Man City 2 Watford 0: For Manchester City, the club records are being countered with caution; they may look unstoppable in both the Premier League and the transfer market as August closes, but no one at the Etihad Stadium expects this to be a trouble-free season. Friday’s Champions League draw gave notice of the difficulties that lie ahead.
“We always seem to attract the interesting groups,” captain Vincent Kompany said of a draw that pitted City against Juventus, Sevilla and Borussia Monchengladbach. With that sort of opposition to come, there is a collective recognition at the club that getting carried away with a win over Watford would be foolish.
And yet, it was a weekend of much encouragement. A club-record 10th successive league victory was secured with relatively little fuss. As Manuel Pellegrini pointed out afterwards, these were the sort of matches in which his team dropped points last season.
Having maintained a 100% start to the campaign, City set about securing the club-record signing of Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg. For those who question whether Pellegrini needs any more attacking talent, Kompany points to a fixture list of seven matches in 22 days after the international break, including meetings with Juve and Monchengladbach.
“It’s a long season, the club is really ambitious and the squad wants to do well,” he said. “You’ve seen the Champions League draw we’ve had. There’s no way that the same guys are going to carry the team throughout this whole phase, so you need the players.”
Kompany described De Bruyne, his Belgium international team-mate, as a “game changer”; the new arrival will join a squad with several of those already in place. One of them, Raheem Sterling, took advantage of Pellegrini’s half-time tactical switch to break down Watford’s game resistance.
City had struggled in the first half against Quique Flores’ well-drilled side; Pellegrini’s response was a tactical change, taking off Jesus Navas, moving David Silva to the right and pushing Sterling in from the left to play behind Sergio Aguero. It worked.
Within 90 seconds of the restart, Sterling had found space to touch in Bacary Sagna’s cross from close range, for his first competitive goal since his £49m move from Liverpool. Silva, who was involved in the build-up, then provided the clever reverse pass from which Fernandinho blasted in the second goal from a tight angle.
There could have been further goals after that, with Yaya Toure steering a shot just wide from the edge of the penalty area and Samir Nasri forcing keeper Heurelho Gomes to beat away a long-distance drive. A 2-0 victory, though, was a sign of a job well done; four wins out of four, ten goals scored, none conceded. City are already eight points clear of Chelsea. It is easy to forget now that Pellegrini spent much of the summer fielding suggestions that Pep Guardiola was being lined up to replace him.
For now, it is Watford manager Flores who faces all the questions. His side made a terrific start to Premier League life following promotion; they should have won at Everton on the opening day, only to concede late on in a 2-2 draw. But they have not scored in four matches since then. Solid, disciplined performances will only get them so far, as midfielder Valon Behrami acknowledged.
“When you do one little mistake, you pay against this kind of team, so we’re going to have to learn to play against this level of team.”
MANCHESTER CITY (4-2-3-1):
Hart 6; Sagna 6, Mangala 6, Kompany 6, Kolarov 6; Fernandinho 6, Toure 7; Sterling 7 (Iheancho 90), Silva 8 (Delph 75, 6), Navas 5 (Nasri 45, 6); Aguero 7
Gomes 6; Nyom 7, Prodl 6, Catchcart 7, Holebas 6; Behrami 7, Capoue 7 (Watson 76 6), Abdi 6 (Anya 63 6); Ighalo 6 (Layun 72, 6), Jurado 6, Deeney 6
M Clattenburg 7
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