Andy Brassell: Manchester City challenging idea that 'there are no easy games'

Pep Guardiola can toast a great start, and the rest of the Premier League appears to be cowering in his shadow
Pep Guardiola can toast a great start, and the rest of the Premier League appears to be cowering in his shadow

Pep Guardiola's Manchester City are already outstanding, writes Andy Brassell, but have they already developed an aura that leaves opponents virtually beaten before they've even started?


"Already, City have a real presence about them. The Etihad is not yet a bear pit to match the Allianz Arena but given a few more months of this sort of football – and they were breathtakingly good at points on Saturday, even given Bournemouth’s malleability - it might not be so far off it."

That growing feeling that it's going to happen has mushroomed over the last few days. Manchester City couldn't have asked for much more of their weekend, with a resounding win on Saturday bookended by damaging defeats for two of their major rivals on either side - Chelsea on Friday, and Manchester United on Sunday.

Whether via their own quality or the shortcomings of their rivals, City are looking more and more like Premier League champions in waiting, already. They're now as short as 1.728/11 favourites in the Winner market, from a high of 3.9 pre-season.

That Guardiola's first (and supposedly still learning) City side are something special is increasingly indisputable. Given the playing resources at his disposal - and whether even Bayern would have had the means to get Kevin de Bruyne, Raheem Sterling, Sergio Agüero, Ilkay Gündogan and John Stones under the same roof at once is debatable - it might not be the surprise of the century.

Their fluency, and the amount of information those players have already absorbed from their new boss, is highly impressive for such an early stage in the season. What is truly remarkable, though, is that Guardiola's City already seem to be building a Bayern-esque aura around them, as good as beating opponents before a ball is kicked. Look at Bournemouth's visit to Manchester on Saturday.

From the first 10 seconds of the match, in which they jittered into conceding possession from kick-off and needed an Artur Boruc save to deny De Bruyne, the Cherries looked sunk. We're constantly hearing that especially post-new television bounty, when everyone in the Premier League is loaded, we're closer to sporting meritocracy than ever. Bournemouth spent £15 million on Jordon Ibe, for goodness' sake.

This, however, was the sight of a side rolling on to its back to have its tummy tickled, even allowing for City's intrinsic excellence. Granted, Bournemouth will spend more of their season looking over their shoulders than threatening the top eight, but you'd expect more than this.

In their debut campaign in the top flight, they beat Chelsea and Manchester United, didn't lose either of their games against eventual champions Leicester and beat neighbouring giants Southampton as recently as March. What did they have to be scared of?

Already, City have a real presence about them. The Etihad is not yet a bear pit to match the Allianz Arena but given a few more months of this sort of football - and they were breathtakingly good at points on Saturday, even given Bournemouth's malleability - it might not be so far off it.

The value of having Guardiola at the peak of his powers is already clear. That intimidation factor that already appears present could come in useful - having opponents, like Saturday's, that quiver at the sight of City will be very useful come spring, when they hope to be facing their biggest challenges of the campaign in Europe.


Spurs' taxing week ends with sunshine poking through the clouds


It was hard work, but they got there in the end. After spending Wednesday unsuccessfully toiling to break down Monaco on a Wembley pitch that must have felt as big as Hampstead Heath by the end, Tottenham were made to wait again by Sunderland on Sunday, who refused to submit until Harry Kane finally eked out a breakthrough.

Mauricio Pochettino's side have put a few miles on the clock in this past week, but despite that losing Champions League start, they can look back on a job well done.

They're still finding their best selves but have largely avoided their customary shaky start that leaves them playing catch-up, and are third, only four points behind City. On top of that, European rivals Bayer Leverkusen are struggling. Reasons for optimism, then, in N17.


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