City returned to winning ways in emphatic fashion with a 5-0 triumph over Burnley on Saturday, ensuring there was to be no international break hangover, as Premier League football returned to the Etihad Stadium.
Five different goalscorers marked the scoresheet on another impressive afternoon’s work, which maintained the Blues’ unbeaten record and seat atop the division.
During the summer break, the question on the lips of the footballing world, queried: “How can City possibly top the remarkable, record-smashing feat of the season before?”
GALLERY: Match action | City 5-0 Burnley
Well, it’s now the middle of October and many are of the opinion Pep Guardiola’s men are already portraying progress.
The Daily Mail’s Joe Bernstein shares that view, scribing in his match report: “There is an argument that Pep's all-stars are even better than last season.
“Five different players scored against Burnley and they are on course to break last year's Premier League goals record.
“At the other end, a miserly defence have conceded only three goals in nine games. Guardiola was even praising the ground staff after another emphatic win.
“Whether the odd second goal will have changed the final outcome is doubtful. Guardiola is building a fortress at The Etihad. His side have won every home Premier League game this season and 17 of 19 last season.
“Most impressive is that the goals are being shared around.
“An hour after the final whistle, [Joe] Hart was back on the Etihad pitch he graced 348 times for City, for a nostalgic look around the ground and a little kickabout with his young son.
“He had a training pitch named in his honour by City last week. He now knows first-hand his old team are getting stronger and stronger.”
A frightening but thrilling prospect!
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Jonathan Smith reflected: “City were again completely dominant, controlling the possession as they wanted and creating chances with ease.
“But it may be more pleasing that a physically dominant side failed to have a single attempt on target as City's mean defence continues to grow in confidence.”
GALLERY: Inside City | Episode 313
Alam Khan, writing for the Independent, stated: “City’s slick passing and energy and endeavour constantly left the Clarets bewitched and bewildered.”
Sky Sports’ Paul Merson has also tipped the Champions to retain the title, highlighting the Blues’ strength in depth as key to success.
“This is why City will win the Premier League for me – they can play in second and third gear and win 5-0 against a very well organised team.
“I said during the second half what a good coach Sean Dyche is for the way he sets his team up – they had a plan, they squeezed every time. They all played well.
“It was one minute and 56 seconds of the second half, which slaughtered them. They were 1-0 down and went two and three down within two minutes.
“They didn't do too bad, Burnley, but they're getting back on the coach, having just been rinsed 5-0 – and for me, that's why they [City] are the top team in the Premier League.
“You can leave Raheem Sterling out, while Kevin De Bruyne came off the bench. You have those two players not playing and you still win 5-0 – it’s phenomenal.”
Like many others, Merson also reserved praise for Man of the Match Riyad Mahrez.
The pundit continued: “He played well. They tried to keep showing him onto his right foot but he always found a way to come back onto his left.
“He picked some great crosses out and the icing on the cake was his goal. Joe Hart just stood there – he had absolutely no chance – because he bent it in the top corner.
“For me, he’s a really good signing.”
Simon Bajkowski of the Manchester Evening News agreed: “This was the Algerian's best display for his new club.
“Brought in to add something extra to the attack, there were two delicious crosses for Sergio Aguero in the opening ten minutes – one missed, one turned onto the post by Joe Hart – and Burnley could not cope with his deliveries all afternoon.
“And even though he did not end up with an assist to his name, the threat was enough – and the goal some deserved gloss. As the visitors prepared themselves for more whipped crosses from the right, City undid them on the floor from the left.
“That is exactly what Mahrez – and City – are capable of.”
Stuart Brennan of the same source echoed: “[Mahrez] fired in some great crosses in the first half that should have brought goals, continued to be a jinking menace, and capped it with a beauty.”
WhoScored analysed the Algerian’s stats, with Martin Laurence reporting: “It was a five-star display from Pep Guardiola’s side, with summer signing Riyad Mahrez the pick of the bunch as he set out to redeem himself for missing a penalty against Liverpool ahead of the break.
“The Algerian was the fourth of five different goalscorers, mustering four shots in total, completing two dribbles and two tackles while creating four chances for his teammates. A rating of 9.53 was the highest in the Premier League from Saturday’s matches.”
Others (understandably) singled out for acclaim.
“Even at the grand old age of 32, the Spanish supremo continues to pull the strings in the City midfield,” Eurosport purred.
“He was at the heart of every City attack, linking up with Sane on the left to devastating effect.”
A Sky Sports article also read: “Amazingly, he [Silva] came into the game with no assists this season but had created the second-most chances of any player in the league (22).
“He was at his creative best again here. There were to be no goals for the City legend but he unlocked the door twice to break his duck in terms of assists.
“That is 77 Premier League assists for the club in 255 appearances.”
Elsewhere, looking ahead to today’s FA Women’s Super League trip to Brighton and Hove Albion, there’s a word from the opposition as Seagulls midfielder Kirsty Barton asserts facing City is one of the most eagerly-awaited fixtures in the calendar.
Speaking to the Club’s official website, she declared: “They are one of the biggest teams in the league, and are one of the teams that we’re looking forward to playing most.
“You need to be disciplined against teams like that and you have got to stay switched on for 90 minutes, because they can completely change a game so quickly.
“But we still prepare in the same way no matter which team we play. We don’t go into any game any differently.”
Finally, today’s transfer gossip is brought to us, courtesy of the Mirror, who believe City are weighing up a move for Bournemouth’s Nathan Ake.
According to Tom Hopkinson: “Guardiola, who has been watching Ake since he signed for Bournemouth, considered a move for the player in the summer.
“The City boss likes Ake’s versatility — he can operate as a central defender, left-back or in defensive midfield — and believes he would fit in nicely with the rest of his squad.
“There is also a feeling at the Etihad that the 23-year-old could develop into a world-class performer and the fact he qualifies as a homegrown player given the length of time he has been in England is also appealing.
“Guardiola will face competition for Ake, who has been capped seven times by Holland, from Spurs and United, who are also keen.”