should a coach who can get even more out of the best players be forced to do it at League Two level in order to prove himself?
It's also doing Guardiola a disservice to suggest that money is the only reason City are so far ahead of their rivals at this stage of the campaign. Other teams have spent heavily, too -- closest challengers Manchester United have splashed out more than £300million in the past 18-months, roughly £50m less than Guardiola in that time. Has that difference, low by modern spending standards, really resulted in an 11-point lead?
Previous City managers have also had the luxury of a near-open chequebook and not got the club playing to this sort of standard. Manuel Pellegrini's final two campaigns saw an outlay of more than £230m and it yielded two years of not getting close to winning the title, but a League Cup victory and a fourth-placed finish by virtue of goal difference only.
The quality of football City are playing clearly has a lot to do with the coaching.
Players that were already at the club when Guardiola arrived have improved, too. Raheem Sterling is the poster-boy for the upturn in performances, having rock-bottom confidence following a disastrous Euro 2016 tournament. He is now City's leading scorer with 15 goals. However, Delph, Fernandinho, Nicolas Otamendi, and even David Silva and Sergio Aguero have all stepped up to another level since the Catalan's appointment.
Instead of continually judging him by unobtainable standards, it's time more of us started to appreciate what Guardiola is doing at City and in the Premier League. Perhaps his Barcelona and Bayern Munich teams were so dominant because they played fantastic football; perhaps his City team can emulate that level of domination in England in the same manner by being utterly brilliant at what they do.
With the manager's contract ending in 2019, some City fans were already beginning to wonder what the post-Guardiola world would look like. It would be very welcome news indeed if he signs on the dotted line to an extra couple of years.
David Mooney is ESPN FC's Manchester City blogger. Twitter: @DavidMooney