Holloway convinced of City title credentials

Manchester City 1 Blackpool 0
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The Independent Football

As Ian Holloway was quick to note, everywhere at Eastlands, from barrier covers to sticks of rock, there are signs of progress but perhaps the biggest indication of forward momentum is something that has dissipated.

For too long, City have been defined by their neighbours United, even when they were in different divisions but now they are challenging them for the title, there are other things to think about.

"I'm not really bothered what United do," goalkeeper Joe Hart said. "We can only focus on what we're doing. We've been playing against Blackpool, then Arsenal on Wednesday.

"I don't even know who United have got next and I'm pretty sure they don't care who we've got. They just focus on what they're doing, and that's we're trying to do here."

Short of their best and wasteful in front of goal they may have been against Blackpool, but City have now picked up six victories in eight Premier League matches ahead of Wednesday's trip to Arsenal.

And with their ongoing interest in Wolfsburg's Edin Dzeko and the Benfica defender David Luiz, who is also wanted by Chelsea, City are the only title challengers likely to strengthen significantly this month.

The Emirates will offer another indication of their prospects, with Arsenal having won 3-0 at City in October when Dedryck Boyata, who has not featured in the Premier League since, was sent off after just four minutes.

"Arsenal will be exciting," Hart added. "Obviously, they beat us here earlier in the season but it was a bit of a strange affair and I don't think either side got a grasp of what the other is really like because we were down to 10 men after four minutes.

"So it will be a totally different encounter, a night game at the Emirates, you've got to embrace these situations.

"The standard is very high in this league and it's a bit to and fro at the moment, but I think the teams that should be winning are winning all the games they should be at the moment and we've got to try to keep doing that as well."

Adam Johnson scored the only goal at Eastlands, sweeping in from just outside the area thanks to a Stephen Crainey deflection before Carlos Tevez missed a penalty and a host of other chances.

Holloway was a little dismissive of City's prospects after their 3-2 victory at Bloomfield Road in October but has revised his opinion after this loss, insisting that Roberto Mancini's side can last the distance.

"I thought they'd improved greatly on when we played them in the home game. I think they are learning to win," Holloway said. "The closer they get to the top the more they will get together and well done to them.

"I didn't agree with Mark Hughes not keeping his job at the time, but then again, who am I to question what they are doing? They are doing it with dignity now. Not when [the owners]) first came in – 'We're gonna get Ronaldo' and all that – I didn't think that was very dignified and it was bragging. But now, someone here really knows what they're doing and the whole place is moving towards that wonderful scenario of one day, they might do it."

Scorer: Manchester City A Johnson 34.

Subs: Man City Zabaleta (Kolarov, 58), Milner (Silva, 64), Vieira (Y Touré, 85). Blackpool Phillips (Sylvestre, 46), Ormerod (Taylor-Fletcher, 74), Carney (Varney, 82).

Man of the match Y Touré. Match rating 7/10.

Possession Man City 56% Blackpool 44%.

Shots on target Man City 4 Blackpool 7.

Referee M Clattenburg (Durham). Att 47,296.