It was well documented just how far Manchester City finished behind Liverpool as they failed to defend their Premier League title last season – a full 18 points, in case you needed reminding.
That’s a sizeable gulf they need to overhaul this season if they are to be crowned champions of England once more, but the Citizens demonstrated during their victory over Wolves that they have the tools to do so – even if defensively, they’re still vulnerable.
Pep Guardiola’s side turned in a stunning first half performance where they completely blew Wolves away. This was a City side without Sergio Aguero and Aymeric Laporte up against a well-oiled Wolves team who had beaten them twice last season, but they looked in complete control.
Kevin de Bruyne was irresistible, his ability to produce the Hollywood passes just as impressive as his willingness to run, to press, to surge forward and get in behind. This was the Belgian at his athletic, elegant best.
Phil Foden picked up from where he left off after lockdown with another mature performance, drifting in between the lines and picking up the ball just as David Silva had done before him, but also demonstrating that he has goals in his game by finishing off the flowing move that he started, drifting into the box to tuck home Raheem Sterling’s intelligent cut back.
It was a blistering first half display and the title to this piece was already in the drafts: Manchester City Demonstrate They Have All the Tools to Over Throw Liverpool at the Premier League Summit.
But then the second half unfolded and the defensive frailties that had cost City last season started to sneak back in, and suddenly all the positives to this Manchester City team had an asterisk.
Wolves had woken up, and once Adama Traore and Pedro Neto started charging down the flanks and Daniel Podence began playing off the shoulder, Guardiola’s side looked vulnerable.
It was not dissimilar to how Wolves had snuck a 2-0 victory at the Etihad 11 months ago, after the pace of Traore and the speed of the Wolves counter attack had cut City open.
They were not quite as exposed as they had been last October, but this was a City side who now did not look quite so unbeatable. Had Jimenez and Podence been more clinical, Wolves could have been level by the hour.
Instead City held out. Despite their dominance in the first half, the 3-1 scoreline makes for comfortable reading when in reality they were on the ropes at times in the second period.
Guardiola’s team showed both facets to their game during their first Premier League outing of the 2020/21 season. There was the fluid, effervescent, dynamic side, orchestrated by the superb De Bruyne.
But there was also the vulnerable side, the slight defensive frailties, the concern when teams counter attack at pace.
With the quality City have at their disposal and the football they can play, Liverpool’s title will be under siege this season. But the problems that plagued them last term are still there, lingering in the background.