They are capable of great football, but Man City should know by now it takes more than that to win major trophies
Manchester City are capable of such beauty, such power, such subtlety.
One moment, they can pulsate with adrenalin, like a lion running down its prey. The next they bloom like a delicate, exotic orchid, reminding us all that football is an art rather than a sweaty athletic pursuit.
The frustrating, worrying, niggling problem for those Blues fans who basked in the south coast sunshine – and their team’s glowing football – is that they cannot do it when it truly matters.
City have shown this level of ability several times this season, usually against opposition from a couple of levels down the evolutionary tree.
But they have not shown it against one of the big boys, and that has earned them the tag of being flat-track bullies – a team that can destroy journeymen like Bournemouth but lacks the moral fibre to see off a Leicester, or a West Ham, or a Juventus.
It is a fair criticism, one which manager Manuel Pellegrini, with some justification, puts down to the debilitating list of injuries which have carved chunks out of his squad all season.
But that does not tell the full story. On Saturday, City looked vulnerable as Yaya Toure joined Joe Hart and Vincent Kompany on the damaged goods list, while talk of revenge for the 5-1 Etihad Stadium thrashing in October swirled around the Vitality Stadium, to give the place its sterile name.
The truth is that when City get their own way, as they did in a breathtaking first half, they can pummel opponents into the ground.
But the better teams in the Premier League and Champions League do not give them such liberty – and when they have to dig deep and scrap for points is the point at which the Blues have failed.
In their two recent title seasons, they had the capacity to dig out results when they played badly, and to match their rivals in terms of ferocity as well as finesse.
That quality is something Pellegrini needs to re-discover in the last seven league games of the season, but starting with Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final in Paris.
They sharpened up nicely for that one, from the moment Fernando – who had an excellent pressing, spoiling game alongside his “brother” Fernandinho in central midfield – hooked in Jesus Navas’ awkward, bouncing corner.
The goal that doubled that lead summed up the Blues at their best – a delicate chip from the unstoppable Sergio Aguero, a feathery cushioned volley from David Silva and a precision side-footed volley into the far corner from Kevin De Bruyne.
The Belgian reminded everyone that he has been sorely missed with an hour of slick, perceptive football that inspired those around him.
And Aguero broke his own personal barren spell in the unlikely manner of towering above the taller Adam Smith to head in Navas’ cross before Aleks Kolarov added a blistering fourth in the dying embers of the game.
If City are to add grit and guts to their undoubted talent, Wednesday night at the Parc des Princes would be a good starting point.