Manchester City now embody the classic mode of champions who can grind out results while not playing well. This early season stutter has accrued seven points from nine as they head into the international break promising "the best is yet to come". José Mourinho, here to scout Real Madrid's opening Champions League opponents, will take note.
Those were the words of Vincent Kompany, the City captain. A cool customer, the club's alpha defender is unconcerned that it is five games since City returned a clean sheet, the 2-0 win at Newcastle United in last season's penultimate league fixture. Joe Hart has picked the ball from his goal five times this campaign, with City scoring eight. There was more nervy moments in this 3-1 win after Yaya Touré's early opener was matched by Bobby Zamora's 59th-minute strike before City instantly hit back. Edin Dzeko answered within 120 seconds and the continually impressive Carlos Tevez collected City's third in added time.
"Even last year when we were winning all the games it wasn't about the clean sheets and probably because we're so offensive at the moment it's a bit detrimental to the statistics because I still think we're defending well," Kompany said. "Just look at the difficult months. December, January, February – that's when we've carried the team in the past and it won't be any different [this season]. At the moment everybody wants to play, everybody wants to score."
Roberto Mancini's assistant, David Platt, admitted City are playing below par. So what is missing? "Two points out of nine that's all," Kompany said with a smile. "You've got seven points out of nine, you've just won the Community Shield over Chelsea. I just see very good periods in the game like the first 35 minutes against Liverpool. We showed that we could dominate a top team. And today, actually, most of the game. It was just that the chances that we do have we have to work a bit harder [to finish].
"Last year everything was flying in, so games become easier. Today could have been the same, it was just that we scored one and at half-time there was a bit of hope for everybody then. But we give very few chances away and so sometimes at this stage of the season we've been unlucky to concede. "We have massive amounts of confidence. We could be looking at the fact that we're not dismantling teams but just look at what's happened this season, the amount of [fresh] talent – its a lot more competitive, you feel that every team has strengthened. I don't see any team that's weaker this season than last. That's why for us to get the results is good, winning is the most important still."
Following the international break, City travel to Stoke City on 15 September, then three days later visit Real Madrid in the Champions League, as Mancini's men begin a tough group that also numbers Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.
"I'm leaving for internationals now," Kompany said. "And if I had to leave one message for the team it would be: 'Well done guys, we've always battled hard. We've shown how strong we are as a team and character.'
"If we are able to get results playing like, what people say, might not be the best, then what will happen when we do? The best is yet to come. So its brilliant and we couldn't have wished for anything better than this."
Of that Champions League group that for once gives credence to the competition's name – all clubs are their respective country's title holders – Kompany continued the bulletin to his troops: "I'd like to think that's why you want to play Champions League. I was looking at the draw and I don't think at any moment I was hoping for us to draw a supposed easy game. I think we've always been at our best when we have to challenge ourselves and play against the best so it's very good for us."
While Kompany refused to comment on what Mourinho may or may not have learned, Mark Hughes, the QPR manager, professed himself content following an afternoon on which six of his summer signings started. "I was encouraged by what I saw today – it's progress," he said. "We were in the back yard of the champions and we pressed and imposed ourselves on a very good team. I'm pleased with that and it's something we can build on. Our shape was good in the first half and we were working hard, perhaps without affecting the game going the other way. But we addressed that in the second half. We really put a shift in and caused them problems."
Man of the match Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)