In defense, the emerging partnership between Aymeric Laporte and adolescent Eric García is flourishing in something very special. If García is still sometimes vulnerable in direct duels – Aaron Connolly dismissed it a little too easily at one point here – then he does more than compensate with decision-making and technical qualities that already border on the elite. With Rodri, the excellent silencer, pulling the ropes again, the City core seems well equipped for another assault on the title next season.
And so, with the game quickly tilting in one direction, it was no surprise to anyone that City finally found a way in the 21st minute. Mahrez had time to tie a long raking ball to Jesus in the front, which cleverly cushioned a head on Sterling’s path. Sterling glanced over, took a hit and wrapped the ball around the bottom corner. And despite all the desperate efforts, at no point in this sequence of events has a Brighton player been on the verge of challenging himself: a socially distant perfect goal that said as much about Brighton’s docility as it did about the City’s ability to escape them.
The bombs continued to rain. Jesus slammed the bar. Mahrez curled up just after another thunderbolt. Two minutes before half time, the imposing Rodri was ahead of Adam Webster to pass around De Bruyne, giving Jesus the easiest tap-in at the far post. And when Sterling caught his second goal, a simple header from the undisputed center of Mahrez to cap off a relentless start in the second half of City, even the cardboard cutouts at the Amex stadium could have been forgiven for leaving early to beat the traffic.
Probably if not entirely mathematically safe, the side of Graham Potter remains a gloriously flawed machine: polite and expansive, probably the most attractive side in the lower half, and yet always liable to tip over at the slightest breeze.
Sort the defense and there is a potential among the top 10. But it will need a few new employees and maybe even a culture change, because right now, this is the kind of team you like to play.
At this point, the wheels were really starting to come off. Bernardo Silva burgled a fourth after Mat Ryan reversed his initial shot, and finally the striking line: Sterling finished his hat trick, although he knew little, the ball hit his head and ran over the line as it collapsed on the grass in a heap. It was that kind of game for City. It’s really that kind of reboot.