Unai Emery’s reign started like the old one ended with Arsenal a million miles behind the Premier League elite as reigning champions Manchester City were on a totally different level.
But City’s brilliance also put the size of the task facing Emery in stark contrast because all of the familiar problems remain after a horrible and ruthless baptism for Arsenal’s new manager.
Arsenal were awful in defence, the midfield was a shambles and the problem is that you can only do so much with largely the same group of players who were not good enough last season.
Make no mistake, there is no tougher start than against City but the likes of Shkodran Mustafi and Granit Xhaka were just as bad as they were under Arsene Wenger.
Petr Cech, at 36 years old, was asked to transform himself into a sweeper keeper and play out from the back, French youngster Matteo Guendouzi was thrown in at the deep end and Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan went missing.
Maybe there were some teething problems but there was still no excuse for the basic defensive mistakes which allowed Raheem Sterling to open the scoring and City could have easily won more comfortably.
It promises to be a long season for Emery and, without more investment and change in the summer, it does beg the question: what exactly has changed?
They have not spent enough, they left new German keeper Bernd Leno on the bench and Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira was only a second half substitute. It was rather baffling.
Arsenal can forget the title, they look as if they might need a miracle to reach the top four and even the fans’ early optimism and enthusiasm was replaced by groans by the end.
City is a very difficult barometer to be judged against but they do offer the standard which others have to match and, apart from Liverpool, it looks like Pep Guardiola could have it largely his own way again.
Sterling was unplayable for the first 30 minutes, John Stones looks energised by his impressive World Cup campaign and Riyad Mahrez gave them a new dimension.
In Benjamin Mendy, who missed so much of last season through injury, they also have a player who gives them yet another angle, this time from left back.
Arsenal simply had no answer to City’s pace and movement, Cech’s saves more than made up for his poor passing out from the back but this was the sort of comprehensive win which sends out a message to the rest.
City bossed it from the start, Sterling’s pace frightened Arsenal and the England winger took just 14 minutes to open the scoring.
Sterling cut in from the left, dribbled across the face of the box, leaving Hector Bellerin and Guendouzi in his wake and then fired in a low shot which flew into the net. In fairness to Cech, Greek centre half Sokratis was standing right in the Arsenal keeper’s line of vision.
Xhaka’s clumsiness let in Sergio Aguero but Sokratis upended the City striker while Cech defied first Mahrez and then Aymeric Laporte with smart saves after the free kick.
Arsenal did at least show spirit in the second half as substitute Alexandre Lacazette missed a big chance while Guendouzi horribly missed a clearance and let in Aguero who was defied by Cech.
But City finally killed off the game as a contest after 64 minutes after Sterling and Mendy combined to set up Bernardo Silva who smashed home into the net.
City fans ended up singing: “One Arsene Wenger” as they rubbed salt in the wounds of the Arsenal fans. The home supporters quickly replied with: “Arsene Wenger – he’s won more than you.”
It felt a bit ironic that the fans who gave Wenger so much stick were suddenly defending him. But it might be a long time before they enjoy the success of the early Wenger days again.
For City, it feels as if another remarkable, unforgettable campaign is within their grasp. They won the title last season at a canter. And now they look even better.
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