Man City: Raheem Sterling helps David Silva shine - Danny Murphy

Match of the Day

Manchester City are looking sharp and hungry but the thing that has impressed me most about them is how well balanced they are.

Raheem Sterling and Jesus Navas have given them pace and width that they did not previously have on both flanks, which in turn has given David Silva more space in the centre of midfield.

For most of last season, Silva was the one being asked to play in wide positions, but he would always look to come inside and he does not have the same pace as Sterling and Navas anyway.

As I have said many times on Match of the Day, Silva is at his best as a number 10. It is his favourite position, and he is showing us why.

At the moment he has got freedom to roam and he is using it to hurt teams.

He is getting on the ball more often than he does when he starts out on the left and is making things happen all the time. No wonder he is having a greater effect on games.

Add in the fact that striker Sergio Aguero is so good at stretching defences with his brilliant runs and you can see why City's attack has taken the Premier League by storm.

David Silva after three games of the season
Season2014-152015-16
Minutes245269
Shots (goals)1 (1)7 (1)
Assists03
Chances created510

City's spine is looking stronger

Man City duo David Silva and Raheem Sterling
Man City paid £24m for David Silva in 2010, while Raheem Sterling cost them £49m this summer

The obvious thing about City that should not go unsaid is that the spine of their team is fit and in fantastic form.

Captain Vincent Kompany, midfielder Yaya Toure and Aguero all had their difficulties and/or injury absences last year, but they all look in great condition mentally and physically at the moment.

When you add goalkeeper Joe Hart and Silva to that list, not many teams can compare with that sort of quality and strength down the centre of the pitch.

But all of those players have been at City for at least four years. The biggest difference about City this season is down to Sterling - and the effect he is having is greater than you can see just by looking at statistics.

Sterling creates panic as well as goals

Man City forward Raheem Sterling
Sterling has started all three of City's Premier League games on the left flank

Sterling is yet to find the net and has assisted only one of City's eight goals in their first three games.

Ultimately City have signed one heck of an exciting prospect but at the moment, like Navas, his biggest threat actually lies with what he allows his team-mates to do.

They both keep defenders occupied and also offer a threat in behind defences with their pace.

That creates panic, which you did not see when Silva or Samir Nasri played wide last season.

So, just by being there, Sterling and Navas are having a positive effect on the opposition back four.

If Belgium international Kevin de Bruyne joins City from Wolfsburg before the end of the transfer window, he would give City even more midfield options.

De Bruyne is undoubtedly a quality player but he is not a natural winger and, if he were used instead of Navas on the right, City would lose some of their width which is proving so effective at the moment.

City's trio have got better, but who is the best?

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard created 101 chances in the Premier League last season, more than any other player

City's attack is proving to be the most potent at the moment but, if it came down to the question of end product alone, I still prefer Chelsea's three attacking midfielders.

Both teams play a 4-2-3-1 formation so the simplest way of looking at it is by asking whether Sterling, Silva and Navas would get in Chelsea's team?

Silva would make it if I could take him on his own, but Eden Hazard and Pedro are both more of a finished article than Sterling, and both of them are more productive than Navas.

Hazard & Pedro in the Premier League 2015-16
PlayerHazardPedro
Minutes27084
Shots (goals)1 (0)1 (1)
Assists10
Chances created93

This might bite me on the backside before the end of the season but, whether it is Ramires or Oscar who end up playing regularly for Chelsea along with Hazard and Pedro, I would back them 100% to get more goals and assists than Sterling, Silva and Navas.

The reason for that is Hazard and Pedro will guarantee you double figures for assists and goals right now, while Sterling and Navas don't.

That is something Sterling will offer eventually and in two or three years he could be a frightening player in front of goal too. But at the moment, I don't think you would find many Premier League managers who would pick him ahead of Hazard or even Pedro.

Sterling & Navas in the Premier League 2015-16
PlayerSterlingNavas
Minutes229245
Shots (goals)5 (0)5 (0)
Assists10
Chances created37

How do you stop City?

Man City duo David Silva and Vincent Kompany
Silva celebrates with Vincent Kompany after his header against West Brom

Watford will be the latest team to try and hold up City when they go to the Etihad on Saturday, and the Hornets have got two choices against a team this good.

The first is to go hell for leather - play a really high line and press City everywhere on the pitch. When you do that, you aim to get the first goal, and then you hang on for dear life.

David Silva's touches against Everton
David Silva had 96 touches in City's win over Everton on Sunday, more than any other player on the pitch

The second is to be supremely well organised and play on the counter-attack, a bit like Stoke did when they beat City last season.

It is possible if all your players are at the top of their game, but it will only work if you have got pace in your attack - and even then you need a lot of luck.

Watford will need City to have a bit of an off day, and I cannot see that happening this weekend.

The hosts are playing with a confidence and intensity we have not seen from them for a while and I fear for Quique Flores's team.

City could maul them, and I think they will win by two or three goals at least.

Danny Murphy was speaking to BBC Sport's Chris Bevan.

Top Stories