For large parts of their impressive 3-1 win over Liverpool at the Etihad on Monday evening, Manchester City barely got out of third gear, which is understandable given the level of involvement their squad had at this summer’s World Cup. For many of City’s biggest stars, it’s been a truncated preseason, and full match sharpness eludes them for the time being.
However, the gulf in class between them and last season’s runners-up in the second half was remarkable. City, it seemed, could raise their game whenever necessary and blow Liverpool away with their quality.
It was a similar pattern to the one on show in City’s 2-0 opening-day win over Newcastle at St James’ Park. City barely overextended themselves during that game, either, yet the three points were never in doubt. What looked on paper like a tricky start to the season has been negotiated effortlessly—an ominous sign for the rest of the division.
The scary thing for City’s title rivals is the room for improvement in the coming weeks and months. Sergio Aguero may have two goals to his name already, yet he has only managed two cameo appearances so far, while Fernandinho has also been rested after his World Cup exertions.
Eliaquim Mangala, City’s big summer signing from Porto, is yet to play while he is given time to get up to speed with his teammates, as is Bacary Sagna who brings more experience and dynamism to City’s defence.
Fernando’s presence in midfield is already being felt, Willy Caballero’s arrival appears to have had the desired effect and upped Joe Hart’s game and David Silva is the best player in the league.
Everywhere you look, City have players of genuine class.
The club’s summer transfer activity has been so well planned they now have options all over the pitch. Competition for places is a manager’s greatest strength, and Manuel Pellegrini now has two quality players for every position.
It’s a far cry from the debacle that was City’s last title defence. After winning their first title in 44 years in the most dramatic way possible—overhauling Manchester United during a tense and fraught final few weeks before confirming their title win in the final seconds of the season—City then rested on their laurels and dithered in the transfer market in the summer that followed.
A haphazard last-minute spending spree brought little reward. A host of players incapable of helping City progress were signed, most of whom have since been sold. Roberto Mancini berated the club’s lack of ambition in the transfer market, and with a squad that had effectively been weakened, they finished 11 points behind Manchester United.
Indeed, Pellegrini, who usually steers well clear of talking about goings-on at City before his arrival, said recently he wanted to avoid the “disaster” that followed their 2012 title win (via BBC Sport). There’s a determination in the eyes of these City players which suggests he’ll get his wish.
This summer’s transfer policy, carried out by the Chilean and director of football Txiki Begiristain, means there’s little chance of a repeat performance. This is the best City squad in living memory, and their opening two wins suggest there’s a hunger to achieve big things again this season.
Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2014-15 season. Follow him on Twitter here: @RobPollard_