Victories and records starting to pile up for Pep Guardiola and Man City
"You have players with talent every year, but to achieve something special, first of all you win it by little margins that at some stage of the season become very tight, and you need your players to respond with intelligence to get through these difficulties."
If Arsene Wenger had no difficulty pinpointing one of the secrets to his Invincibles side of 2003-04, it goes without saying that Pep Guardiola will be aware of the small details in his quest to produce an equally memorable season for Manchester City.
For City, the records are already beginning to tumble.
Before the chill winds of November blow in from the Irish Sea, Guardiola's charges have already equalled the club's longest run of successive victories. The run-of-the-mill 3-0 victory against Burnley at the weekend made it 11 straight wins. Victory at home to Wolves in the League Cup this week will break the record set under Manuel Pellegrini's stewardship.
With rumours spreading that the coach wishes Sergio Aguero to play in order to gain match fitness after his injury layoff, another record may fall in the same game. This is one that has stood the test of time a little longer: Eric Brook, City's all-time top scorer with 177 goals, plied his trade for the club in the dimly lit days of the late 1920s and early 1930s and his record has stood since 1937. With a single strike, Aguero can reach 178 goals for the club and inherit the title of City's greatest ever goalscorer.
Heady days indeed at the Etihad.
Though Guardiola shuns talk of going through a season unbeaten, like Wenger's Arsenal managed in 2003-04, the way his team is playing suggests they may be the first proper candidates to emulate the feat since it was achieved.
The much-talked about attack, firing impressively on so many fronts, is not the only weapon this side possesses. Premier League statistics reveal that not only is Aguero among the top scorers with seven this season, he is joined by Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Leroy Sane in the league's top 10.
As for assists, that table is topped by Kevin de Bruyne's six so far and occupied by teammates Sane, David Silva and Aguero in the top 10. The greatest number of passes achieved so far in the Premier League also goes to a City player, the less-heralded centre-back Nicolas Otamendi, who is accompanied in the league's top 10 by Fernandinho, Silva (making up a sky blue top three), John Stones and De Bruyne.
City have netted 32 times in their first nine league games, making it the highest total after this number of games since Everton went pop at the start of the 1894 season. When records of this antiquity begin to fall, you know something special is underway.
Though attention falls on the coruscating attack and its plentiful sources of goals, the defence remains meaner than anybody could have imagined. City's most recent cloud of contention has all but evaporated. Otamendi's switch to calm, cerebral defending alongside the masterful control of Stones, means Guardiola's much-vaunted pass-out-from-the-back style is working to the best of its potential, allowing Kyle Walker and Fabian Delph to push up on the flanks.
Integral in the successful deployment of the system have been two men getting slightly less attention than they should: Fernandinho and Ederson. The two Brazilians are occupying critical roles within the system. Fernandinho is anything but flamboyant and his marshalling of the central areas has been of peak importance to the way the side functions. Making it tick means having someone who can fall back and move on, but be able to judge successfully when to do one and not the other.
Behind him, Stones and Otamendi have grown visibly in confidence. This has no doubt something to do with Fernandinho's covering shadow, but perhaps even more to do with the heroics of the man behind them.
Ederson has been nothing short of a revelation. His confident and brave handling of the ball at the weekend underlined a complete lack of fear, after the horrific injury he received at the feet of Sadio Mane last month. In quickly helping everyone at the club forget about the traumas brought on by Claudio Bravo's unhappy times, the young goalkeeper has marked himself down as a real star of the future. This is what Guardiola saw in him when managing Bayern against former club Benfica in the 2015-16 Champions League: a fast, confident goalkeeper, with balance, the courage of his convictions and the ability to ping passes short and long at will.
The movement and accuracy of the possession delivered from these four essentially defensive players (Ederson, Stones, Otamendi and Fernandinho) has been key to all the carnage visited upon opposition goals shortly thereafter. Watching this City side build from the back and charge swiftly through the gears suggests there will be more records falling before this season is done.
Simon is one of ESPN FC's Manchester City bloggers. Follow him on Twitter @bifana_bifana.