Six things we learned from Manchester City v Brighton
Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero got the goals as Manchester City beat Brighton 2-0 yesterday. Here's six things we learned from the game.
England's Marmite man the star of the show
During the World Cup, one of the main topics of conversations about the England team was Raheem Sterling.
You had the fans who saw what his movement and clever runs brought to the team and then his critics who felt his finishing and final ball were a constant frustration.
However, put him in a Manchester City shirt and the 23-year-old stars.
Sterling was a constant outlet down the right for City even before he opened the scoring just before the half-hour mark when he turned home Leroy Sane's inch-perfect cross.
It was his fourth league goal already this season and he then set up the second for Sergio Aguero.
There's no reason why Sterling can't at least hit last season's total of 18 Premier League goals again this year.
Chance to stake a claim?
Jurgen Locadia was given his first Premier League start of the season in place of in-form Glenn Murray.
It was just the Dutchman's third league start since joining Albion from PSV Eindhoven in January for a then club record fee.
Locadia has struggled to make much of an impact on the south coast so far and it's probably unfair to judge him too much on his performance at the Etihad.
The hosts had 80 per cent possession as Albion had to work hard all over the pitch. When the ball went forward, Locadia struggled to hold it up as much as Murray does and he had few opportunities to use his pace to get in behind the City defence.
Murray is Albion's go-to man up front and Locadia probably needs a goal or two to get his confidence up. He has now failed to score in his last 13 matches - admittedly some of those appearances have only been for a handful of minutes - after netting in his first two games for the club.
Champions in waiting again?
Brighton started on the front foot and forced a couple of early corners but City dominated possession throughout and their class shone through with their two goals.
The Seagulls defended well to limit the amount of clear opportunities for City but the hosts were always in control.There's no disgrace in Albion losing at Manchester City. Few teams in the Premier League will return home from the Etihad with anything.
A defeat by two goals to City is by no means a disaster as several sides will lose by more to the Manchester giants this season.
City collected 100 points on their way to lifting the title last season. They sit top of the table again this year, on goal difference from Liverpool, and will take some stopping.
Key men missed?
Dale Stephens has been one of Albion's most consistent performers over the past few seasons, so was always going to be missed at the Etihad.
He limped off with a hamstring injury against Tottenham last week and joined last season's player of the year Pascal Gross on the sidelines.
Brighton were fortunate with injuries last season but have already had key players ruled out of games this year.
They'll want Stephens and Gross back in the team as soon as possible. At home to West Ham on Friday evening would be handy.
However, their absence has given an opportunity to others. Beram Kayal has never let Albion down and impressed off the bench against Spurs and again at Manchester City.
There's also plenty of potential to see in Yves Bissouma and, as we've previously said, expect him to become a key player for the Seagulls the more he becomes accustomed to the Premier League.
A mixed start
It was always going to be a tough start to the season for Albion, with matches against all of the teams who finished in the top four last year in their opening seven games.
The Seagulls would have hoped for more than five points but they're still 14th and three points clear of the bottom three.
The performance at Watford, the first half against Southampton and the opening 45 minutes against Tottenham have all been disappointments.
But the showing against Manchester United, second half at Southampton, the comeback against Fulham and a period of dominance for 20 minutes against Tottenham all leave room for optimism going forward.
Albion have shown they have more than enough to secure their place in the Premier League for another season but they are going to have to be more consistent with their performances.
Forget City, the next nine matches are key
Albion won't be judged on results against Manchester City this season. But their run of fixtures throughout October, November and December are crucial.
In their next nine matches, Albion are at home to West Ham, Wolves, Leicester and Crystal Palace. On the road, they travel to Newcastle, Everton, Cardiff, Huddersfield and Burnley.
A minimum points return Albion should be looking at is 12 but if they play to their full potential, there is no reason why they cannot pick up 15 or 16 points.
Whichever way you want to dress it up, these next nine matches could easily define the season. One way or another.