Sterling and Bernardo Silva on target as Guardiola's champions lay down a marker to title rivals
Pep Guardiola 'privileged' to manage Manchester City as champions lay down a marker to title rivals
Manchester City laid down a marker to their title rivals with a comfortable 2-0 win against Arsenal, prompting manager Pep Guardiola to claim he was "privileged" to manage the Premier League champions.
With Manchester United, Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool all winning their opening Premier League matches across the weekend - the latter by a 4-0 margin over West Ham United in Sunday's early kick off - it was City's turn to fire a reminder - as if one was needed - of their own title credentials.
Riyad Mahrez, the £60 million (Dh281m) summer recruit from Leicester City, was handed a first Premier League start on the right of a front three for the champions in place of Leroy Sane, a stalwart of last season's title-winning campaign who also began last season out of the starting XI.
Playmaker Kevin de Bruyne and striker Gabriel Jesus were also on the bench following their World Cup exploits with Belgium and Brazil respectively, an ominous warning to the rest of the division of the depth of superstars vying for a place in City's record-breaking squad.
While others bemoaned their lack of signings and questioned their club hierarchy's pre-season preparations, most notably Guardiola's nemesis in the red half of Manchester Jose Mourinho, the Catalan had nothing but praise for his squad and his employers, saying: "I cannot complain for one minute."
When asked if City had fashioned a perfect performance, Guardiola told the BBC's Match Of The Day: "Yes. We have a lot of players with a lack of condition but we are more than two seasons together and know what to do. We made a good performance in general and day by day we will get better and better ... Manchester City have given me a fantastic squad."
It was a baptism of fire for new Arsenal manager Unai Emery, who was left in no uncertain terms about the gulf in quality between his resources and those at Guardiola's disposal. The former Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain manager handed starts to two of his summer arrivals as Sokratis Papastathopoulos lined up alongside Shkodran Mustafi at the heart of the defence while Matteo Guendouzi was given his Premier League bow in midfield.
After 14 minutes City showed they will likely be the team to beat this campaign, too. Raheem Sterling, who contributed 18 league goals in last season's title triumph that saw City become the first English top-flight team to reach 100 points in a season, left a host of Arsenal defenders trailing in his wake before angling a low shot past Petr Cech.
Arsenal rarely threatened as an attacking force until the introduction of Alexandre Lacazette for the willing but unrewarded Aaron Ramsey early in the second half. Within 60 seconds Lacazette had City goalkeeper Ederson anxiously watching the ball drift past him from the Frenchman's shot with the outside of his right foot.
Cech came to the home side's rescue on 63 minutes when it looked for all the world that Sergio Aguero would double City's lead at the Emirates Stadium.
Guendouzi made a shocking error, taking an air shot at a bouncing ball, allowing Aguero to run through on goal. You would have put your mortgage on the Argentine scoring, but Cech spread himself well to repel the ball out.
In the end it mattered little. Fifty-three seconds later, Sterling and Benjamin Mendy worked an overlap down Arsenal's right and the French left-back picked out Bernardo Silva in a crowded area for the Portuguese winger to rifle home.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a late goal ruled out for offside that summed up the Gabonese striker's afternoon.
"We feel that we could have got something from the game," Cech told BBC Sport. "In the second half, we forced them to make mistakes and we had some opportunities. Unfortunately, we lacked invention to find the killer pass.
"When you play against a team of City’s quality and confidence it is always going to be difficult. Inevitably, you can make a few mistakes.
"It was a shame we couldn’t finish off our counter attacks and overall we’re disappointed with the defeat."
Victory ensured that Guardiola continues to have the Indian sign over his opposite number, with Sunday's win his seventh in 11 matches against his fellow Spaniard Emery. "We are satisfied for many, many reasons," Guardiola told Sky Sports.