Manchester City head coach Pep Guardiola may have been genuine in his praise for Brighton’s style of play in the build-up to their encounter on Saturday, but the manner in which his side dismantled their opposition spoke volumes of the gulf between the top four and the rest.
The champions produced a clinical first-half display to brush aside the Seagulls 4-1 at the Amex Stadium, making it eight games unbeaten since their defeat to Tottenham on the opening day.
It did not take long for the title contenders to click into gear with Ilkay Gundogan striking early on and a double from Phil Foden putting the away side in firm control — and it could have been more than the three-goal lead at the interval.
Alexis Mac Allister's late penalty was a consolation for the hosts, who showed their spirit with an improved performance after the interval.
On the same day that Chelsea put seven past a hapless Norwich City side to send a strong message to their title rivals, Guardiola and his players reminded everyone why they are still the best around.
City’s last visit to the South Coast when they had already won the title saw them throw away a two-goal lead and lose 3-2 in a dramatic encounter. They had bigger things on their mind, with the title wrapped up and a Champions League final to prepare for.
But there would be no letting up on this occasion, with three goals inside the first half an hour ensuring there would be no repeat.
With Guardiola’s men in fine form, Daily Star Sport looks at three things Guardiola got right as his side cruised to victory…
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Foden and Jesus shine out of position
There was some inevitable confusion at the start of the season when Gabriel Jesus, who had been tipped to replace Sergio Aguero for the long-term as a central striker, was shifted out to the right.
The 24-year-old claimed it was his favourite position to play in, having also featured there for Brazil at international level. But when Ferran Torres was injured and no longer able to play through the middle, it was Foden who was drafted in as an emergency false nine.
It made sense considering Foden had enjoyed 33 goal involvements — 18 goals, 15 assists — since the start of last season. He has demonstrated he can be potent in front of goal as well as creating chances.
Here, the 21-year-old was given the freedom of the Brighton pier to roam in between the lines and carry the ball forward. He was always a threat for the Seagulls’ back three and even if there was some fortune in both of his goals, he worked tirelessly to get in a position to score.
Few players embody Guardiola’s philosophy quite like Foden: he presses intensely, makes support runs in behind and defends with just as much tenacity.
Having missed out on signing a traditional striker in Harry Kane this summer, Foden’s performance was impressive enough to convince his manager that perhaps he actually doesn’t need one.
Guardiola wins tactical battle with counter threat
Pep Guardiola had spoken at length about how he enjoyed watching Brighton, labelling Graham Potter’s side an “exceptional team”. And it appears all of those hours analysing the Seagulls, either for work or general pleasure, has certainly paid off.
The Catalan got his tactics spot on from the first minute at the Amex Stadium and should take credit for his part in this impressive performance.
Man City have a reputation for passing the ball around, retaining possession and wanting to play through teams. But the gameplan here was altered to fit their opposition — and it worked a treat.
Brighton pride themselves on passing the ball from one box to the other. The only problem with that is when facing a side as effective in retrieving the ball as Man City, leaving space in defensive areas can leave you exposed.
Potter’s men found just how devastating City can be when launching their counter attacks. They left Phil Foden, Gabriel Jesus and Jack Grealish high up the pitch, capitalising on every chance they got when Brighton lost the ball.
In the first 31 minutes alone, they had six opportunities on the counter attack and scored from three of them. As soon as the ball was at the feet of Bernardo Silva or Ilkay Gunodgan, they looked up to find the attacking trio in acres of space — and Brighton simply couldn’t cope.
Very few teams have found it easy to break down Brighton. But then again, those teams don’t have the tactical maestro Pep Guardiola as their head coach, although he will no doubt have concerns about how they took their foot off the gas in the second half.
Brilliant Bernardo shines as De Bruyne rests
Kevin De Bruyne is now 29 and the niggles and knocks over the last two years have taken their toll. But as long as Bernardo Silva is still around, Man City will be fine without their chief creator.
The Belgian may struggle to cope with playing three games in seven days and Guardiola has had to be creative in how he uses the playmaker. He has only started three Premier League games this season, with two appearances from the bench, and scored two goals in the process.
The midfielder was left out of the starting XI again as the Man City head coach opted for a midfield three of Ilkay Gundogan, Rodri and Bernardo Silva. De Bruyne, meanwhile, got a quarter of an hour off the bench with his side comfortably in front.
From the start, the visitors dominated and Gundogan, as he typically does, popped up in dangerous pockets of space. The German was alive to the chance to score when Bernardo’s speculative overhead kick found him four yards out and he tapped home to give City the lead.
It wasn’t long ago that Bernardo had told the club he wanted a new challenge amid reports of a move to LaLiga, but it never materialised. How glad Guardiola will be that he stuck around.
It was a thoroughly impressive display from the Portuguese as he danced around the Brighton defenders with the ball as if it were glued to his feet. Similarly, Gundogan was excellent again and his influence continues to grow after scoring 13 goals in the Premier League last season.
If De Bruyne is forced to manage his playing schedule more this season, Gundogan and Silva have shown they can be relied upon to create and score in his absence.
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