The Ped Report Chelsea 0-1 City
While the southbound M6 was jamming up with homebound Stretfords celebrating their ecstatic victory over Crystal Palace NIL and laughing at City's inability to beat the teams around them at the top of the league, that same City were about to put that myth to bed.
I don't think anybody gave City a prayer at a stadium that has proved unyielding in terms of title points in recent years, but Guardiola is starting to demonstrate different philosophies in terms of the way his team presents itself on a football field.
Having lost Kompany, Mendy and Aguero, all to avoidable risks, Guardiola had to send out his best available eleven with a plan that sought to destroy the dark destroyers in dark blue. And he proved once and for all that he does have the tactical nous to overcome the best in the Premier League.
He saw his team take apart Liverpool a few weeks ago, albeit, the cynics would say, with the help of Mane's dismissal. No doubt the capital's finest scribes will point to Morata's withdrawal through injury as a turning point in this match, but tell us Messrs Scribes, have you ever seen Chelsea on home soil so starved of the ball? Given practically no chance of scoring, indeed, given no chance of scoring once Morata's afternoon fell off the rails?
Make no mistake about this one. Manchester City were simply sensational in the way they deployed their tactics, the way they stuck to their game plan and in the way they won to dismay those stuck in the roadworks.
Ederson is proving in many ways to be the type of net minder that Pep has been looking for. These days he is not being called upon to do much, but his concentration levels are there for all to see. His decision-making stands up too, especially when he marauds out of his box to head clear..and find a man in a sky blue shirt.
Stones and Otamendi have clearly worked on their roles and partnership, which can't have gone unnoticed to Vincent Kompany sitting in the stands. Stones in particular is now showing a maturity to his game along the lines of his adversary Cahill, only Stones is classier and mainly unflustered without being dispassionate. The main reason for this is the boundless energy supplied by Fernandinho, who for my money was man-of-the-match at Stamford Bridge, where he seemed to have a nose like a bloodhound for seeking out and eliminating danger even though he did get a customary yellow card for more or less his first foul when Bakayoko had been systematically chopping down City's midfielders and forwards all afternoon.
Shorn of Mendy, seemingly for the rest of the campaign, Guardiola and the player himself have seen Delph step up to the plate in an unfamiliar role and do the basics right. Opposing sides will fancy themselves down City's left. Sane is not noted for his defensive prowess and a make-shift left back should present gifts. But not against Fabian Delph, a player who for a long time over the summer was linked with all roads out of Manchester.
On the opposite side Walker is blossoming into an even better footballer than he was at Spuds. Over the last seven days we have seen him surge high up and supplement the attack, we have seen him sit deeper and provide cover in defence, we have seen him do both in the same match.
Similar can be said of the man-of-the-moment, Kevin De Bruyne. Slated at times in these pages for the inaccuracies in his passing, he is cut from different cloth this season. The straightening-up of his passing reminds me of Yaya when he first arrived. Opposition defences expect to crowd the centre and leave City to try to progress down the flanks, but KDB and David Silva have clearly been working on a strategy that turns defenders around on the edges of their penalty area, providing chances galore for our hungry young forwards plus of course, when available, City's soon-to-be record goalscorer, Sergio Aguero. We have now also seen Kevin finding the back of the net with goals of total quality, especially the one he scored against Chelsea.
David Silva continues to be, well, David Silva. He is the nearest analogy of Muhammad Ali. Silva really does float like a butterfly. If he'd have taken his chances yesterday he would truly have stung like a bee.
In the absence of Aguero, Conte would've been having a private snigger, thinking that the absence of the goal machine who does seem to get goals against Chelsea, was a Godsend. Exit Aguero, enter Sane Sterling and de Jesus, three pacy, hungry goalscorers who know they are fighting for their starting places in Guardiola's assassination squad. It doesn't make great reading for opposition forces does it?
And when you can replace these with Gundogan, Bernardo Silva and Danilo, as fans, you no longer believe that the player entering the field is inferior to the one leaving. The fact that he who enters is on the bench makes him more dangerous because he wants to impress his manager and maybe get a starting nod next week.
This philosophy has changed mindsets at the Etihad. Readers will know that the Pedmachine goes way back to almost before the "typical City" days, but we are seeing a cultural style change of seismic proportions now and the transition from last season to this is quite plainly in view.
Conte showed City a lot of respect yesterday by packing his midfield with proponents of the darker arts of association football. Kante kicks just about everything except the ball, Bakayoko wasn't shy in testing the referee, chopping down players he couldn't catch and the greasy Fabregas couldn't get his sly game going. Did he see the ball at all? At the back they may have found the suspended Luiz missing but Alonso isn't afraid of tugging jerseys and nibbling at ankles, neither is Cahill for that matter.
Such was the power of Manchester City that Conte's midfield five found themselves as a three with the wider players pushed into the back line where Sane and Sterling were finding acres of space. This effectively starved their diver-in-chief Hazard of the ball and at no point did he get any of his mastery going. Apart from an early header, Morata did practically nothing as he and the ball became strangers.
For all their positivity, City couldn't find the goal they deserved in the first half and those of us still bearing the "typical City" scars expected Chelsea to get one break and score an offside goal, but Guardiola has indoctrinated something different this season.
Our wingers changed sides, de Bruyne went deeper, playing like a quarterback at times, but surging through into uncontested waters. And it was one of these surges that created City's winning goal.
After 67 minutes de Bruyne hared from half way and spotting that de Jesus had come short played a give and go with the talented Brazilian. He met the return pass first time and drilled a left footed shot into the top corner, giving Courtois no chance at all. This was a top quality finish by any standards and one which deservingly still divided the teams at the final whistle.
For the goal alone, plus his array of passing, KDB was granted MoTM by the TV pundits but I think the unselfish "dirty work" carried out by Fernandinho laid the platform for City's success today.
Add to that the fact that Chelsea seemed to be terrified of Raheem Sterling who finally looks to have rid himself of his demons and shackles and is scaring defenders to death. He is proving difficult for defenders to locate when City's attacks are in full swing.
All of what you might call City's front six had chances in this match, including Fernandinho and any one of them could have claimed a winning goal, but the one stroke of genius that did claim it is one you will not get tired of watching, especially as City won 0-1 and the goal was enough for the Blues to creep back to the top of the league, despite Stretford having not whipped the division's whipping boys by enough.
It was worrying that de Bruyne limped off towards the end, but hopefully the onset of the international break will give him two weeks to rest and recuperate. Next up is Stoke City at home, never an easy mission, but hopefully de Bruyne will have recovered and Aguero will be getting fit again.
And what of Sergio Aguero? Much is being said about his irresponsibility in going to Amsterdam to watch a pop concert in midweek especially ahead of such a big match. Some argue that it is his own time so why not? My thoughts are that City pay him a king's ransom every week to entertain their supporters and deliver victories. It is that which has given him the lifestyle he enjoys and that which he should respect.
We saw last season that Guardiola does not stand on ceremony, easily relegating the Mighty Atom to the bench to re-focus him. I suspect there will be a similar period on the horizon for Sergio when his ribs have mended. He will then get his two goals and be rightly heralded as City's best-ever goalscorer.
Arsenal and Liverpool take centre stage today against Brighton and Newcastle respectively, but poor Sue is not holding out much hope for her boys at St James Park, where she is certain that Rafa is a manager-in-waiting. If Liverpool fail to gather three points today, Klopp's efficiency will once again be the subject of the phone-ins, in the knowledge that Ancelotti is out of work and Rafa still has a house on the Wirral, where his family lives.