City made it five out of five for the season on Sunday courtesy of a thrilling 3-1 victory over West Ham.
Club journalist Mark Booth delivers six topics for discussion following the final game before the international break…
1 Cut to ribbons
Following the 1-0 win over Steaua in midweek, Pep told journalists: “I’m finding we’re having a lot of possession in the first halves of games but not creating enough - I don’t like that.”
You can only imagine the City boss was slightly more satisfied with this first half showing on Sunday…
The opening period against West Ham was the clearest sign yet that Guardiola’s squad are assimilating their new coaches’ ideas and buying into his philosophy of high intensity pressing, one or two-touch passing and unpredictable movement in the final third.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Slaven Bilic’s side were cut to ribbons on countless occasions in the first 45 as they struggled to cope with the onslaught brought upon them by a City side full of hard-running and invention – the only surprise was that the margin between the teams was only two goals at the interval.
The move which created the first goal on seven minutes was pure Guardiola, as the Blues appeared to tilt the pitch left and right as if it were a foosball table made of balsa wood, unsettling the away defence to the extent that Raheem Sterling’s run into the area went unchallenged, allowing him to slot home the opener.
2 Strong Finish
You also have to credit the away side.
A team with less moxie would have folded under the pressure and could have been hit for five or six but Bilic acted decisively with his substitution at half-time and the East Londoners' caused City a few problems after the interval.
Mikhail Antonio’s header may have been the first clear-cut chance the Irons produced but they clearly upset the rhythm of their hosts in the second 45.
We looked set for a nervy finale but City came on strong again in the last 15 minutes and always looked the likeliest to score the decisive fourth goal at this stage.
David Silva struck the post, Sterling missed a one-on-one and Samir Nasri had a shot cleared off the line before Raheem finally ended the Hammers’ resistance once and for all in stoppage-time.
Aleks Kolarov reaction
3 Razzing It
Five games in and we’re already running out of superlatives to send Raheem’s way.
The stats speak for themselves: Four games, three assists and two goals – the England international is flying.
Guardiola refused to take any of the credit for the winger’s scintilating form in his post-match press conference and even stated his belief that Sterling has played “more brilliant” games as he didn’t win the ball back as many times as he has in previous weeks.
What cannot be denied is that this was Raheem’s most effective game of the season so far as he finished decisively on two occasions and looked a constant menace with the ball at his feet, running at Arthur Masuaku, drawing foul after foul.
Not just good news for City supporters but also for Sam Allardyce who included Sterling in his first England squad yesterday.
4 A Footnote
When Antonio halved the deficit after the break, you could be forgiven for fretting that this was going to be “one of those days”.
That’s because 60 seconds earlier, the home side were unfortunate not to have finished the game off as a contest with a decisive third goal.
Nolito spotted Aguero’s run and played him through and Kun had rounded Adrian in the West Ham goal before he spotted the offside flag.
Replays showed that the Argentine ace was actually half a yard onside and West Ham scored on their next attack – fortunately, this turned out to be little more than a footnote on a day of celebration for the majority inside the Etihad.
5 Heading Lessons
Fernandinho took to Instagram after the game to thank Fabian Delph and Raheem Sterling for teaching him to head the ball… we’ll extend the gratitude here too!
The Brazilian’s first strike of the season may have come from a more rudimentary source than the first goal of the day but it was no less thrilling on the eye.
Kevin De Bruyne’s devilish free-kick was begging to be converted and Fernandinho did just that, thumping his header past Adrian who was never getting close to it.
6 Decisive Substitution
It was fitting that Samir Nasri returned to the squad for the first time this season five years to the day since his brilliant City debut away at Spurs in 2011.
His impact here was almost as telling as he linked up with David Silva, De Bruyne and Sterling beautifully and helped to break the West Ham defensive lines on numerous occasions.
After an injury-hit 2015/16, Nasri looked to have that explosive acceleration back in this cameo and showed that he can make a big contribution this season if he decides to stick around.
Guardiola told journalists after the game that he would be happy if Samir stays “to become part of something” but emphasised that the decision will remain with the player – supporters will now be hoping that the Frenchman does stay for a sixth season on the evidence of this 15 minute showing.