Saturday 21 October 2017

City prove they have the power to go for glory

Brighton 0 Manchester City 2

Sergio Aguero opened the scoring for City Photo: Reuters
Sergio Aguero opened the scoring for City Photo: Reuters

Sam Wallace

The expectation for Pep Guardiola's team, upgraded this summer to the tune of £230m, is that they are just too good to fail and in a Premier League season that has started with much volatility this was a Manchester City performance that suggested the machine is working nicely.

Against them was one of the Premier League's new teams, pumped up on the sweet belief of life in football's promised land, and they took some breaking down over the course of the late afternoon, but when eventually the goals did come, they there was no surprise among either set of fans.

Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City beats Lewis Dunk of Brighton & Hove Albion to the ball to scores his sides second goal Photo: Getty
Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City beats Lewis Dunk of Brighton & Hove Albion to the ball to scores his sides second goal Photo: Getty

City have the power to be monstrously good this season and it will be games such as these they must tick off if Guardiola is to win the Premier League title many think he should.

Sergio Aguero scored the first, with 20 minutes left, with City gradually grinding down the resistance of a Brighton team that could not quite avoid the errors that are so costly against teams as good as this.

In midfield the dominance of Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva was overwhelming and it was only in the closing stages that Guardiola gave a debut to Bernardo Silva, another man who could probably have run the game if needed.

They had to wait for the goals, but one imagines this will be the way for City on many occasions this season - an opponent lined up to stop them and Guardiola searching for ways to break down teams who do not afford his side the space to run into.

Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides first goal Photo: Getty
Sergio Aguero of Manchester City celebrates scoring his sides first goal Photo: Getty

He has as many options as he needs, and there might have been more than just two goals on this occasion, the second an own goal from the Brighton defender Lewis Dunk.

Guardiola's touchline outfit spoke of a man who had spent his summer holiday in one of Europe's more discreetly expensive locations. Beige slacks, fresh white trainers and the polo and sweater combination of the weekend golfer.

On the pitch, a team that felt like it should be too awesome a force for the opposition but, in the first half, was less than the sum of its parts.

The measure of the new City can be taken in its absurdly strong substitutes' bench - £207 million on transfer fees all in, which is more than the combined cost of the Amex Stadium and Brighton's training base at Lancing.

It included Yaya Toure, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling, as well as curiosities expensively acquired along the way, like Claudio Bravo and Eliaquim Mangala. The team itself is meant to be unbeatable and it can be hard to spot a weakness on the team sheet.

Perhaps it is Nicolas Otamendi, or John Stones on a bad day. But against one of the Premier League's new teams, it was not the three-man defence that was under examination, but City's power to overwhelm opponents who sat deep.

For Brighton, this was the day they had been waiting for after 34 years away from the top-flight and even the jaw-dropping strength of the opposition was not going to spoil it for them. They did sit back and try to absorb as much as they could of City's possession and for the most part it worked. As for what went in the other direction, there was not much to speak of in the first half.

Brighton lost Izzy Brown, the Chelsea loanee, to injury after just 18 minutes. He was replaced by Jamie Murphy who had Brighton's only sight of goal when Pascal Gross clipped a nice ball in from the right that the substitute could not get close enough to require a save of Ederson.

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