For a while, it looked as though Manchester City were set to be frustrated by a limited but determined Brighton side on the South coast.
While the Seagulls held out against almost incessant pressure for 70 minutes, they finally yielded and shipped two relatively soft goals as City made their dominance count.
A strangely subdued Sergio Aguero broke the deadlock as he raced onto David Silva’s through ball, before Lewis Dunk headed an unfortunate own goal under pressure from Gabriel Jesus just a few minutes later.
This helped City to claim a welcome and ultimately comfortable win, and here are four stats that emerged from the game:
27 – Mat Ryan is Brighton’s playmaker
We all know that City’s game is based on possession and the perpetual movement of players, with Pep Guardiola’s team unsurprisingly commanding the ball for 78% of the time at the Amtec Stadium.
It was City’s aggressive pressing that really caught the eye, as Brighton struggled to make any sort of in-roads on the rare occasions that they did attempt to attack.
The Seagulls’ inability to retain the ball and build attacks is borne out by the stats, with Australian goalkeeper Mat Ryan completing more passes than any Brighton outfield player (27).
Pascal Groß was next in line with a paltry 26 passes, while fellow debutant Davy Propper attempted just 15 with a completion rate of 53%.
2 – City have been tough to beat in 2017
Manchester City’s 4-0 thrashing against Everton at Goodison Park represented Pep Guardiola’s debut season in microcosm. Dominant in possession and toothless in attack, the Blues were overrun on the counter-attack by a Toffees side that scored with each of their four shots on targets.
Although City still showed signs of wastefulness on Saturday, their play was far more structured and they have also been deceptively difficult to beat in 2017. Since the defeat at Goodison on 15th January, City have lost just one of their subsequent 18 league matches (a 2-1 reversal at Chelsea in April) and are currently unbeaten in nine.
In total, City have lost just two of 20 league matches during the calendar year, and the continuation of this form will make them genuine title contenders this time around.
100% – David Silva turns in an all-action display
Despite his obvious talent and penchant for creating chances, David Silva occasionally cuts an enigmatic figure while drifting in and out of games. This was not the case on Saturday, as Silva turned in a dynamic performance in the centre of midfield while laying on an assist for Aguero and creating five chances in total.
Silva’s display matched his close-cropped, no-nonsense hair cut, as he buzzed around the final third with energy and menace. Only Nicolas Otamendi attempted more than Silva’s 101 passes, while a completion rate of 93.1% underlines the quality that he brings to Guardiola’s side.
The diminutive Spaniard was also impressive off the ball, pressing with intensity while winning an impressive 100% of his aerial duels. He also won 25% of his tackles and found time to make an interception, as he looked to offer much needed support to Fernandinho in the holding role.
Sterner tests await Silva and City, but the Spaniard looks to have hit the ground running this season.
63% – Brighton must show more quality if they are to cope in the Premier League
Not only were the Seagulls starved of the ball against Manchester City, but their passing also lacked accuracy and tempo when they were in possession. Not a single Brighton player managed to achieve a pass completion rate above 80% during the 90 minutes, while lone striker Tomer Hemed endured a torrid time in attempting 17 passes and completing just 35.3%.
As a team, Brighton finished with a pass completion rate of just 63%, far below the standards expected in the Premier League. In contrast, City’s collective completion rate was 90%, and this highlights the chasm that Brighton will have to bridge in their debut Premier League season.
Sure, not every side they face will be as good or as dominant as City, but most Premier League sides possess significant quality on the ball and like to press with intensity when out of possession.
Brighton must therefore hope that their new signings (particularly those in midfield) adapt quickly to the rigours of the Premier League, otherwise more reinforcements will be required before the transfer window is out.