As part of the continuous conspiracy by coaches to devalue the meaning of words, Manchester City's Manuel Pellegrini proclaimed that Monday's showdown against Liverpool was a "six-point" game, a term typically reserved for late season matches against title contenders. One of those things is surely not true -- it is still August -- while the other is one of the big puzzles of the season.
Ignoring the fact that we don't know who or what constitutes a title contender at this stage considering a cool summer breeze is still wafting through the transfer window, it takes a certain hubris for a manager to declare a six-pointer this early in the season, doubly so when it's about a team that has as many question marks as Liverpool.
Few would have considered Liverpool legitimate title contenders before the opening kickoff. Even if they did, it's hard to argue this match (a 3-1 win for City) carried much indication for the rest of the season. City is essentially the same roster as last year's title-winning side. All but one of City's starters were on the team last year, the lone exception being the impressive defensive midfielder Fernando. City can largely pick up where they left off, which is a very good place indeed. If any club was to be helped by the abbreviated preseason, it's City.
In this respect, the clubs could not be more different. Liverpool is in the exact opposite situation, having turned over a large portion of its roster, including the departure of the best goal-scorer in the world, Luis Suarez. Two of their back four, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno, are newcomers. All three substitutes used against City -- Emre Can, Lazar Marković and Rickie Lambert -- were summer acquisitions. Adam Lallana almost certainly would have been another if he were healthy. In a week or two, Mario Balotelli will be added to the list.
It's easy to see why Manchester City had little trouble against Liverpool on Monday. Although Liverpool spat early, the match ultimately belonged to City. Stevan Jovetic made a forward corps deeper than the Pacific Ocean even deeper with his return to fitness and form, netting two goals and capitalizing on errors from the Liverpool back line that have become far too routine. Sergio Agüero, one of the better forwards in the league, came off the bench and scored within seconds, no thanks to Liverpool keeper Simon Mignolet's questionable positioning.
Nevertheless, it is August, and so the result is more of an inkblot than a statement. Liverpool can be assuaged by their incredible turnover. Brendan Rodgers is almost certainly still trying to fit the puzzle pieces together, or at least banging them with the side of his fist until they break. Balotelli, that enigmatic yet defiant genius, will change everything, or nothing, for better or worse (but, come on, it will be for the better). The team needs time to adjust. Sterling seems to get better with every match. Sturridge will be better with Balotelli, right?
Some of these conjectures are almost certainly true, and some are almost guaranteed to be fiction. But we don't know which is which yet. If one wants to doubt Liverpool's prospects this season, they need look no further than last year, when Tottenham took a nose dive after selling its Rolls Royce and trying to replace it with eight Hyundais.
This question of whether Liverpool will be a reincarnation of the 2013-14 Spurs is an ancillary point. Even if Liverpool's plan plays out to a tee and everything breaks right, Manchester City is still basically perfect. The most impressive aspect of Monday night's performance was the way Pellegrini utilized his substitutes to alter his side. By bringing on Fernandinho, Jesús Navas and Agüero, City transitioned from a possession-oriented side looking to battle through the midfield to a defensive unit springing on the counter, which is precisely how Agüero scored the third goal. They demonstrated flexibility and depth no other EPL -- or perhaps European -- side can touch. In one night, Manchester City beat Liverpool playing as two different teams. Like an expert contortionist, City is so flexible it's the stuff of nightmare fuel.
The scariest part is that City did not play as well as they could have. At times, they were sloppy on the edge of the box. Yaya Toure has better games in him, a testament to just how monstrous he can be. It's scary to think of what City could do if they played perfectly, but the scariest thing of all is that we now expect them to.
With all due respect to Pelligrini, this match was never a six-pointer. It was always a title contender against a Champions League hopeful. There are only two six-point matches this year: September 21st and January 31st, when Manchester City plays Chelsea. But for now, it's only August.