Arsenal 0-2 Manchester City
It was a substitution just before the hour mark which was perhaps the most telling sign.
The sign why Manchester City are clear favourites to win the Premier League with a lot more than just us followers.
As if ripping up English football’s record books wasn’t enough last term – a record 100 points and a record 19 point winning margin from their nearest rivals – City were also breathtaking to watch and the question on many lips is can they be as hard to stop again?
This result and performance suggest an empathic yes.
Highlights of the game
When club record signing Riyad Mahrez came off in the 58th minute, Arsenal could have been forgiven for thinking there may be some respite.
Only the player replacing the Algerian was none other than City’s player of the season last year and a class act who only just missed out on the footballer of the year titles too.
The introduction of Kevin de Bruyne, one of the stars for club and country, was an unequivocal showing of the club’s strength in depth.
Yes, it should be when manager Pep Guardiola and his predecessors have spent far more than any other club side in Europe over the past decade.
Yet here was further proof, if it was needed, why City have left their rivals playing catch-up.
Joining De Bruyne on the bench were skipper and fellow countryman Vincent Kompany, who has already skippered City to the title in 2012, 2014 and 2018; Leroy Sane, astonishingly left out of Germany’s World Cup squad; another big money recruit in Argentine defender Nicolas Otamendi, exciting young Brazilian forward Gabriel Jesus, young hopeful Phil Foden (who many say is the type of creative player the England national team has been crying out for – give the lad a chance, he’s only 18!) and Claudio Bravo – the goalkeeper Guardiola signed for £15.4 million and promptly dropped after a season when he realised the Chilean was actually better than the man he had replaced (Joe Hart).
Of course, City can afford to make such mistakes and a £35 million transfer of Ederson duly followed.
He has since signed a contract extension which will keep him at the Etihad Stadium until 2025.
In truth, the Brazilian was a spectator for long spells at the Emirates.
City were very much in control against Arsenal on Unai Emery’s first Premier League match in charge of Arsenal.
A stunning strike from Raheem Sterling on the edge of the box gave City an early lead and was the cue for one-way traffic.
Only a fine double save from Petr Cech just before the half-hour mark – pushing away a Mahrez free-kick and an Aymeric Laporte follow-up – kept the scoreline down.
Soon after de Bruyne’s introduction came a match-winning second.
Benjamin Mendy, who missed so much of last season through injury, burst down the left-hand side and picked out Bernardo Silva – both players swapped the Monaco playground for City riches last summer – and Silva arrowed a first-time shot past Cech.
Arsenal did have the ball in the net with 13 minutes remaining but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was offside and a potentially tense finish was avoided.
Then Mesut Ozil was denied for the same reason and it is clear Emery will need time for his players to adapt to his methods and vice versa.
However, an Arsenal goal would have been deceptive as City were so in control and ran out clear winners with Cech denying Aguero and De Bruyne among others.
This was an encounter which showed again why Premier League 2018 odds make them favourites to retain the title and why Premier League 2018 results will, more often than not, go their way.
City are off to a flyer!
This was Raheem Sterling’s 50th Premier League goal.
This was Arsenal’s first match without Arsene Wenger in charge since September 1996.
Emery has never guided his side to a victory over a club managed by Guardiola. This was his 11th attempt.
New signings and World Cup latecomers Lucas Torreira – who showed nice touches during his spell on the pitch – and Stephan Lichsteiner both made their Premier League debuts from the substitutes bench.
The tough start for Emery keeps on coming.
It’s 2017 champions Chelsea next for the Gunners at Stamford Bridge followed by a home match against West Ham before August is out.
City welcome Huddersfield for their first home league match of the new season next Sunday (August 19) before a trip to newly promoted Wolves.
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