WOLVES 0-3 MAN CITY: Goals from Jack Grealish, Erling Haaland and Phil Foden gave City a simple win at Molineux as they leapfrogged Arsenal to go to the top of the table
Manchester City enjoyed one of their simpler Premier League afternoons as they strolled past a Wolves side who were reduced to 10 men before half-time.
The visitors were already two goals up by then as Jack Grealish fired home inside the first minute, before Erling Haaland bagged his 14th goal of the season with a low shot.
Wolves defender Nathan Collins was then given a straight red card in the 33rd minute following a bizarre high lunge on Grealish, who was lucky to escape any serious injury.
Pep Guardiola’s side had already been in complete control before the red card though, and they added a third in the second half when Phil Foden turned in a Kevin De Bruyne cross.
Here are the game’s main talking points.
1. Jack Grealish does a Raheem Sterling impression
Such is the life of £100m footballer, particularly an English one, that any below par performance is going to be picked apart and used as evidence that you are nowhere near worth the money.
Unfortunately for Grealish the forgettable performances have far outnumbered the impressive ones since he swapped the Midlands for Manchester just over a year ago, and so detractors don’t have to look too hard for ammunition to fire in his direction.
How do you quieten the critics though? Well an easy way is goals.
For his strike less than one minute into this game we saw a different Grealish to the one that has often stood out for the wrong reasons during his time at City. You know who we mean. The maverick one, the one who you just feel is playing to a slightly different beat than his teammates.
That one drifts out wide and cuts inside, often getting shots off from unflattering angles and trying, and failing to score the same goal over an over again.
For this goal though, there was something different.
Grealish was on the move as Kevin De Bruyne shaped to bend in that cross he always plays from the right, and as everyone’s eyes were drawn to Haaland he nipped in, poking the ball past Jose Sa before the Wolves goalkeeper had even touched it.
There was a large element of Raheem Sterling’s movement about the goal, and having prioritised getting the most out of one Englishman over extending the stay of another this summer, that’s exactly what Guardiola would want.
2. Wolves pay the price for opening up
That Grealish goal would have been greeted with knowing nods from football fans watching on, but it didn’t have to be the death knell for a Wolves side who usually pride themselves on being tough to beat.
Indeed, there could almost be an element of getting the worst thing out of the way early when conceding a goal to City, who will inevitably score at some point, and so resetting, toughening up in the centre and ensuring that the game stays at 1-0 for a big chunk of what remains should be the goal for the conceding side.
Wolves did look as though they had grasped this for a few minutes at least, before a complete drop off in intensity allowed City and Haaland the space for the second.
Bruno Lage is desperately trying to get his side to play a more expansive game, with the shift from the three at the back the clear result of this, but you can’t help but wonder if a Wolves side of Lage’s earlier days, or indeed during the best of Nuno Espirito Santo’s regime, would have stayed in this game a little longer.
You can see what Lage is trying to do, but sometimes clinging onto what used to work is the best course of action.
3. Erling Haaland scored a goal again
Are these really talking points any more? We just expect them to happen, don’t we?
This was Haaland’s 10th appearance in a City shirt, and if you discount a nightmarish first when he missed two sitters against Liverpool in the Community Shield then he has scored in all bar one of the other nine.
It is 14 goals in all competitions, and while many have been sent scurrying for the record books the real surprise is perhaps just how much football Guardiola has got out of him.
It was suggested that Haaland might be introduced into the team and English football slowly due to a number of injury concerns in his final year at Dortmund, but he has started all 10 of those appearances as City reap the reward in goals.
Guardiola wanted a fast start from him, but what he’s got is approaching the speed of light.
4. Nathan Collins loses his head and nearly finds Grealish’s
Has there ever been a more “wtf” red card?
Probably. We all tend to go with recency bias on this sort of thing don’t we? But… wow.
Collins might say that he was initially just looking to stamp his foot down onto the ball and forcefully knock it away from Grealish, the sort of ‘ball and man’ challenge that we all like to see our players do when they are on the right side of the law. And he’d probably be right.
But then this was so horribly, awkwardly mistimed that all it did was succeed in comically booting Grealish up in the air.
It was probably two red cards.