Three Points: Newcastle vs. Man City
Three observations from Manchester City's 2-0 win over Newcastle United at St James' Park.
The champions are raring to go
Manchester City start this season as they finished the last one: with a win and in first place. This 2-0 win over Newcastle United wasn't quite the devastatingly fine performance they enjoyed against the same opposition on the opening day of the 2013-14 campaign, but this showed other qualities that were just as important.
It is all the more impressive because Alan Pardew's side really put it to the champions, finally getting the benefit of the type of signings that should have been made much more at St James' Park over the past two years.
Against that, City dug in, displayed their class and clinched the game. Their resilience and elite quality were revealed in the final minutes. Just after Ayoze Perez narrowly shot wide, Sergio Aguero got his own angles right. A game of inches, and City showed that anyone who wants to win this title is likely going to have to stay just ahead of them. They set the benchmark and now the pace.
It was a statement and a reminder. This side isn't going away. Manuel Pellegrini's team was somewhat overlooked during a quiet summer in which much more attention was paid to basically all its rivals. City quietly went about their business, as was precisely the case against Newcastle United.
The Citizens' attack still potent
The nature of both City goals was particularly pointed. The one caveat from the summer -- and the one aspect that may actually be in some way damaging -- is that the champions did not improve or replenish their attack. That may not sound like a problem for a prolific side that scored 102 league goals last season, but the key to any forward line -- as Pellegrini knows all too well -- is keeping it unpredictable, making defences second-guess.
If you don't add a bit of spark, or even a bit of competition, the most exhilarating attack can go somewhat stale or even stagnant in the long term. One long-mooted theory is that City may eventually seek an upgrade on Edin Dzeko, but he showed that he may provide the upgrade in attack himself, along with Stevan Jovetic.
You just had to look at Dzeko's contribution for the opening goal, which was markedly different from his usual involvement. The divine back-flick was the type of move we have become accustomed to from David Silva, with the Manchester City playmaker then offering a Dzeko-style finish. Newcastle had no answer to such improvisation, even though they had imposed themselves on the champions with such credit.
Beyond that, there was Jovetic. Not everything came off, but he was at the centre of it all and finally offered an alternative to Aguero's bustle. The Argentine's absences last season coincided with some of City's most disappointing performances, but that may not be such an issue if Jovetic has finally found the form that saw the champions sign him in the first place. Then there was the fact he came off for Aguero himself. It was a frightening prospect for Newcastle and the rest of the league, that City could so easily swap one talent with another. Aguero then proceeded to show why.
Newcastle encouraging despite defeat
You could almost argue that Newcastle are the quintessential midtable club -- one season good, one season bad, still always around the middle of the table -- if it were not for the fact that so many of their issues seem unnecessarily self-enforced.
Here we saw the benefit of the buys the club had been crying out for. Remy Cabella and Jack Colback were particularly impressive. Despite the defeat, there was plenty to be positive about in their performance.
What's more, there was a pleasing assurance and variety to their play. Pardew has often been accused of being a manager who gradually runs out of ideas, who initially impresses but then sees formations found out before having to go in another direction and starting all over again. It's difficult not to apply that here, given that six players made their debuts. It added a real spark to the team and could have caused a bit of a storm had they got the late equaliser they deserved. Substitute Perez's miss was especially agonising.
The signs from this game, however, are that this should not be a painful season for Newcastle.
Miguel Delaney is a London-based correspondent for ESPN FC and also writes for the Irish Examiner and others. Follow him on Twitter @MiguelDelaney.