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Grealish is up and running, and so are Man City

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MANCHESTER, EnglandJack Grealish celebrated his first Manchester City goal by putting his fingers in his ears, but you can already tell he’s listening to Pep Guardiola.

It’s probably not the way Grealish dreamt it — the ball bouncing off his knee and over the line to help City to a comfortable 5-0 win over Norwich City — but he won’t mind. Aside from the scruffy finish, it was otherwise a very typical Guardiola goal — threaded pass, followed by a cross from the byline finding a spare man at the back post — which suggests Grealish has been paying attention in the team meetings and that there is probably more to come.

Grealish is up and running after his £100 million move from Aston Villa, and so are City, bouncing back after beginning their campaign with defeat at Tottenham Hotspur. At his news conference on Friday, Guardiola sounded like a man who knows better than to panic after one poor result, and the way his team dismantled Norwich was a timely reminder to anyone who needed it that they are champions for a reason.

City put on a firework display before kickoff to mark the return of fans to the Etihad Stadium for the first time in 18 months, and while it wasn’t one of those explosive performances, it was an hour and a half of quiet menace. Norwich will not be the only team to lose heavily here this season.

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“The result was the consequence of how many good things we have done,” said Guardiola after the match. “Still we are not in our top form and still we have many things to do. It was really good. I’m happy for that and our first three points and hopefully it will not be the last.

“Hopefully Jack can score more but the most important thing is the first victory.”

Grealish cited Guardiola as one of the reasons why he chose to leave his boyhood club this summer, and it’s not hard to understand why. Under the Catalan, Raheem Sterling went from scoring a handful of goals a season to regularly getting more than 20. During the 2019-20 season, he scored 31 in all competitions.

Grealish’s best tally is 10, but at City he has the opportunity to start putting up far bigger numbers. Playing on the left of the front three, as he did against Norwich, he will get plenty of chances by simply drifting inside towards the back post. That’s all he needed to do to get his first for the club on his home debut after Kyle Walker had carved open the Norwich defence and found Gabriel Jesus‘ darting run.

“If Jack gets the mentality to score goals like Raheem then yeah [he can get 20 or 30 goals a season],” said Guardiola. “Raheem, when I arrived here four of five years ago, didn’t have the goal in his mind. That changed. Today Raheem scored a goal because he arrived in the central position like a nine. He is a machine there. He has to come back in those positions. He changed his mind and decided he is going to score, score, score. If Jack has a mentality like Raheem he can do it.”

Grealish’s goal was almost a carbon copy of the first goal of the afternoon, except Jesus’ cross never reached the back post because it was bundled in by a combination of Grant Hanley and Tim Krul. Jesus, playing as a right winger, was outstanding.

“He is a player who likes to play more wider than in central positions,” said Guardiola. “One of the reasons why I am a manager in the best moments of my career is because you can work with people like Gabriel. He never complains. If he plays five minutes, he plays the best five minutes he can do. Play right, he is happy, play central, he is happy, play left, he is happy.

“I am so happy for Gabriel. In life he deserves the best because he is so generous. We have an exceptional squad and I never complain about that. We have the same team last season and we lost the absolute legend Sergio [Aguero] and in came Jack and I am more than pleased with the squad we have.”

After Aymeric Laporte had turned in the third, the fourth came from another Jesus cross, this time finished off by Sterling. Riyad Mahrez made it 5-0 thanks, in part, to Ruben Dias‘ vision to pick out the Algeria international from 30 yards.

Farke said pointedly afterwards that Norwich had “conceded the same goal four times.” In their past six Premier League trips to City, they have shipped 26 goals.

The visitors couldn’t even muster a shot on target here, and while you shouldn’t judge a team promoted from the Championship in games against Liverpool and City, it already looks like another relegation scrap for Farke’s side. Their record after two games reads no points, no goals and eight conceded.

The table looks far healthier for Guardiola ahead of Arsenal‘s visit next weekend. City and Grealish are up and running.

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