Given that this is the shortest break between the World Cup final and English football’s traditional curtain raiser since 1966 – a mere three weeks – this should have felt unfeasibly early to be feeling remotely ready for the resumption of domestic tussles. It was, until Manchester City, defending champions looking to achieve the rare feat of defending a title in recent times, kicked off and immediately began passing the ball around in the August heatwave with cool precision and dominant intent.
The slickness in City’s movement, the crispness of their passing, the all round authority, was ominously impressive for any of the teams hoping to make up ground on a group that reached a century of points last term. They show no obvious signs of a hangover or a drift taking hold. In fact they flexed their strength in depth in that they were able to pick up the tempo, the sense of control, when a handful of important World Cup players were not involved at all. Kevin de Bruyne, for example, was back in the fold but only in shape for a watching brief going fuschia as he sat in the boiling sun alongside the subs.