Manchester City have that look again, the one that’s made them the good china of the Premier League for two of the last three seasons.
City’s 2-0 win over Newcastle United on Sunday looked simple, even if it wasn’t. It was a season opener on the road. It’s difficult to play an opener against a team that was dreadful for the whole second half of last season, as nuts as that sounds. An offseason for a struggling club like Newcastle always starts with the five stages of grief, but then as the new year draws nearer, every team finds their hope, even if it’s delusional. Newcastle probably aren’t a top-10 team in 2014-15, but those fans and players don’t know it yet. Renewed passion made St. James Park a tough place to play for City in the opener.
Newcastle peppered City with barrages of clever, pacey play and were largely good defensively, but the game never really seemed in doubt. That’s the paradox of being a City fan, I suppose, and why they’re getting close to “A Good Song That’s Overplayed On The Radio” status if they win another championship.
City are so good that they’re almost boring, even though they aren’t. They’re a little bit like the San Antonio Spurs, or any team that employs Peyton Manning, or even Alex Ferguson‘s Manchester United teams. It’s interesting to say, but City alone aren’t really must-watch television for a neutral. It’s a shame, because they’re brilliant.
The win over Newcastle was a quiet domination, the kind of business-like wins we’ve come to expect from Manuel Pellegrini‘s club in his year-plus as manager of the blue side of Manchester. Everything feels measured, calculated. City is void of a star, even though every player — from Yaya Toure to Sergio Aguero to Vincent Kompany — is absolutely world-class. They don’t need expensive transfers. They’re healthy. They’re solid or spectacular at every position. If City have a weakness, it’s not perceptible.
We’ll see on Monday how Chelsea look in their first fixture, on the road at newcomers Burnley, but right now City are the deserved champions with an elusive target on their back. I think Chelsea are the champions when this season ends in May, but City have only lost twice in their last 28 games — to Liverpool and Chelsea. That’s one of the ways you know you’re looking at a top club, they never play down to the level of their opponents. On Sunday, Newcastle never had a chance.
Grant Burkhardt is a regional Emmy-award winning television producer and Ohio University graduate (barely) who’s fallen head over boots for world football. You can chat soccer with him on social media, because he loves it, on Twitter and Google+.