With their first game now safely tucked under their belts, Manchester City look every bit the part as Premiership champions in waiting yet again.
City’s opening game away to West Ham United saw the Sky Blues finish 5-0 winners. Notable successes were Raheem Sterling with a hat trick and the new VAR system. For his part, Sterling looked unstoppable.
The timing of his runs was terrific and even when his assist to Gabriel Jesus was confirmed by VAR to be offside, the margin by which the England striker encroached was so tiny as not to have been noticeable to the human eye. Other VAR replays served to highlight just how perfectly he timed his runs. He certainly deserves the “special” tag awarded to him by manager, Pep Guardiola.
The Video Assistant Referee was called into action on several more occasions, one of which was to confirm a penalty when West Ham’s Issa Diop brought City’s Riyad Mahrez down in the box. Although Sterling wanted to take the penalty, Sergio Agüero, who had come on from the bench, took the responsibility.
His spot-kick was rather tame, and Fabianski made a good save. The ball rebounded back into play and was cleared by Declan Rice. Unfortunately for Rice and West Ham, the VAR showed that Rice had clearly entered the penalty area before the ball was struck. The kick was retaken, and this time, Agüero didn’t miss.
All in all, the VAR played a significant role and being used as it is in the Premier League, it promises to make the game cleaner and fairer.
Although it is still early days, Manchester City look set to not only win the Premiership crown once again but to take all the other honours too.
Their domestic treble last season was another first, but this season Guardiola is sure to have his eyes on that rarest of all things – a quadruple. Judging by what we have seen of them this far, one would have to say that it is achievable; in fact, Joleon Lescott voiced his opinion in a recent interview that City are the only team capable of achieving it.
The only reason that the Citizens didn’t win a quadruple last season was that they were turfed out of the Champions League by Tottenham Hotspur.
If you wanted excitement, thrills and spills and you were either neutral or a Spurs fan, the second leg tie was a spectator delight. An improbable hat-trick by Lucas Moura and the away goal rule combined to see Spurs go through on an aggregate score of 4-4.
The key for the Sky Blues in their hopes to win a third Premiership title on the trot and the elusive quadruple this season, is the availability of the Belgian midfielder, Kevin de Bruyne. He was missing for a large chunk of last season. Even so, City still managed to win the first-ever domestic treble. If he can avoid injuries this season, that could well make the difference.
Although Sterling took the plaudits against West Ham, for many it was de Bruyne who stood out in midfield. As well as being instrumental to the Citizens’ overall performance, he also set up the second goal for Sterling.
Since first appearing in the Premiership in 2015, he has notched up 46 assists. Only Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen has amassed more with 49. It is a considerable achievement, especially bearing in mind that he was injured for much of last season.
The current odds on Manchester City winning the quadruple in the 2019/2020 season are 80-1. Given their dominance in the Premiership, that is quite generous and many fans and others who like a little flutter may well be tempted to place a bet.