What we learned from Manchester City's preseason thumping of AC Milan

Stevan Jovetic was part of a depleted squad that has made a real statement in the U.S. and has given Pellegrini the best kind of selection headache ahead of the new campaign.
The start of the Premier League season may still be three weeks away, but Manchester City already is sending a strong message to those looking to dethrone it.

Manuel Pellegrini’s side has been delivering the kind of performances you’d expect from a title-winning side on its preseason tour of America, thumping all comers and scoring for fun.

But these top-class performances have been delivered without a single one of its marquee players in sight.

City had 13 first-team players absent from its matchday squad to face AC Milan in its International Champions Cup opener, some recovering from injury and some recovering from World Cup campaigns.

Despite a list of unavailable players long enough to fill a stellar starting lineup, and then some, Pellegrini’s side dismantled the Serie A outfit with disconcerting ease. This didn’t look like your average second-string group.

Stevan Jovetic has been plagued by injury since moving to the Etihad Stadium from Fiorentina, but the Montenegrin - finally enjoying a full preseason with the club – looked sharp up top and provided two clinical finishes.

New signings Fernando and Willy Caballero looked at home in an organized and ruthless side that tore Pippo Inzaghi’s men apart in a 5-1 rout.

Jesus Navas and Scott Sinclair devoured the opportunity to impress, and youth took its chance as well, with 17-year-old Kelechi Iheanacho grabbing his second goal in as many games. Make no bones about it – this was a strong side.

When City failed to launch any real bid to retain its title after their first Premier League triumph in 2012, manager Roberto Mancini blamed a lack of depth in his squad. This time around, Pellegrini has no such excuse.

In 24-year-old Jovetic, the Chilean has yet another genuine option up front. Young players such as Karim Rekik will be spoiling for a chance to impress, and you can bet Willy Caballero didn’t join the club at his peak to sit back and act as Joe Hart’s understudy.

Man City's opening PL fixtures
Aug 17
Newcastle United (a)
Aug 25
Liverpool (h)
Aug 30
Stoke City (h)
Sep 13
Arsenal (a)
Sep 21
Chelsea (h)
A 4-1 victory over Sporting Kansas City and the mauling of an Italian team in perpetual crisis is no real gauge on the strength of any title-chasing team’s credentials, but it can tell you about the strength of a squad, and Pellegrini’s is looking rock solid.

Just 12 months ago, City struck five past Milan in a friendly at the Allianz Arena. Hart, Yaya Toure, Edin Dzeko, Fernandinho and David Silva all started in Germany. Yesterday, in an even more convincing performance, none of their services were required.

Injuries and undulating form threatened to derail Manchester City’s search for a second Premier League title last season, allowing it only to clinch glory on the final day, just as it had done in 2012.

The relief that greeted that first title soon turned to despair as the following season delivered nothing but failure in every competition, ultimately costing Mancini his job.

Unlike the Italian, Pellegrini appears to have had the support from the board to address squad weaknesses and has no intention of suffering the same fate, building a side capable of juggling domestic and European duties – and the summer business hasn't finished yet, with Eliaquim Mangala, for one, still set to sign.

The players now at Pellegrini's disposal are more than capable of retaining the domestic crown, but after last season’s progress in the Champions League, back-to-back titles may be the minimum requirement.