At the risk of upsetting immensely ambitious West Ham fans, there will be few in disagreement that Manchester City’s defeat of West Brom was the only performance of the Premier League’s opening weekend that came with the gloss of potential champions.
Such a confident dismantling of any Tony Pulis side should never be underestimated. Since arriving at The Hawthorns on New Year’s Day, Pulis has done the two things that he does best in football: don club merchandise with authoritative aplomb, and make his team difficult to score against.
Before Monday night, Pulis had overseen six clean sheets in his first nine home Premier League games. But by the 24th minute, with the Baggies’ defence already twice breached, Pulis’ mood was as black as his new cap.
Manuel Pellegrini, on the other hand, would have enjoyed watching a rampant Yaya Toure look back to his dominant best.
He will have been charmed, like the rest of us, by the intricate precision of David Silva. And he’ll have been relieved that three goals were scored without needing Sergio Aguero, whose introduction in the second half was a reminder that if City looked good, then they can get a hell of a lot better.
Their performance contrasted starkly with those of their title rivals. For all of Jose Mourinho’s issues with the officiating, Chelsea were perhaps lucky to escape with a point against a creative yet robust Swansea side.
Arsenal managed to dampen all the momentum and fanfare from a promising pre-season and the signing of Petr Cech, by losing at home to West Ham, with the great Czech stopper himself at fault.
And while Manchester United and Liverpool both won 1-0, their performances were only sporadically promising, producing arguably more questions than answers.
City’s dominance in comparison has seen them now installed as the new favourites for the Premier League title, at 7/4, with Chelsea close behind at 2/1.
Many match reports describing the exploits of Pellegrini’s men are caveated with the wise caution of crowning any side on day one, but one quirky stat will give Manchester’s blue half reason to feel even more confident of success.
For in each of the past five seasons, stretching back to 2010/11, the title contender made to wait until the first Monday night of the season to begin their campaign has gone on to win the league.
Manchester United began the sequence with a 3-0 home win over Newcastle, before City handed Swansea a chastening Premier League debut drubbing, with a 4-0 win on the first Monday game of 2011/12.
The following season saw United begin with a Monday loss at Everton, but Sir Alex Ferguson would still claim the title in his final campaign, with the United-City seesaw continuing the following year with City’s 4-0 opening victory over Newcastle.
Last season, Chelsea ended the Manchester dominance when their title-winning season began with a 3-1 win over Burnley in front of a Monday Night Football audience.
But just how much stock can be placed on such statistical peculiarities will be a divisive subject, particularly as City have proven themselves to be regular strong starters; they won their opener in each of the last four seasons, a scenario that has translated into title success only 50% of the time.