LONDON (Reuters) - If money decided the title, City would already be crowned champions after splashing more than 200 million pounds on reinforcements this summer.
Even though their opponents, Brighton & Hove Albion, had broken their own transfer record three times this window, the Seagulls’ outlay was roughly one-tenth that of City -- forcing them to mind the gap.
What Pep Guardiola has really bought himself is options, with three debutants in the starting XI and a further 206 million pounds’ worth of talent on the bench.
After a frustrating first half, which highlighted City’s failures up front from last season, change was always going to come, and the breakthrough arrived within minutes of the introduction of Leroy Sane in the 68th minute.
The scorer was all too familiar, with Sergio Aguero capitalising on a delightful pass from David Silva.
Before the game Guardiola spoke cryptically about not always playing Aguero and Jesus up front but on Saturday he gave Brighton the full double blast, which paid off -- eventually.
When and how to employ the pair may define Guardiola’s season.
Afterwards the manager was predictably delighted with all the riches at his disposal and promised that City will “improve the way we attack” this season.
His fullbacks will be crucial to that game plan, with former Tottenham defender Kyle Walker providing the pace out wide so obviously missing last season.
Danilo, a right-footed left back, was less impressive but he is likely to play second fiddle to Benjamin Mendy once the Frenchman recovers from the thigh strain that kept him out on Saturday.
“I was very happy with the new players. I want to say thank you to the club,” Guardiola said. “We have huge players with lots of talent. Big congratulations to all the people in Manchester City -- we are a strong club.”
Arguably, no manager is under greater pressure this season than the Spaniard, who after one trophyless campaign knows he must deliver something special.
Dressed rather like an American college student in beige trousers, a black top and white pumps, he cut a relaxed figure on the touchline, knowing, perhaps, that there would be tougher tests ahead.
His biggest problem may be keeping everyone happy as he tweaks his teamsheet. With so much talent at his disposal, City’s players know they have limited time to impress.
“I want to continue with what we did in the last three games of pre-season,” said Guardiola. “We were stable but we have to try to improve. The most important thing was to win the first game.”
The only sour note for City was a tweet from Mendy, saying: “Bullet header” in reference to Lewis Dunk’s own goal. TV pundits criticised it as “disrespectful”.
Perhaps Guardiola will have to find the Frenchman something more constructive to do next week.
Reporting by Neil Robinson,; Editing by Neville Dalton