If Manchester City are to become the first team since 2009 to defend the Premier League title, matching last season’s brilliance will be essential. And on the evidence of what we saw at the Emirates Stadium in our opening game of the new campaign, the players are ready to deliver. Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva scored the goals as City beat a new-look Arsenal side 2-0, producing a hugely impressive performance containing both style and substance.
What happened? City started brightly and deservedly went ahead when Sterling brilliantly skipped past two Arsenal challenges on the edge of the box before unleashing a right-footed effort from 20 yards that flew past Cech. Given the truncated preseason he’s had after heavy World Cup involvement, his energy and enthusiasm were impressive. What a start to his and City’s season. Ederson denied Hector Bellerin withy a smart stop to keep City in front, before a swift City break ended with Aguero hitting the sidenetting when perhaps he should have made Cech work. City were playing with the same vibrancy we showed in last weekend’s win over Chelsea and were almost 2-0 up when Aguero brought down just outside box by Sokratis. Riyad Mahrez took the resulting free-kick and forced a save from Cech low down to his right, before the Arsenal stopper reacted quickly to deny Aymeric Laporte’s close-range follow up with an instinctive stop. Mahrez was inches away from opening his account three minutes before half time when he curled a left-footed effort just past Cech’s far post as City continued to dominate, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s effort almost brought Arsenal level moments later but his long-distance strike sailed just wide. Arsenal brought on Alexandre Lacazette ten minutes after the interval as they went in search of an equaliser. He almost delivered with his first touch, but his volley flashed wide of the upright. Aguero should have doubled City’s lead when he was clean through – but Cech made a crucial intervention after coming off his line to deny the Argentine. Seconds later, City had scored again, Bernardo producing a spectacular first-time left-footed finish that flew into the top corner in emphatic fashion. That Arsenal’s performance was somewhat disjointed shouldn’t detract from City’s display. This was where we left off last season: electric going forward, but capable of slowing the game down and dominating the ball when necessary. This is a side full of talent, but also one with outstanding tactical acumen and game-management abilities. There's plenty more to come, but this was a pleasing start.
Man of the Match: Bernardo Silva In truth, there were several candidates - but Bernardo once again produced a high-octane performance that dazzled. His goal was topped off a superb performance.
City ready to buck the trend? No side has retained the Premier League title since Manchester United won their third in a row back in 2009. Indeed, the reigning champions have ended the following season outside the top four in each of the last three years. But on the evidence of this game, City look ready to break that trend. Far from showing the kind of complacency that has affected recent title defences, City look more focused and sharper than before. Last weekend’s win at Wembley saw us produce some wonderful football, and the performance here at the Emirates was no different. City were superior to Arsenal in every department. The hosts will improve as Unai Emery gradually imprints his style but take nothing away from City. This was a sensational victory. City’s defence says it all City’s desire to play open, attractive football could hardly be better exemplified than by our back four and goalkeeper in this game. Walker and Mendy are two of the most attack-minded full-backs in English football, with Walker, in particular, devastating down City’s right at the Emirates. Stones and Laporte are two centre-halves committed to bringing the ball out of defence and looking to play passes between the lines, and behind them they have a goalkeeper who could easily play outfield if necessary. Guardiola, schooled by Johan Cruyff, craves winning in style. His back four and goalkeeper tell you everything you need to know about his philosophy.
Next up City host Huddersfield next Sunday in this season’s first game at the Etihad, with kick-off at 1.30pm.