Throughout Manuel Pellegrini's managerial career in Europe there has been a variety of formations and approaches but one constant theme: his sides have an impressive ability to cover space evenly, despite the freedom of movement afforded to the attackers. Whenever one player varies his position by moving deeper or narrower, there is always a team-mate making the reverse run – the side never suffers from congestion.
That was obvious from the opening minutes of City's extremely impressive victory over Newcastle. They were essentially playing a 4-4-2 – albeit a very flexible, fluid interpretation – and the key with that system is forming reliable partnerships throughout the side.
Pellegrini's team started excellently down the right, with Jesús Navas either stretching the play to allow Pablo Zabaleta through on the inside, or moving narrower as the Argentinian right-back overlapped. In midfield Fernandinho and Yaya Touré moved forward in turn, one always staying behind to cover – only once, when the Brazilian was cautioned for a cynical foul, did City leave their back four unprotected. Up front Edin Dzeko and Sergio Agüero formed a good partnership, with the Bosnian often coming short to link play, and Agüero sprinting in behind the Newcastle defence. The players were always distributed evenly, so there were always options for the player in possession.
The first goal was a perfect example of the cohesive, integrated movement. David Silva typically drifted inside from the left to receive the ball in a central position and Dzeko immediately made the reverse movement – a run towards the left flank, ensuring the width was retained. Silva played in Dzeko, continued into the box and, via a deflection, found himself perfectly placed to open the goalscoring. The duo were briefly performing each other's roles – the striker was crossing, the wide midfielder provided the headed finish.
The role of Navas on the right was particularly interesting. Although he is basically an old-fashioned winger with a burst of pace, a trick and great crossing ability, he varied his positioning much more than is customary and sometimes moved inside into central positions. On other occasions he played his natural game – and after Roberto Mancini's complete distrust of touchline-hugging wingers, it was refreshing to see a Manchester City player capable of getting to the byline.
The Spaniard also repeatedly switched play to the opposite side, where Silva was waiting in space, and produced a tremendous low cut-back for a Gaël Clichy chance in the second half – it looked accidental, but that ability to spot ambitious potential recipients for a cross is a key feature of his skill-set.
With Alvaro Negredo playing just 10 minutes and Stevan Jovetic yet to feature, there's plenty more to come – which should terrify the rest of the Premier League.