The hallmarks of Manchester City’s title-winning seasons were back on show as Pep Guardiola’s slick side dominated Burnley at Turf Moor
Last off the Manchester City coach and into a dressing room plunged in darkness was a man unrecognisable to even the most fanatical supporter.
His name is Nicolas Jover, who arrived at Turf Moor steering a sizeable whiteboard with six separate pitches mapped out on it.
Jover was an unheralded summer capture from Brentford, a Frenchman who specialises in set-pieces and signed to iron out City’s deficiencies from corners and free-kicks.
Riyad Mahrez celebrates after scoring Manchester City’s fourth goal away at Turf Moor
Rodri blows a kiss to the Manchester City fans after scoring their third in a resounding win
Gabriel Jesus celebrates after netting Manchester City’s opener against Burnley
Jesus is embraced by David Silva after curling Manchester City in front on Tuesday night
With Pep Guardiola worried of Burnley’s prowess from dead balls, it is fair to say the new coach has been through a busy few days.
Hopefully his marker pens for that whiteboard were luminous, for the away area was pretty gloomy. The electrics in that pokey room were out and broadcast equipment was called for to illuminate their surroundings.
Coincidentally, that also happened when Liverpool were here for a night match almost exactly 12 months ago. On both occasions the power was back on before kick-off. ‘We adapted quickly!’ Guardiola smiled.
While not the end of the world, these were hardly ideal preparations for a game Guardiola does fret over. He referenced Burnley’s wicked set plays without prompt on the eve of this, mentioning that City did superbly not to give up a single corner during victory at this ground in April.
The lights went out in Manchester City’s dressing room before kick-off on Tuesday night
Pep Guardiola is embraced by his coaching staff as they romp to victory at Turf Moor
Similar would only be achieved if City reverted back to the City that has won the last two Premier League titles. The City that aggressively press in the final third, to keep the ball as far away from their own goal as possible.
The team that stretch every sinew to meet 50-50s on halfway to make sure the opposition are turned around.
The tempo was up, Burnley were not allowed to settle. City defended high and looked far more like themselves as a direct consequence.
Rodri screened the back four peerlessly, intercepting at will. Not until the 37th minute did Burnley force a corner, Kyle Walker heading behind Dwight McNeil’s curling centre.
Nicolas Otamendi was commanding and authoritative on his first league start in two months
Rodri screened the back four peerlessly, intercepting at will across the 90 minutes
That was dealt with comfortably, Ederson fouled by Danny Drinkwater.
Sean Dyche might look back and wonder if he might have started with two big men up front, therefore occupying both central defenders.
One of those, Nicolas Otamendi, had not played a single league minute since defeat by Wolves two months ago. This was the Otamendi of two seasons ago, commanding and authoritative, winning balls he ought not to.
Crucially, too, was that City played at a pace with which they are accustomed. Too many times this term, and this goes for Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Newcastle, they appeared laboured in possession, hoping for positive outcomes rather than engineering them at pace.
Tuesday night was different: a slickness, a real dominance. Get that right high up the pitch and any problems defending over set plays just simply do not register.