What a difference three months makes. Back in May of this year the Manchester City team was in meltdown, losing at home to Norwich and, even worse, succumbing pitifully to Wigan in the FA Cup final.
Fast forward to August, things are looking a sight rosier, and the year-long hangover has finally passed. Which can only mean that it’s time to start enjoying ourselves again.
City had an efficient but relatively quiet summer, missing out on Isco and Edinson Cavani but bringing in four quality additions in Stevan Jovetic, Alvaro Negredo, Fernandinho and Jesús Navas.
The latter two of these signings showed glimpses on Monday night of what the City faithful can expect this season.
Fernandinho was efficient in the middle of the park, equally comfortable breaking up play or stroking the ball around, and already seems to have found a partner in Yaya Toure who is on his wavelength. Don’t be surprised if these two rack up some considerable game time together.
Navas was an altogether more eye-catching debutant, and after a tricky opening offered a wide option that City fans have for a long time been crying out for. Countless times the Spaniard beat his defender for pace and whipped in dangerous crosses, which on another day someone would have buried.
The option Navas brings the side will be invaluable to City in the coming months, as City fans will be praying that the tactic of slowing the ball down and playing just through the middle is a thing of the past.
One man who looks set to profit from the introduction of both Navas and Manuel Pellegrini is Edin Dzeko. On Monday the Bosnian did everything but score a goal and put in one of his best performances for the club. He was instrumental in a number of the goals and tore the Newcastle defence apart with excellent movement.
He will be aware of the likes of Jovetic and Negredo breathing down his neck and, if the first game is anything to go by, has raised his game accordingly. Time will tell if Dzeko can recreate the form he showed at Wolfsburg but City fans have reason to be hopeful, especially after a successful pre-season.
Dzeko wasn’t the only player to catch the eye on Monday night. David Silva looked somewhere near back to his best, while Sergio Aguero and Toure’s finishes were close to perfection.
But let’s not get too carried away just yet. As good as City were, Newcastle were bad, and never looked like getting anything out of the game. We can safely ignore Alan Pardew’s assertion that they were still in the game at 2-0 – they played like a beaten team from the off.
Nevertheless, you can only beat who is in front of you and City managed that without breaking a sweat.
It was reassuring to see the City team purring again, controlling the game in the opposition half and all the while creating gilt-edged chances. More importantly, they finished four of them and with a better referee would have been in cricket score country.
The final word, though, should go to the manager, Pellegrini. He couldn’t have hoped for a much better start but tougher tasks will lie ahead. How he uses his squad through the season and keeps his plethora of stars happy could define the rest of the campaign.