Have Man City become so clinical that watching them is no longer fun? There was quality but little passion and football suffers more without the latter.
Have three points ever been secured earlier in a game of football? Fifty-five seconds it took Jack Grealish to give Manchester City the lead at Molineux and end this game as a contest.
Apart from City’s record of winning 30 of their last 32 Premier League matches in which they’ve taken the lead, they were up against as toothless a side as we’ve seen in the English top flight. Even good chances for Wolves carry little threat of them actually scoring a goal.
It continued from there to look a bit like a game of football. There were passes, some from Wolves, but many more from Manchester City, who scored two further goals and looked as though they could have scored more had they tried a bit harder.
They were going through the motions, just as we were watching.
Nathan Collins provided momentary intrigue as we pondered the thought process involved in stamping on Jack Grealish’s upper thigh. We had another opportunity to marvel at Erling Haaland, who took his goal tally to a ridiculous 14 in ten games. But they were brief breaks in an otherwise relentlessly dull viewing experience.
Pep Guardiola’s side slipped straight into second at the start of the game and stayed there for the most part, occasionally going up a gear or two to score some simple yet beautifully crafted goals. But even then we were left with an empty feeling and a thought that this might be more fun if they didn’t.
The City engine did occasionally struggle, particularly at the start of the second half, but Wolves’ attractive build-up play, as ever, came to nothing, ending in poorly directed passes or scuffed shots. Despite some pressure, they never looked like scoring. Diego Costa may not have kicked a ball in anger (and he does tend to do so angrily) this year but he will walk into this team ahead of one of the three clones Wolves had leading the line on Saturday.
There surely can’t be a more talented yet ultimately ineffective trio than Daniel Podence, Pedro Neto and Goncalo Guedes in European football right now, all of whom created opportunities for themselves or the others with their quick interplay and skill on the ball, before panicking ahead of the final pass or with a shot on offer.
City make these wins look effortless. The link-up play between De Bruyne and Foden, the triangles created between the full-backs, midfield and centre-backs to open up space – it’s all impressive. But it’s not fun. Many will argue that the Premier League in general has become too clinical, but this City side have taken it to a new level.
We’re occasionally reminded, unfortunately often when they’re having a bad time, that these multi-million pound footballers are also people, but this City side allow us to contend with that reality. Even Jack Grealish, the dribbling likely lad from Birmingham, who was doing his best to skirt the dispassionate City chasm, fell in on Saturday, making a nearpost run and scoring a tap-in like a good drone. It feels like they’re completely detached, not just from us mere mortals, but 99.9 per cent of other professional footballers.
They definitely do have passion, as it would be impossible for them to have reached this stage of their careers without it, but the absolute expectation to win every game allows little space for it to shine through, with frustration the only possible emotional release for these City players on those scant occasions when they don’t manage to collect all three points. They win, they shrug, they move on.
City got in front very early against a team with no bite who were down to ten men for an hour. It was about as easy as it gets. The big worry having watched this game is that City didn’t appear to be trying all that much, and have levels to go up when faced with superior teams which will allow them to cruise in a similar vein.
When the players scoring and winning aren’t obviously enjoying what they’re doing, it makes it all the more difficult for the neutrals to engage with and enjoy it themselves. We saw great quality in this game, but the passion was missing, and football arguably suffers more without the latter.
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