Samir Nasri spoke of sending out a "signal" to the other contenders but this felt far more emphatic than that. Their first two games had already been won to establish an upbeat tone for the campaign ahead but Manchester City's true statement of intent was delivered here. To beat Swansea City and Bolton Wanderers is one thing. To dismantle, even humiliate, Tottenham Hotspur is quite another.
A first league victory in this corner of north London for 20 years returned City to the top of the formative Premier League table, albeit briefly, but it was the manner of the success that will reverberate through the division. The visitors were irrepressible, sparring through the opening half-hour before ripping Tottenham to shreds. City were supposed to be a team restricted by an overly cautious approach though, in tearing into Spurs, they did not so much release the handbrake as rip it out and fling it from the vehicle altogether.
This club had felt confident enough in their strength in depth to loan Emmanuel Adebayor to Tottenham, the team who had denied them a place in the Champions League some 15 months ago, and even supplement his wages. The reality is, as Harry Redknapp implied in the aftermath, that they are now competing on a completely different plain. This summer's signings have hoisted them further clear of the pack. In Edin Dzeko, so anaemic after being prised from Wolfsburg in January, they now boast a player who is threatening to make a £28m fee seem like a snip.
The Bosnian scored four here and now has seven goals in four appearances, including the Community Shield, this season. Behind him the blur of forward-thinkers utterly flummoxed a Spurs team denied a fit natural defensive midfielder from the outset.
The lack of a shield allowed the debutant Nasri to join David Silva and Sergio Agüero in revelling in this fluid attacking line. The Frenchman had trained three times with his new team-mates but has already tapped into their philosophy.
Tottenham's bright start was deceptive. At no point did the home side come to terms with the subtlety in their opponents' approach-play. The result was a rout and Tottenham's heaviest home defeat in eight years. Dzeko's first three goals were all immaculately constructed, the first two reliant upon Nasri assists. The France international worked space in exchanges with Gaël Clichy and Agüero to centre for the opener just after the half-hour, then floated a cross for the second as half-time approached.
Dzeko, on each occasion, eked space from Younes Kaboul to convert. The power mustered by the Bosnian in his header as he leaped up and back was particularly impressive. "He gets in there," said the assistant manager, David Platt. "The way he manipulates the football, gets into position, even scores dirty goals – we'd seen signs of it last season but he's come to terms with the pace of the game here now."
In between that brace, Spurs had passed up an opportunity to level with Peter Crouch heading Gareth Bale's marvellous cross wide. The England striker was abused by fans seated near the tunnel as the teams retired at half-time as frustration boiled over, yet neither the mood nor the performance lifted thereafter. Luka Modric, never in the right frame of mind to flourish despite the odd flash of quality, departed a little after the hour mark by which time City were four up and the contest killed off. There was to be no competing with them on this occasion.
Yaya Touré's low centre offered Dzeko his hat-trick when the striker tapped in from on the goal-line as Spurs defenders were by-passed at will while Agüero got his own reward by teasing away from Michael Dawson and finishing from an unkind angle. Kaboul's headed riposte was unexpected only as it appeared the stuffing had been knocked out of the Londoners. The loss of Rafael van der Vaart with a hamstring tear rather summed up their plight. The team will recover its poise but, at present, is rather limping along.
These will be a frantic last few days of the transfer window at White Hart Lane, with Scott Parker and Craig Bellamy likely to join Adebayor at Spurs. Lassana Diarra and Gary Cahill could also still arrive from Real Madrid and Bolton respectively with steel required. "The place needs a little bit of a lift now, and I've told that to the chairman," said Harry Redknapp. "I feel we have to freshen the place up a bit. We'll get one or two more in."
City, in contrast, feel their transfer business is done. Dzeko's fourth, curled in from distance, merely confirmed their dominance. Carlos Tevez was never even required to spring from the bench. This was less a warning signal and more a full-scale alert; this team's challenge has never felt more persuasive.