Have Manchester City become boring?
By Joe Harker
Manchester City are top of the Premier League after winning their opening game of the season 5-0, trouncing West Ham thanks in no small part to a Raheem Sterling hat trick.
City have won the league in the last two seasons, winning plaudits and trophies alike for their quality of play and record breaking achievements.
Approaching the closest a team can get to perfection in the modern game, City are still facing criticism. This time it's claims that despite their many wins they are rather boring.
It's Tom Morgan of the Daily Telegraph who raises the idea that City are boring, writing that yet another high scoring victory has created a sense of predictability.
It was their fifteenth successive Premier League win and they've scored 15 goals in their last three competitive fixtures, including a 6-0 demolition of Watford in the FA Cup final.
Yes, City are excellent and yes they are reaching new heights but the lack of a flaw, the lack of uncertainty has sucked some of the suspense out of a league that prides itself on competitiveness.
They're the bad guy team in every teen sports movie, prodigiously talented and on an almost untouchable level but tinged with a lack of soul. If they're going to win every time they step onto the pitch then where's the excitement?
City also faced accusations of tedium last season with most of their opponents barely getting a chance to score, let alone having a stab at going for the win.
The faux competitiveness surrounding City was perhaps best summed up by the title of the club's much vaunted Amazon documentary, "All or Nothing", chronicling their title winning 2017/18 season where they hit the 100 point milestone and finished 19 points clear at the top. The season ended up being less "all or nothing" and more "foregone conclusion".
The Counter Claim:
On the other hand, City remaining a talented team that excels in all areas isn't something that's no longer worthy of discussion.
Just because there's not much praise that can be sent their way that hasn't already been made doesn't make it wrong to say the club are doing many things right and reaping the rewards.
Great goals and styles of play will always be worthy of discussion, even at the sheer volume City score them.
City combine skill and skulduggery in their ruthless winning machine, setting the example other top sides in the Premier League must follow if they want to close the distance.
We might be in a period where the Premier League is dominated by one or two teams that are so far ahead of the competition but nothing lasts forever and other sides are working hard to close the gap, raising the overall quality of the competition. Surely that can't be a bad thing?
Starting from the 2017/18 season where they first won the title under manager Pep Guardiola, City's Premier League win rate is 84.4 per cent, scoring 206 goals and conceding 50.
Most teams playing City are faced with the choice of trying to go for a win with minimal odds of success or shutting up shop and hoping the scoreline at the end of the battering won't be too humiliating.
Dr Rob Wilson of Sheffield Hallam university says he can see domestic interest in the Premier League "wilting", with the value of domestic broadcast rights falling from £5.4 billion to £5 billion.
The Premier League is sold as the most competitive league in the world, City's dominance and predictable nature has contributed to a decline in value of around £400 million.
City aren't the only team in the Premier League facing accusations of unbalancing the competition. Both they and last season's league runners up Liverpool cantered to easy wins despite not playing at their best, leaving some observers to wonder if they have already become too dominant to really challenge.
There are also concerns over the club's ownership. Having run out of different ways to describe City drubbing their opponents, journalists have started to take notice of the way a Premier League club is being used to "sportswash" Abu Dhabi's rulers, essentially hollowing out the club and using it as a PR vehicle.