Last weekend Manchester City looked a little off the pace against Spurs and crashed to a 1-0 defeat. Maybe the home side were driven on to show Harry Kane just what he would be missing if he switched London for Manchester, which spurred the team on to defeat the blues.
But against Norwich on Saturday afternoon, City gave a reminder of just what hey could do and why the fools who, after just one game, had started writing the blues off already.
City have a decent record against the Canaries, and the last time these two met, City thrashed them 5-0. And after they were beaten 3-0 at Carrow Road by Liverpool, visiting fans would have feared the worst by playing a team that felt like they had something to prove.
And the blues did exactly that, dominating from start to finish in such a way that no Norwich player actually managed to touch the ball inside the City box in the first half, while the blues poured forward at every opportunity.
With new boy Jack Grealish taking up the left wing, it would have been expected that Raheem Sterling would have started on the right. But Pep Guardiola decided instead to play Gabriel Jesus on the right with Ferran Torres up front.
And it highlighted why Guardiola is regarding as one of the best managers in the world.
Jesus excelled on the wing to the point where City were using the right as the main outlet for attacks. It was his ball across the face of goal in the 11th minute that had Norwich scrambling, before putting the ball into their own goal. But it was his control on the chest and first time cross into the danger area that looks to be a different side to his game. In the past, he might have been inclined to try and take on the defender, but instead, he launched the ball into the danger area which proved to be the right choice.
And the Brazilian’s awareness to set up Torres to score the soon-to-be disallowed second goal will have made Guardiola think that the right side as a provider, rather then in the centre as a target man, would be best suited to Jesus’ game.
Jesus was at it again 11 minutes later when the excellent Kyle Walker set him free beyond the Norwich defence. His ball across bounced of the knee of Grealish, Edin Dzeko 6-1 style, for the former Villa man to score his first goal in a City shirt.
It was a fortunate goal, but he won’t care too much about that and neither will the City fans. The important thing was that Grealish was in exactly the right place an attacker should be in, precisely for crosses like that.
Defenders Take Over
City’s defence was fairly solid last season, but it looks like, along with Jesus, that they have upped their game too. You’d expect big defenders to go up for corners and that’s exactly what Aymeric Laporte did, but the composure he showed in taking his goal was something different. He had the time and space, yet Laporte didn’t panic when the ball came to him and just stroked it home like a training ground match. Laporte knew exactly where he wanted to put the ball, picked his spot and watched as 2-0 became 3-0.
It has recently been reported that Laporte will be allowed to leave if a £60m bid is received. The defender wants first team football, but his display against Norwich would indicate that City would be foolish to let him go Just as with John Stones, Ruben Dias formed an excellent partnership with the Spanish international, mopping up whatever the Canaries could throw at them.
Some might say, and on social media they already have done, that it was only Norwich, which does a great disservice to the visitors. They aren’t in the Premier League be selection, they earned their place in the top-flight and will need time to find their feet. But it must be remembered that it was newly promoted Norwich who inflicted a surprise 3-2 defeat on City two seasons ago. And when you look at Brentford’s opening day win over Arsenal, and subsequent draw at Crystal Palace, it shows that newly promoted teams should not be taken for granted as the division’s whipping boys.
In the 71st minute, it was that man Jesus again who provided for substitute Sterling to make it 4-0, but it was the pass by Walker that made the goal. Jesus timed his run to perfection to stay onside and Walker’s defence splitting pass found the Brazilian in plenty of space, and his first-time ball left Norwich chasing shadows and Tim Krul once again picking the ball out of the net.
It’s a position that Sterling has got himself into many times, but having Jesus once again as the provider adds a new dimension to City’s wing play, and it makes you wonder if City really need Harry Kane up front.
Mahrez added a fifth with six minutes remaining, but this time, the assist didn’t come from midfield, rather from the foot of Dias. Not only is the defender stopping goals at one end, but he’s providing at the other.
His vision to pick out Mahrez with such a pass would make you think Kevin de Bruyne had been on the pitch all this time, just disguised as various other City players, and if the blues can continue to provide assists and score from anywhere throughout the entire season, then another Premier League title could well be coming to the Etihad next May.